Summer Books in a Canadian World

In Canada we produce great food and terrific writers; Alice Munroe, Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, Lawrence Hill, Miriam Toews, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Sara Gruen, Ami Mckay, Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje…there are so many talented writers, past and present in this country, it’s always a difficult choice as to what to read next. But there are a few that I’ve wanted to read,and for me, the summer means that I have to have time to linger over words, thoughts and sentences. I want to absorb and experience it all; these books are what I’ve consumed and enjoyed so far.

Canadians at Table; A Culinary History of Canada by Dorothy Duncan.- An important reference tool for me but also a good read, but I’m biased as I love all of her booksand I’m now in the process of hunting down a copy of Feasting and Fasting: Canada’s Heritage Celebrations. Food is community and Duncan understands this connection.

Must Write; Edna Staebler’s Diaries-Edna Staebler, author of the Schmecks series of cookbooks. Before writing cookbooks, she was a respected journalist and in her diaries she writes of her desire to be be a writer and her frustrations of the social constraints that women experienced in the 1940’s and 50’s. I loved reading this book, as a “writer in training” it was a revelation to me that a successful and much admired author struggled with procrastination, and was burdened by self- doubt throughout her entire career. Edna Staebler made me understand that writing is work and that it needs to be done every day, even if you “have to go to the store for margarine and rice krispies.”

Haven’t Any News; Ruby’s Letters from the 50’s. Ed. by Edna Staebler. This book is a collection of letters written to family by Ruby Cress, Edna’s youngest sister. It is a real insight into a woman’s life in the 1950’s if she was a stay-at-home Mom as most women were. Wow, I was exhausted reading about how much she did in one day. There’s also lots of talk about what she was cooking, baking and canning. It’s a story of family and friends in Ontario in the 1950’s. A worthwhile and true story.

All of these books are hard to find, I bought them online, however, they’re worth the search. Women writing about food, women writing about their lives and the lives of others, it’s amazing to me that there are women out there, some of whom I’ll never meet, yet we have had the same thoughts, doubts, joys, and have shared similar experiences. I have a print on my wall, a gift from a friend. It is a forest landscape, like a Group of Seven, and on the picture are the words, “WE ARE ALL CONNECTED.” Reading books, written by Canadians, especially Canadian women makes me agree, we are, all connected.

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