I never read Anne of Green Gables, the 1908 novel by L. M. Montgomery about an orphan named Anne Shirley who is sent to live on a farm owned by a middle-aged brother and sister on Prince Edward Island (PEI). I’m not sure why since it’s considered a children’s classic, having been translated into 20 different languages and selling more than 50 million copies and my mother was all about me reading the classics. Besides that, starting around age eight, I worked at the local public library, helping my mother unpack boxes of books that had just been delivered by the binary. It was a strictly off the books payment for me and I’m not sure how much I made but it was fun helping my mom who by the time she retired had worked for the East Chicago Public Library for half a century. Until I graduated college I spent most summers working there and so I had easy access to whatever books I wanted to read and since Laura Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie novels were a favorite, so segueing into Anne and PEI, one eastern Canada’s Maritime Provinces, would seem a good fit.
I still haven’t read any of the Anne books, seen the movies or watched the TV series. But I was in Charlottetown, the charming Victorian-era capital of PEI and decided to take a tour of the Green Gables Heritage Place, part of L.M. Montgomery’s Cavendish National Historic Site.
The drive from Charlottetown to Green Gables meanders past sandy beaches, red roofed lighthouses and cute little fishing hamlets all of which have at least one restaurant offering lobster rolls and mussels as well as a store or two selling jams made from locally grown fruits, wood lobster traps to take home and, of course, Anne paraphernalia. In the turn before we entered Green Gables, a sign for bicycle rentals was written in French, English and Japanese. I got the French part because the Maritimes are near Quebec and some islands are English and others French. As for the Japanese, our guide told me, the Montgomery books (which were translated into Japanese in 1952) are super popular there and many tourists come from Japan to visit the places mentioned in the book.
Fortifying ourselves with ice cream (dairy farms abound on PEI and they’re known for the richness of their milk and, hence, their ice cream) from the Butter Churn Cafe, we wandered through the 19th century gardens with their white picket fencing, arbors, seats and old fashioned blooms such as giant hollyhocks and delphiniums. Interpretative guides wearing early 20th century country garb and, straw hats took us through the gabled home and then we followed the path way leading towards the Atlantic Ocean. Several times we passed Anne-wannabes, their hair spray colored red and crowned with, of course, straw hats.
In the gift shop, I looked at the prettily illustrated The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook, written by L. M. Montgomery’s granddaughter Kate Macdonald. Each of its recipes ties in with what Anne and her family, neighbors and friends ate in the book and I thought it would be fun to share a few.
The following recipes are from the Anne of Green Gables cookbook by Kate MacDonald.
Poetical Egg Salad Sandwiches
“The girls sat down by the roots and did full justice to Anne’s dainties, even the unpoetical sandwiches being greatly appreciated by hearty, unspoiled appetites sharpened by all the fresh air and exercise they had enjoyed.” —Anne of Avonlea (Chapter 13: A Golden Picnic)
1 stalk celery
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper, pinch
1⁄4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons dried mint or 2 tablespoons parsley
8 slices bread, fresh
In small saucepan cover the eggs with cold water – at least 1 inch above the eggs. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover it. Let the eggs stand in the hot water for 25 minutes. Uncover the saucepan and put it under cold running water for 10 minutes to cool the eggs.
Meanwhile wash the celery stalk under cold running water. Chop it into tiny pieces on the cutting board.
Peel the eggs. Add them with the chopped celery to the small mixing bowl and mash them together with the fork.
Stir the mayonnaise, salt, and pepper into the egg mixture. Set the egg salad in the refrigerator.
Mix the softened butter with the dried mint or parsley in the small bowl. Set aside.
Cut each slice of bread with a large cookie cutter. Save the bread scraps in a little plastic bag for bread crumbs.
Butter one side of each bread shape with the minted butter. On half of the bread shapes spread the egg salad. Place the other half of the bread shapes on top. Makes 4 poetical sandwiches.
“You’ll put down the old brown tea set. But you can open the little crock of cherry preserves. It’s time it was being used anyhow—I believe it’s beginning to work. Any you can cut some fruit-cake and have some of the cookies and snacks.” —Anne of Green Gables (Chapter 16: Diana is Invited to Tea with Tragic Results)
1/2 cup molasses
1⁄4 cup shortening
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine molasses and shortening in a small pan; heat, stirring constantly, just to boiling over medium heat. Remove immediately from heat and allow to cool.
Meanwhile measure remaining ingredients into a large bowl. When molasses mixture has cooled, pour over flour mixture and mix well to combine. Chill dough for 10 minutes.
Shape into small (about quarter-sized) balls and arrange 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Flatten with bottom of a drinking glass or with fingers.
Bake until dry and crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Watch carefully as they may easily burn.
When done, place pan on cooling rack and cool cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove from baking sheet to cooling rack and cool completely.
Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container.
Jane Ammeson can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org