Canada’s Busiest Woman

Dear Kate,

I have a confession to make, despite your long and prolific career; farmer, cook, baker, administrator at the CNE, radio talk-show host, writer, and cook book author, I had never heard of you until last week. How have our paths not crossed? I am a cook myself, and a collector of Canadian cookbooks. And you wrote one of the most popular Canadian cookbooks ever, by 1987 after a few reprints and updates, your cookbook had sold over 750,000 copies.

Of course, I know that you are long gone, but Wow, did you ever use your time well when you were here. You were the original multi-taser. How did you manage to work so hard? I know that you tested every recipe at your much loved farm near present day Mississauga, whether it was for your weekly column or your cookbook, you raised two kids, and you traveled to thirty three countries and interviewed world leaders, including Mussolini who you convinced during the interview to import a freight car full of Canadian wheat. I guess that’s why at one time, you were often introduced as “Canada’s busiest woman,” yet most people knew you as “Mrs A.” That sounds more down to earth, which you must have been as you raised your own chickens and after all, you were a farmers wife as well as everything else that you somehow did.  I’m exhausted just thinking about what your day might have looked like.

But thank goodness, we finally met, while browsing at a favorite thrift store, I found of a 2004 reprint of the original 1945 edition of your book,  Kate Aitken’s Canadian Cook Book. You were about comfort food, (that’s a term that we use today to describe home cooking), macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, canning tips (you’d be thrilled to know that canning in now the rage) pies, and cakes. In fact, as I write this, I’m drinking coffee while eating a slice of the peach upside-down cake on page 112. One bite of the moist cake and I was eerily transported back to the 1940’s and instead of listening to Roxy Music on my IPod, my kitchen was filled with the sounds of swing. (I’ll explain the IPod another time)

So Kate, in closing, I think we would have been great pals, we have things in common; an itch for adventure, a curious nature, and a love of a good meal. You seem like you were quite a dame. I’m sorry that I was late to the Kate Aiken’s party. It won’t happen again, in fact, you’ve become one of my favorite people.

Sincere regards,


Ps. I hope that you don’t mind, I’m going to publish the Upside-down peach cake on my blog. What’s a blog? That will be part of the conversation when I explain the IPod, (maybe with a glass of wine?) but trust me, being the modern busy woman that you must have been, you would have loved the internet and all of its possibilities; including blogs.

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Temperature 350 F. Time 40-45 minutes

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

6 or 8 peach halves (I used nine halves)

1/4 cup shortening (I used butter)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 tsp. almond flavouring

1 egg

1 cup pastry flour (I used all-purpose)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/8 cup milk(um…half way between 1/4 and 1/2 cup)

Melt the butter (3 tbsp.) in the bottom of an oiled pan 8X8 (I used a 9X9, to produce a delicious mess). Add the brown sugar; blend well; press the peach halves into the mixture. Cream together the shortening(1/4 cup butter), white sugar and flavouring. add the egg; beat until light and fluffy. Add the sifted dry ingredients (you don’t need to do this, just combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir) alternately with the milk. Beat lightly; pour over (spread) the peach halves. Bake in a moderate oven till done (golden brown). While still warm invert onto a cake cooler (plate). Cut into squares, serve hot with Nutmeg sauce or cream. (But also makes a delish, breakfast)


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