Food that Really Schmecks Mennonite Country Cooking by Edna Staebler published in 1968 was my first hardcover cookbook and I bought it at Provident Bookstore in Northland Mall, which was the first mall in my city, and was in within walking distance of my house. I spent a lot of time in there browsing the books, especially the cookbooks. I really wanted this one and I had to save for it, but when I was finally able to buy it, I was so proud of my purchase, and although badly splattered, I still have it, many years later. I think that I was about twelve, or thirteen, buying that book, was the beginning of a life long passion, that would lead to wonderful career opportunities, travel, and so many adventures. I was then and am still attracted to, all things simple; Primitive furniture, linen and cotton over silk, art over decor and simple food, simply prepared with fresh ingredients that are easily sourced, so no wonder my life long love affair with this book and her cookbooks that would follow; although she was more then just her cookbooks, even though it was the cookbooks that made her a famous Canadian, and a recipient of the Order of Canada in 1996. She was a journalist and a writer of historical non-fiction.
Her cookbooks are more then just recipes, they are also stories and snippets of the personal lives of women whose stories and lives might have gone unnoticed. It was Edna Staebler who introduced us to the vibrant and significant regional food-ways of Waterloo and Wellington Counties and of the Mennonites who settled there in the early 1800’s. This regional cuisine can still be found in the area; check out the St. Jacobs market on Thursdays and Saturdays. Mrs Staebler recorded forever, the recipes of her Mennonite friend Bevy Martin. There is no better way to acknowledge and celebrate their lives, then to cook from the books in which their stories are written.
The strawberries this year are many and sweet, and I am not even close to having had me fill. This recipe is a combination of two of my favorite things, strawberries (only fresh, local berries will do, no imports) and custard, and it is delicious. I can’t wait until raspberry season and I’ll make it again. This recipe was from Mrs Staebler’s mother Louise Cress who was born in 1881 and died in 1972.
Raspberry or Strawberry Custard Pie
Mother made so many good fruit pies when we were youngsters that it’s hard for me to say which kind was my favorite. Sometimes I think that it was raspberry custard-or strawberry custard-or any of her fruit custard pies. They were more delicate than pies made of masses of fruit.
Pastry for a one-crust, 9-inch pie
1/2 to 3/4 cup of fruit
2 1/2 cups of milk (do not use 1%, use something with more fat)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 teaspoon flour
Combine the sugar, flour, and salt; add the beaten eggs. Bring the milk almost to the boiling point and add gradually to the egg mixture. Pour into unbaked pie shell and dot the berries over the top. bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes-or until a silver knife stuck in the middle comes out clean. In exactly this way you can also make
CHERRY CUSTARD PIE
MULBERRY CUSTARD PIE
BLUEBERRY CUSTARD PIE
RED OR BLACK CURRANT PIE
RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE
RAISIN CUSTARD PIE (soak the raisins first)
DRIES CURRANT CUSTARD PIE (soak the currants first)
Sometimes Mother made a PLAIN CUSTARD PIE, using 1/2 cup more milk and sprinkling the surface with nutmeg and cinnamon.