Anna's family tried to dissuade her from making the trip. So much time had passed. It was so far away. Did she even know him anymore? But she was determined to keep the promise she had made to Nils.
"He wanted to work off his boat fare, and make her boat fare, and establish a homestead before she came. It took him 11 years, which I don't think was uncommon in those days," says Karen Priestley of Choiceland, Anna's great-granddaughter.
In Sweden, Anna had trained with a doctor and those skills served her well around Kamsack, where she delivered babies, set bones and tended the sick – even for animals. "People called on her because she was willing to take trade instead of money, while most doctors insisted on cash," says Karen. "I really admire her."
Anna raised seven children, survived two husbands, and passed on her recipe for molasses cake. According to Karen, it was an everyday cake, rarely iced except for company. Now-a-days, however, she always frosts it because that's how her children (Anna's great great grandkids) love to eat it. And she uses the microwave – proving that cherished old recipes still have a place in the modern kitchen.
1/2 cup butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup buttermilk
Cream butter well. Gradually add sugar, beating after each addition. Blend in molasses and eggs.
Sift together flour, baking soda and spices. Add to batter in three portions, alternating with buttermilk until well blended.
Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch cake pan and bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool cake and ice.
Caramel Coffee Icing
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup cream
1 tbsp strong coffee (or 1/2 tsp instant coffee)
1 2/3 cup icing sugar
Put brown sugar, butter and cream into large glass measuring cup. Microwave for 40 seconds. Stir and microwave another minute or so until smooth. Add coffee. Blend well and cool. Beat in icing sugar to a creamy and spreadable consistency.
(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)