Poetry in the oven

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Mahone Bay poet Alice Burdick recreated more than 80 heritage recipes for her new cookbook.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON, PHOTO</p><p>Grandma&#8217;s cookies, cakes, pies and sweets &#8230; The Best of Canada&#8217;s East Coast<em> </em>is published by Formac Publishing Company Ltd.</p>

Perhaps best known locally as a published poet with four collections, a creative writer and co-owner of the former Lexicon Books in Lunenburg, Alice Burdick of Mahone Bay has turned her hand to a new style of writing endeavour - cookbooks.

Or, more specifically, a selection of recipes in a new heritage cookbook.

Published by Formac, Burdick's first cookbook, Grandma's cookies, cakes, pies and sweets ... The Best of Canada's East Coast, features "delicious desserts, simply made with tasty ingredients, many of us remember fondly from our youth," according to its cover.

Burdick is an avid home baker, who has a "ramshackle collection" of old family recipes and "a lot of heritage recipes.

"And they come out all year round, but especially around the holidays I would say," she told LighthouseNOW.

Formac's Kara Turner, the editor of the book, approached Burdick with the idea of updating and testing a collection of heritage recipes, to make them more accessible to people today.

"A lot of the recipes, as so many were, just didn't have a lot of information aside from ingredients. Sometimes they didn't even have quantities, or certainly measurements or methods," Burdick explained.

"In the older times, there was just sort of a general idea of what people knew and did not know."

Sometimes, the task proved easier said than done.

"There was definitely some filling in the blanks and trying to make sure the measurements were correct."

It might be written, for example, "an egg worth of something," or "like half a tea cup," recalled Burdick, adding that home bakers earlier on didn't always have the special implements available to cooks today.

She also encountered "utterly unfamiliar" and "unusual" combinations, such as potatoes mixed with fruit (as a thickener), and suet in a cake recipe, a reflection of the fact that what was available on a seasonable basis to bakers long ago is different than today.

Further interpretation concerned what type of fat to use. "They would just say 'shortening,' ... it could have been butter; it could have been margarine; it could have been animal fat."

She tested and updated all the recipes to come up with a selection of more than 80 old-fashioned pies, cookies, cakes and other sweets. Bakers will find a recipe for Cape Breton Long Johns, Acadian Lemon Buttermilk Pie, and Sweet Black Cherry Pudding. The book also offers some of the classics, such as Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies and Scottish Shortbread.

In pro-offering the recipe collection, Burdick gave little consideration to current health and dietary concerns, but went ahead did the banking as it was meant to be made.

"I went for it, because, actually, all of the recipes are using whole food ingredients. And that's one of the excellent things about a heritage recipe.

"And we've sort of come full circle with that, I think, health-wise. We do have an understanding that, in moderation, sweets are great," said Burdick.

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