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Sep 17, 2006 12:34 PM

Remembering Edna Staebler

From the Globe and Mail:
(In case people are wondering "Schmecks" is Pennsylvania Dutch for "tastes good".)

Cookbooks brought author wide audience

Waterloo, Ont. -- Author Edna Staebler, who celebrated her 100th birthday in January, died yesterday at the nursing home where she had lived since suffering a minor stroke in 2003.

Ms. Staebler suffered another stroke on Saturday, said her longtime friend Judy Creighton, a freelance food writer for the Canadian Press.

Her cookbook Food That Really Schmecks: Mennonite Country Cooking, published in 1968, brought Ms. Staebler distinction and a wide audience. Two other popular books in the Schmecks series were to follow.

In 1996, she was awarded the Order of Canada.

Aside from cookbooks, Ms. Staebler wrote historical non-fiction, including Cape Breton Harbour, published in 1972.

Ms. Staebler was a voracious reader, and established the annual Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction in 1991.

Edna (Cress) Staebler was born Jan. 15, 1906 in what is now known as Kitchener, Ont.; at the time, it was known as Berlin.

She grew up in the Kitchener area before moving on to receive a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto in 1929 and later graduate from teachers college.

Ms. Staebler married in 1933 but the couple divorced in 1962. They had no children.

Funeral arrangements were not announced. CP

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  1. Edna Staebler has been an inspiration in our home kitchen since we got her first book ("Food That Really Schmecks") about 30 years ago. Recipes like buttermilk pancakes, fluffy pumpkin pie, upside-down cake, gumdrop cake etc. are wonderful. Her unpretentious writing style and home-style cooking make me want to start a restaurant using her recipes.
    Thanks for many years of great food, ES.

    1. Funny but this afternoon I bought for $4 an autographed copy of "Sauerkraut and Enterprise," her 1966 homage to the Old Order Mennonites of Waterloo County. Now out of print, her series of small early '90s McLelland&Stewart paperbacks was solid gold--the "Muffins and Quick Breads" contains some of simplest but best recipes I've ever baked as did the Pies&Tarts and Cookies&Squares titles in the same series. Suspect all these will reappear shortly. She was smart, tough, and very devoted to good food.

      1. Thanks for letting us know.
        Brought back wonderful memories of learning to cook as a southwestern Ontario teenager -
        Hers were some of the first cookbooks my mother gave me - excellent recipes and charmingly written - her personality really came through in the commentary on the recipes.
        Books still on the shelves after 30+ years, and ? many moves!

        8 Replies
        1. re: buttertart

          So I was clearing out the basement library. Library is a bit of a misnomer. It is the repository of dead books. Many of these were vaguely related to health as my SO is 'careful' in this respect. Amongst the collection, with titles like '101 Wheatgrass recipes', "The Mega-vitamin Cookbook' and "Women are from Venus, Men are just Martians" I came across one little gem - "Food That Really Schmecks".

          It will not be going to dead book cemetery (The Tome Tomb) with so many of the others.

          1. re: Paulustrious

            That's great! I love that book. It is such fun to read. Recipes are good too. It gives you a good idea of midcentury life in that neck of the woods.
            Another good one for 60s/70s Canada is "Madame Benoit Cooks at Home" (maybe there's a copy of it down there too?).

            1. re: buttertart

              We used the Benoit books a lot when we first got married (70's). Great home cooking.

              1. re: Yongeman

                Remember her column in the Canadian magazine (the one in the Saturday paper)? Was great. She was a great cook and a charming and classy lady. I think of her as Canada's Jane Grigson in a way.

                1. re: buttertart

                  Staebler's little pie, muffin, and square cookbooks are old-school classics--just damn good versions of recipes for stuff that vanishes way before getting stale. They get used every week hereabouts and several muffin recipes I can do hungover in the dark. Surprised they've not be reprinted but suspect she's been forgotten by trendoid editors.

                  1. re: Kagemusha

                    Those recipes in the little books come from the Schmecks books, I think?

                    1. re: buttertart

                      Dunno. She edited and expanded her books thru multiple editions. The small topical books were more accessible and very popular in Canada. I see variants of her recipes sold widely in markets across S. Ontario.

                      Ever hear about her part in the 80s "Cookie War"?


                      1. re: Kagemusha

                        Not really, thanks for including the link! I have the little books too. Will have to look up the cookie in Schmecks Appeal.

        2. LOVE HER!! She inspired me to do food writing, and writing in general. Her stories between recipes were just as good as the recipes themselves!