What exactly is schmecks?
I was pondering this very question shortly after reading an e-mail from Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Sensual Gourmet asking me if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing a cookbook by the eminent Canadian writer, Edna Staebler. The cookbook in question happens to be called Food That Really Schmecks.
Born in 1906 in Kitchener, Ontario, Edna Staebler spent her life devoting herself to the pursuit of writing and journalism. Her work appeared in publications like Maclean’s, Chatelaine and Reader’s Digest, to name just a few. A recognized author, Ms. Staebler was awarded the Order of Canada in 1996, the culmination of a lifetime of achievement.
She is perhaps best know, however, for a series of cookbooks that she wrote detailing the cooking and way-of-life of Ontario’s Mennonite community. Her cookbooks, more than just a record of recipes, are a record of a time that seems long-gone now. Her skills as a keeper and teller of recipes are matched only by her skills as a teller of stories.
The charm of Staebler’s cookbooks are the anecdotes that she shares. Each recipe is introduced with a description that sketches out a time, a place and a dish. Her presentation is simple and straightforward, honest and strong, and Canadian to the core.
Perhaps the best quality of Food That Really Schmecks is the food itself. There is no haute cuisine or molecular gastronomy to be found here. Rather, there is the good, hearty and simple food of good, hearty and simple people. It’s the epitome of comfort food in all it’s stick-to-your-ribs glory.
That is not to say that some of the recipes aren’t a bit strange-sounding. But that in and of itself lends the book even more charm. I mean who wouldn’t want to find out exactly what Seven-Cent Pudding is? And I for one would love to be served a piece of Compromise Cake.
Before receiving my copy of this cookbook, I had only heard of Edna Staebler once or twice. I knew very little about her and I had never seen one of her cookbooks. But after having read Food That Really Schmecks and tried a recipe or two, I could see why Ms. Staebler was so admired and loved. She is like the dear aunt that we all know and love. The one with all the common sense and experience. The one who can tell a great story and make a great dinner. The one who is smart and wise.
Jasmine had the opportunity to meet Ms. Staebler prior to her passing on September 12, 2006. I’m so happy that Jasmine had the chance to do so, as well as the chance to tell others about this lovely woman. I think we’re all the richer for it.
As for my initial question about the word schmecks, I did a bit of searching and found that while there is no precise meaning, it’s often used as a way of saying something is tasty or yummy or good.
If that’s the case, then Food That Really Schmecks really does schmeck!
Cheddar Cherry Rolls
Adapted from Food That Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 tbsp. cold butter
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped dried cherries
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Cut the butter into tiny pieces and add to the flour mixture.
- With a pastry cutter or with your fingers, mix the butter into the flour until it resembles a coarse mixture.
- Slowly add the milk, gathering the flour into a ball. As soon as it forms a ball of dough, stop adding milk (you may not have to add it all).
- Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface and roll the dough out until it’s about half an inch thick.
- Sprinkle the cheddar cheese and dried cherries over the dough. Beginning at the edge closest to you, roll the dough up like a jelly roll.
- Cut the roll into one-inch rounds and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the rounds are golden.
- Serve warm.
Note: This recipe is based on a recipe for Cheese Rolls found on p. 187 in Food That Really Schmecks. We enjoy eating cheese with dried fruit so I decided to pair cheddar with dried cherries for my version. This recipe will yield 8 to 10 rolls.