I inherited my grandmother's recipe box. It's stuffed full of hand-written recipe cards, some in my grandmother's perfect script and some in the hand of those who shared a recipe with her.
But nothing like the recipes handed down by Kate Turgeon. In 1928, Kate (née Kaminski) immigrated from Poland with her family and settled at Crystal Springs, near Wakaw. She took a job keeping house and cooking for a farmer, a widower with ten children.
When she quit, he asked her to marry him. And so, as her granddaughter says, "She went back to do for free what she had once been paid for." Kate added three more children to the family. That's a lot of mouths to feed! In the 1940s, she and her husband moved into town, where she shared recipes with her new neighbour, Mrs. Danchuk.
Kate wrote out the recipes, but since she didn't write English too well, she wrote phonetically in a curious mix of English and Polish spelling. Half cup is hef kop. Egg is eg. Cake is kiejk. Raisins are ryjzyn.
A teaspoon of cinnamon is "tispun cynamyn." Three cups of oatmeal is "3 kops outmil." She crosses both t and l so the instruction "roll into small balls" is written "rot do smat bot." Needless to say, deciphering her recipes is a delightful puzzle.
This recipe for "kokonat kuki" is probably not that old, but Kate's handwritten recipes are a treasure from a time gone by, reminding us of the many nations and languages that populated this land.
1 cup butter or lard
1 cup white sugar or brown sugar
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 pound coconut (450 grams)
Cream soft butter/lard with sugar. Mix in cream of tartar, baking soda, egg and vanilla until well blended. Sift flour overtop and stir in. Add coconut and mix briefly. Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet, about the size of a walnut. Press tops with a fork. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until just starting to brown and a finger pressed on top does not leave an indentation. Dat myk 7 do kuki. ( Makes 7 dozen cookies.)
Mrs. Danchuk's Cake
Kate in her garden at Crystal Springs, Saskatchewan, with husband Alfred and granddaughter Marjy.