Archives for category: Cooking


Oxford House Hats

The men and boys of Oxford House, northern Manitoba.
1926 Photo by Rev. J.A.C. Kell

Easter was the time when the Swampy Cree of Oxford House, Manitoba came back from winter camp. You had to find just the right hat to make you feel ready for the season of beginning all over again.

They had gone far into the bush, lived in shacks, shot duck and moose, and fished for themselves and their dogs. They were more healthy and contented when they were out in the bush than on the reserve because they had meat to eat. The missionary had given their fathers their school exercise books and made them promise to have their children look at them at least once a day.

Now spring was here and, with it, came travelers from the south. Eager to make some money, the men and boys tried to make a good impression. Strong and swift-footed, with valuable knowledge of nature and skills as craftsmen, they were indispensable as guides to carry the outsiders’ gear, paddle and portage canoes and navigate the trails through the bush. They would also exchange meat for white man’s food such as jam.

Where Did They Get Their Hats From?
Each man or boy in the photo has his own style and no two hats are the same. I suspect they came out of the bales of clothing which were sent up to the reservation from church congregations in the south who wanted to help the aboriginal people. The influence of the new age of aviation was detectable in some of the hat styles.

Look at this Historical Photo:
Chief Jeremiah Chubb is standing second from the left in the back row. He is the one who “although not musical, played the organ as best he could for the church services” (A Book of Kells).

His right hand man, Bobbie Chubb, is standing — on Jeremiah’s right. He liked to brag and had a good sense of humor, which my mother (the missionary’s wife) adored.

One night when he was at mission house, he told her that his children were not let out of the house at night because he locked the door at 10 p.m. Then he looked at his watch and said: “To-night I have locked myself out.”

Which hat in this historical photo appeals to you most?

What’s your new Easter hat like? What’s its attitude and what does it rhyme with?

Thank you for spending some of your precious time reading this post. Please browse around from tip to toe on the Home archive and, if you will, comment.

Happy Reading & Writing from Cozybookbasics!

Margaret Kell Virany, author of:

A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void.  A compelling account of the unique northern adventures of a romantic, idealistic sailor and his war bride living with the Cree in the roaring twenties. Followed up by their youngest daughter’s confessions of a preacher’s kid.

Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.  A loving tribute to my mother’s bravery in coming alone to Canada as a war bride and living her honeymoon years on a northern Aboriginal reservation.  12 photos.

Eating at Church. One hundred and seventy-five recipes from the labor of love of 58 contributors who belong to two congregations in the Ottawa River Valley that perpetuate a long tradition of delicious, practical, time-proven meals prepared for and eaten with others.

Background information is available on my website; books may be purchased on Amazon.


The Spring Supper fills the church hall to overflowing for two sittings. Roast turkey with all the trimmings is the main dish, with members bringing them already cooked from home.

Roast Turkey

“It is all in the preparation.

“The turkey is washed clean and dried. The giblets are
removed and cooked in water, eaten at leisure, and as a base
for the gravy.

“The bird is stuffed at both ends with the dressing (see below),
sealed up with metal pins and placed on a rack in the roasting
pan. The turkey is covered in a thin layer of olive oil-based
margarine, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

“Place it in the oven with water in the roasting pan and no
cover for the first 30-45 minutes; then cover and cook for the
desired length of time (until the legs are very loose). Remove
cover again for the last 15 minutes until golden brown.”

Turkey Dressing

“Fresh and/or stale bread is left out for a couple of hours
before tearing and crumbling by hand. A mix of brown and
white bread is always good. Always make more than you think
you will need.

“Chop two or three good-sized onions, as well as two or three
garlic buds. Add to bread.

“Mix together the usual blending of spices which is never the
same but always the same – marjoram, sage, poultry
seasoning, celery salt, sea salt and pepper. How much? you
ask. Until it smells good and looks right and darkens the
bread. Then add a small quantity of olive oil and some
margarine until all the bread is slightly moist. That’s as good
as it gets for describing quantities for any of the ingredients.

“As stated above, stuff the bird fairly tightly and let the
cooking begin!”

Rev. Steve Lawson

Turkey Gravy

“Have Steve remove the turkey from the roasting pan. Place
roasting pan on stove on medium-high heat.

“In Tupperware Quick Shake container (or glass jar with tight
lid) vigorously mix together 1 cup flour with 2 cups cold water.

“Slowly pour into pan with drippings and mix with a wire
whisk until it begins to thicken. As it thickens, slowly add
water. Alternately stir and add liquid, maintaining the desired
consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.” Kell Virany

English: Charoset made with kosher wine, apple...

Haroset made with kosher wine, apples, pears, cinnamon, honey, pine nuts, and crushed walnuts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cozybookbasics is pleased to update and republish this blog post from April, 2012.

This recipe from Biblical times is full of favorite ingredients and is perfect for light entertaining. It’s a specialty of Rev. Steve Lawson’s,  our United Church of Canada minister who is also a Swiss-trained chef. He contributed his recipe to Eating at Church, a heritage cookbook published by the congregations of Aylmer and Eardley United in the Province of Quebec. Here’s our story of why we love our minister and all the traditional celebrations that will be going on in communities like yours and mine all over America later this week:

  • The eggs and hot cross buns of our Easter Sunday sunrise breakfast in the church basement had just been eaten when Rev. Steve emerged from the kitchen carrying  a platter of hors d’oeuvres. Somewhat sheepishly, he said the correct term for the Haroset he held might be “left-overs”.
  • The dark red paste now spread on matzoh bread had been in the refrigerator since Maundy Thursday, three days before. What had begun as an experiment in honoring our Judeo/Christian heritage three years before had blossomed into a full-blown Seder feast held each year.
  • Rev. Steve wears a yarmulke for the occasion and explains the numerous traditional Seder dishes being served. Adults and children watch the video re-enactments of the Passover and the Last Supper intently.
  • Each item on the menu is symbolic. Bitter herbs stand for the bitterness of captivity and suffering of the Israelites in Egypt. Salt water, for dipping the herbs into, represent the tears of sorrow shed.
  • Matzoh bread is unleavened because they had to take flight in such a hurry.
  • Roast lamb symbolizes the sacrificial lamb‘s blood that marked the Israelites’ doorposts so they would be passed over and escape from the decree that firstborn children be slaughtered.
  • The Hebrew word charoset means clay and this dish symbolizes the mortar used by Jewish slaves to build Egyptian structures. The sweetness represents the kindness of God in making slavery more bearable.
  • Members of the congregation have been invited to bring salads also, adding a non traditional feature to this meal adapted for them and not strictly kosher


  • Ingredients: 6 Apples peeled and chopped;  ½ tsp. Cinnamon; 2/3 cup Walnuts, chopped; 1 Rind of a lemon or small orange, grated; 3 tbsp. Sugar (to taste) or honey; 4 tbsp. Sweet red wine; 1-2 tbsp. Orange juice.
  • Directions: Mix ingredients with an electric mixer until they become a dark red paste.  The traditional way of combining the ingredients is by using a mortar.
  • Tips: You may make the basic recipe differently from time to time, by changing your choice of apple variety or wine.  It may be eaten either as an hors d’oeuvre or in the form of a sandwich with matzoh bread.

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Pancakes (Photo credit: Shoot into the Sun)

You may want to run out and buy some pancake mix, not just because stormy blizzards are coming but also because tomorrow, Feb. 17th, is Mardi Gras, aka Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday or Fat (Gras) Tuesday. If you do, you’ll be taking part in the revelry of  Carnival (carne levare) , a last fling before putting away fleshly things like meat and sex during the sombre days of Lent leading up to Good Friday. In  medieval Christianity, you had just until midnight on Tuesday to splurge!

Here are some quotes from Mark Twain:

Mardi Gras is a relic of the French and Spanish occupation; but the religious feature has pretty well been knocked out of it now.”

“The very feature that keeps the Mardi Gras alive in the South — girly-girly romance — would kill it in the North or in London.”
From Life on the Mississippi, 1869

They’ll make good conversation pieces if you decide to celebrate the bad weather by having a pancake party (assuming you still have power.) You could even make them ahead of time and serve them cold with syrup.

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urkey Serviette

I’ve sat stuffed into a cardboard box for 65 years now and I’ve finally been let out to add a little cheer to American Thanksgiving celebrations. You may think this is good-hearted of me but I always think how lucky I am not to be my brother on the platter. Everybody has something to be thankful for!

Use the Look Inside the Book feature on Amazon for roast turkey, dressing, gravy, potato, vegetable, salad, potato and pie recipes.

Margaret Kell Virany   lover of language and literature, note-taker of Northrop Frye, journalist, editor, author

The view out towards Athol Doune Dr. in Aylmer...

The view out towards Athol Doune Dr. in Aylmer, Quebec, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

24-hour strategy for ducking in and out of a snowed-in nest

  1. We were invited to a free rehearsal of Mozart’s Requiem last night, as new donors to the National Arts Centre. Orchestra Conductor Pinchas Zuckerman led the musicians right through the performance without stopping. Then he went back over the bars that needed perfecting. From the best seats in the house, we saw the orchestra members dressed like ordinary guys — picture the bass soloist booming away magnificently from underneath his baseball cap.
  2. Heavy snow won’t stop falling. We are ‘plugged’ in because the ‘snort’ doesn’t stop when it plows past our shoveled-out driveway. Words in single quotes are my husband’s jokes. (We’re funny here in Aylmer.)
  3. Stand Up is the name of a program of the health services department of the Province of Quebec’s government. Aging people often are badly hurt or lose their independence as the result of a fall. We did exercises for balance, stretching, flexibility (particularly of the toes, feet and ankles) and strength. Outsiders think Quebec ignores the English but this program is in our language. The old monastery at the foot of our street has been changed into a beautiful senior’s residence and that’s where we gathered. Out of 18 taking part, my husband was the only  man. The others in town must be “too big to fall.”
  4. Dinner to-night will be vegetarian chili. You can make this easily if  you have time to cut up and sauté onions, garlic, celery, a pound of mushrooms, green and red peppers. Add red kidney beans, canned tomatoes,tomato sauce and chili powder and just let it snow — er, stew. It’s a healthy heart recipe.
  5. We wish you happy hours and we invite you to stay awhile with us around our ‘foyer’ (wood stove inside the front door).

Thank you for spending some of your valuable time as my guest on cozybookbasics. I hope you like it here, write a comment and browse around by clicking above on ‘Home.’ My writing, whether blog or book, is always personal, fast-paced and focused on the outer and inner adventures of real people, going back beyond three generations. You can familiarize yourself with my books at this Amazon link to A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church. Join me on Goodreads or my personal author page also.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

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An Austrian Chocolate Pudding (Koch) for Christmas Dinner

An Austrian Chocolate Pudding (Koch) for Christmas Dinner

It’s hard to attract a far-flung family for Christmas, especially  when you live in the land of Jack Frost and  the Fairies of Ice and Snow. As visions of the family being assembled here on Christmas Day dance in my head, our kitchen is sending forth the seductive aromas of favorite sweets.

Quince Jelly

My husband is making his specialty, quince jelly, from the world’s oldest variety of apples. He cuts six or more of them up, adds their own weight in sugar and lets them simmer for many hours. The jelly sets after being poured into a cake tin or molds. Serve in slices to be eaten with fingers. This amber-colored, naturally spicy, traditional delicacy is an ingrained custom and almost a national treasure  in Hungary. As far as I know, the apples are available all over, certainly in Canada, US and Europe.

Crescents (Austria)

First mix together 1/2 C. of unsalted butter and 2 C. of flour  with your hands. Add 1/2 C. ground hazelnuts (filberts), 1/4 C. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. Pour in enough 10% cream to hold it all together in a big ball (1/4 C. or a tad more.) Refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Shape into small crescents, place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350° oven for 7-8 min. Roll in icing sugar mixed  with vanilla sugar while still hot. Makes 30.

Dried fruit salad (England)

You’d be surprised at how many people love to sit down to a bowlful of dried prunes, apricots, pears and apples, all stewed together or else left to soak in water for a few hours. Keep it in a big jar in the fridge.

 Linzer Torte 

This ancient recipe carries the name of the Austrian city of Linz.

2 Egg yolks                                   1 Whole egg
5 oz. Unsalted butter            5 oz. White sugar
5 oz. Brown almonds, ground
5 oz. Flour
Combine to form a dough. Spread 2/3 of dough in 8”x8” pan.  Spread with jam (apricot, black  currantor strawberry.).  Cover with a lattice made from remaining 1/3 of dough. Bake  at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 min., until light brown.

Chocolate Pudding (Koch)

You need to buy a pudding mold with a lid that locks with a clip to make this. Prepare the pudding one hour before you want to eat it.
2 1/2 oz Unsalted butter
6 Egg yolks
6 Egg whites, beaten stiff
3 oz Brown almonds, ground
2 tsp Bread crumbs
6 tbsp Sugar
3 sq Semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Cream butter. Beat in sugar. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Fold in melted chocolate, egg whites, almonds and finally crumbs. Butter mold and dust with sugar. Place in big pot of   boiling water, coming up not more than 3/4 of the height of the mold. Cover mold tightly. Cover pot and let boil 1 hr. Serve at once with whipping cream. If not, leave in water till serving time. Serves 6-8.

Apple Pie

Fill ready-made, frozen 9″ crusts preferably with Melba or McIntosh apples (peeled, cored and cut up.) Freeze them until shortly before dinner time, then prick holes in the bottom crust and bake as usual, except 10 or so minutes longer.

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What my great grandparents, William and Mary Kell, ate on the farm in the late 1800's must have been good, since they look very healthy. (Illustration from A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void).

What my great grandparents, William and Mary Kell, ate on the farm in the late 1800’s must have been good, since they look very healthy. (Illustration from A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void).

What we feel and celebrate as we gather for community feasts of the calendar year is  summed up in this back cover blurb from Eating at ChurchOur eating traditions are well preserved in church cookbooks, the oldest type on the North American continent. To paraphrase Michael Pollan, writing in  the New York Times magazine, “If Great Great Grandma ate it, you can be sure it was real food.”

Salivating over 300 Years of a Labor of Love at Aylmer and Eardley United Churches

“The cooks of these 175 superlative recipes are volunteers, bubbling over with good will, know-how and friendliness. They embody commensality — the act of building community by sharing a table.

Some dishes are prepared at home in a well-organized flurry, since they have to get to church on time. Others are cooked in the church basement kitchen by a close-knit team who love what they’re doing, since it’s for others.

As a child of the church in the thirties, the author cherishes happy memories of a perpetual cycle of strawberry socials, harvest suppers and silver teas. And those memories, coded in recipes like these, still stir up the intangible ingredients poured in by the hearts of those earlier ‘Eating at Church’ chefs.”

This lively cookbook, with its chatty anecdotes, brings to life the end of the Lenten season at Easter and other ancient calendar occasions for feasting.

Do you have happy memories of church eating too? Or tips on writing a cookbook?

Thank you for spending some of your precious time reading my post. Please browse around from tip to toe and write a comment.,,,,