In the 1960s, Edna Staebler moved in with an Old Order Mennonite family to absorb their oral history and learn about Mennonite culture and cooking. From this fieldwork came the cookbook Food That Really Schmecks. Originally published in 1968, Schmecks instantly became a classic, selling tens of thousands of copies. Interspersed with practical and memorable recipes are Staebler's stories and anecdotes about cooking, Mennonites, her family, and Waterloo Region. Described by Edith Fowke as folklore literature, Staebler's cookbooks have earned her national acclaim.
Including this long-anticipated reprint of Food That Really Schmecks in our Life Writing series recognizes the cultural value of its narratives, positing it as a groundbreaking book in the food writing genre. This edition includes a foreword by award-winning author Wayson Choy and a new introduction by the well-known food writer Rose Murray.
Long before she became the renowned author of the best-selling Schmecks cookbooks, an award-winning journalist for magazines such as Macleans, and a creative non-fiction mentor, Edna Staebler was a writer of a different sort. Staebler began serious diary writing at the age of sixteen and continued to write for over eighty years. Must Write: Edna Staebler's Diaries draws from these diaries selections that map Staebler's construction of herself as a writer and documents her frustrations and struggles, along with her desire to express herself, in writing. She felt she must write-that not to write was a "denial of life"-while at the same time she doubted the value of her scribblings. Spanning much of the twentieth century-each decade is introduced by an overview of key events in the author's life during that period-the diaries vividly illuminate both her intensely personal experiences and her broader social world. The volume also presents four key examples of Staebler's public writing: her first published magazine article; her first award-winning publication; the opening chapter of her book Cape Breton Harbour; and her lively account of the Great Cookie War. Must Write: Edna Staebler's Diaries portrays an ordinary woman's struggle to write in the context of her lived experience. "All my life I have talked about writing and kept scribbling in my notebook, as if that makes me a writer," wrote Staebler in 1986. This volume argues that the very act of writing the diaries, with all their contradictory accounts of writerly ambition, success, and conflict, made Staebler the writer she yearned to be.