“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables)
Have you ever noticed how often the characters in Anne of Green Gables take tea? Apparently it’s the drink consumed most often in the Anne series, with cake and pie topping the list of foods. Of course there’s also apples, preserves (cherry, blue plum, crab apple, strawberry), biscuits, cookies, puddings, taffy and chocolate caramels. Is it any wonder I want to live in these books? 🙂
We had an elegant tea. Mrs. Barry had the very best china set out, Marilla, just as if I was real company. I can’t tell you what a thrill it gave me. Nobody ever used their very best china on my account before. And we had fruit cake and pound cake and doughnuts and two kinds of preserves, Marilla. And Mrs. Barry asked me if I took tea and said, ‘Pa, why don’t you pass the biscuits to Anne?’ It must be lovely to be grown up, Marilla, when just being treated as if you were is so nice.
For some reason I didn’t read Anne of Green Gables until I was an adult — and not until after I had seen the 1985 television series with Megan Follows as Anne. I immediately inhaled all the Anne books, wishing Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert would adopt me, and that I could have a bosom friend like Diana Barry and a dreamy admirer like Gilbert Blythe. I could picture myself sitting at the Cuthbert kitchen table, pouring from the brown teapot, buttering thick slices of homemade bread, and trying to make conversation with shy Matthew.
Last Fall, when the revised and expanded edition of The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook came out, I decided to reread the original novel, which in turn aroused my curiosity about Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery.
The most surprising things I learned about her?
- She hated “Lucy” and went by “Maud,” being irritated when people added an “e” at the end (just the opposite of Anne Shirley, who insisted on the “e”).
- Like Anne, she was somewhat of an orphan, since her mother died when she was just 21 months old, and her father moved to Western Canada for work. She was therefore raised by her maternal grandparents, who were pretty strict and humorless. She coped by inventing imaginary friends, reading, writing, and enjoying nature.
- She always wanted to be an author, publishing her first poem at age 15. In addition to 20 novels, she also published hundreds of short stories and poems.
- At first she kept her writing a secret — her family thought such a profession was a waste of time (especially for a woman). Once she became assistant postmistress in Cavendish, she was able to submit manuscripts and receive responses without anyone knowing. She persisted despite rejections, because deep down she knew someday she would succeed.
- Montgomery didn’t really want to write the sequels to Anne of Green Gables, but her contract locked her into writing them if the first book sold well (it was an immediate success). At one time she earned more per year than the prime minister.
- She had many suitors and turned down several proposals of marriage, including one from her 22-year-old high school teacher. While she was secretly engaged to her second cousin Edwin Simpson, she fell madly in love with a young farmer named Herman Leard. Eventually she married Presbyterian minister Ewan Macdonald, after being secretly engaged to him for 5 years.
- Montgomery suffered from depression, and was lonely, isolated and filled with worry and dread for much of her life. Her marriage was not a happy one: the duties of a minister’s wife proved trying and her husband suffered from mental illness. In 2008, her granddaughter Kate Macdonald Butler revealed a family secret — Maud had taken her own life with a drug overdose.
- Writing was Maud’s saving grace and helped alleviate her mental and emotional suffering. Ironic that one so tormented continues to make millions all over the world so happy with her books.
But getting back to Anne of Green Gables, first published 110 years ago this June. With Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I’ve been thinking about the different kinds of love included in the novel, and how Montgomery’s beautiful portrayals contribute to the book’s wide and enduring appeal.
First, we have a spirited and optimistic main character who has never felt truly loved by anyone, but with her active imagination has a rich fantasy life full of flowery romance. During the course of the novel, she learns to be loving and is in turn loved back, without losing her penchant for melodrama or her unique way of looking at the world.
At the heart of the book is Anne’s romantic friendship with Diana Barry, an intense relationship that mirrors the kind of female friendships central to Montgomery’s own life. Though it may seem over-the-top effusive to us today, it was typical of the time period. Upon their first meeting, Anne asks Diana to take a solemn vow to be friends forever and ever:
I solemnly swear to be faithful to my bosom friend, Anne Shirley, so long as the sun and moon shall endure.
As for romantic love, there’s Gilbert Blythe, who has a crush on Anne from the beginning. They become rivals after Gilbert teases Anne about her red hair. Though she remains resolute in her disdain for him, he is unwavering in his attempts to get in her good graces. His longing is palpable, and it’s notable that he recognizes and admires Anne for her intelligence. Gilbert’s devotion is definitely swoon-worthy.
Finally, there’s the familial love experienced by Anne, Matthew and Marilla. It’s sweet and touching how Matthew, normally terrified of all females, is instantly charmed by Anne when he picks her up at the train station. It is he who convinces Marilla that they must keep her, even though they originally wanted to adopt a boy. It’s wonderful how Anne came into their cheerless lives, how Marilla gradually softens as the story progresses, and how Matthew, who usually defers to Marilla, stands up for Anne.
But whether we’re taken with Cuthbert family dynamics, are reminded of our first boy-girl crushes, or are inspired by Anne and Diana’s passionate, idealized friendship, we can recognize parts of ourselves in the characters and relate to their emotions. We can’t help but root for Anne Shirley, one of literature’s most interesting, amusing, and endearing heroines, the orphan outsider who finds a family who needs her as much as she needs them.
By writing this book, Montgomery was able to indulge her deep and abiding love for Prince Edward Island and create the kind of happy ending she never had, with a loving family and a romantic interest who was all the things her real-life suitors were not: notably, someone of equal intelligence who cared about literature and valued her writing.
🌺 TIME FOR TEA AND CAKE 🍰
If you’re a devoted Anne fan, you might already own a copy of Kate Macdonald’s first Anne of Green Gables Cookbook published by Oxford University Press in 1985.
The most notable changes in the new 2017 Race Point Publishing edition are the beautiful color photographs of all the recipes save two, lovely floral paintings to mark each section, and charming interior illustrations by Flora Waycott. Oh, and the lovely grosgrain ribbon bookmark! 🙂
The new book contains all the recipes from the old one in addition to eleven new ones, and they are now presented according to which novel they were inspired by (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of Windy Poplars). The new book also contains four recipes from L.M. Montgomery’s own kitchen, adapted for modern cooks. As before, relevant excerpts from the novels are sprinkled throughout, and all ingredients are listed in both US/Imperial and Metric measurements.
A quick glance reveals that some of the original recipe ingredients have been updated. For example, the old recipe for Liniment Cake Creamy Butter Frosting calls for 1/4 cup butter, while the new calls for a full cup.
In her Introduction, Montgomery’s granddaughter Kate Macdonald explains that the first collection was published before she had children of her own, and, “I now understand more clearly how much pleasure comes from providing good, tasty food.”
So, if you enjoyed the famous chapter where Anne invites Diana to tea, you can make your own Raspberry Cordial, the “snaps” (Gingersnaps) Marilla said Anne could serve, as well as Marilla’s Plum Pudding with Caramel Sauce (sans drowned mouse!) that Anne tells Diana all about.
Or, why not channel some of the Avonlea schoolgirls with Tantalizing Raspberry Tarts, or serve up a savory dish with the men in mind (Gilbert’s Hurry-Up Dinner, Matthew Cuthbert’s Yummy Biscuit Sandwich)? I admit to being partial to this cookbook because it’s heavy on treats appropriate for tea time (Poetical Egg Salad Sandwiches!), but you can also find some tempting main dish entrées such as Saucy Chicken, Miss Stacy’s Baked Macaroni, and Green Gables Shepherd’s Pie.
The new cookbook, in essence a complete makeover, is well worth purchasing even if you already own the original collection. It’s a treasure for Green Gables fans of all ages, and promises an especially delicious way to cherish the series.
Especially for Valentine’s Day, Mr. Cornelius and the Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers decided to make Anne’s Liniment Cake with Creamy Butter Frosting. Do you remember when Reverend Allan and his wife were invited to Green Gables for tea, and Anne asked to bake a layer cake? She loved Mrs. Allan and was so intent on making a good impression, sharing her trepidation beforehand with Diana:
Everything is ready, Diana, except my cake which I’m to make in the morning, and the baking-powder biscuits which Marilla will make just before teatime. I assure you, Diana, that Marilla and I have had a busy two days of it. It’s such a responsibility having a minister’s family to tea. I never went through such an experience before. You should just see our pantry. It’s a sight to behold. We’re going to have jellied chicken and cold tongue. We’re to have two kinds of jelly, red and yellow, and whipped cream and lemon pie, and cherry pie, and three kinds of cookies, and fruit cake, and Marilla’s famous yellow plum preserves that she keeps especially for ministers, and pound cake and layer cake, and biscuits as aforesaid; and new bread and old both, in case the minister is dyspeptic and can’t eat new. Mrs. Lynde says ministers are dyspeptic, but I don’t think Mr. Allan has been a minister long enough for it to have had a bad effect on him. I just grow cold when I think of my layer cake. Oh, Diana, what if it shouldn’t be good! I dreamed last night that I was chased all around by a fearful goblin with a big layer cake for a head.
Anne was so excited she couldn’t sleep, and woke early with a head cold. She worked earnestly, still nervously chattering to Marilla about doubtful baking powder and possibly forgetting to add something, but in the end, her cake turned out “as light and feathery as golden foam.” She proudly spread some ruby jelly between the layers and envisioned Mrs. Allan asking for a second piece.
The tea went swimmingly until Mrs. Allan actually tasted Anne’s cake. Poor Anne! She had mistakenly added anodyne liniment instead of vanilla. She was devastated, but Mrs. Allan comforted her as only a true kindred spirit could.
Cornelius took out our big bottle of vanilla and double checked it by removing the cap and inhaling deeply. Mmmmm, don’t you love the smell of vanilla? No mistaking it!
We followed the cake recipe to a “T” — it didn’t specify slathering “ruby jelly” between the layers, but certainly you could easily do this if you wanted the cake to be more “Anne-ish.”
Still, it was very tasty with the updated buttercream frosting recipe; the cake was dense rather than “light and feathery,” more like a pound cake. Recipe directions called for beating the batter 3 minutes: next time I will try to beat longer, and might also consider adding another egg to get a lighter cake. Still, others who’ve made this recipe commented that it wasn’t as light as they’d expected either. Since no anodyne liniment was accidentally added, we can call it a success. 🙂
Cornelius and Anne devoured several pieces and discovered they are indeed kindred spirits — they both like daydreaming, wildflowers, and reciting poetry aloud. They’d like you to share this cake with someone special this week.
Anne's Liniment Cake
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, or 120 g) butter, melted, plus more for greasing
- 2 cups (220 g) sifted all purpose flour, plus more for the pans
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1-1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (235 ml) 2% milk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (2 sticks, or 240 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups (360 g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) heavy cream
- 2 or 3 drops red food coloring (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Grease two 9-inch cake pans with butter, then flour the pans. Set them aside.
- Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar to a large bowl. Mix together.
- Add the melted butter and the milk to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Beat the mixture for 1 minute with an electric mixer.
- Break the eggs into a small bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the cake batter, then beat with the mixer for another 3 minutes, constantly scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Pour the cake batter evenly into the 2 cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
- Test the cakes with a toothpick. When they are done, use oven mitts to remove them from the oven. Let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes.
- Slide the blade of a metal spatula around the edges of the cake to loosen them from the pans.
- Place one of the cakes on a cooling rack. Place a second cooling rack on top. Hold the 2 racks together and flip the whole thing over. Gently lift off the pan and transfer your cake to a plate. Repeat with the other cake.
- Let the 2 layers cool completely before frosting.
- Cream the softened butter with an electric mixer.
- Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until it is all combined.
- Mix in the salt, vanilla extract, cream, and food coloring. Beat on low speed with an electric mixer for 10 minutes, until frosting is silky.
- With a metal spatula, spread about one-third of the frosting between the 2 cake layers. Use the remaining two-thirds to cover the top and sides of your cake.
For the cake:
For the frosting:
Tips: I used two 8-inch pans instead of two 9-inch pans, and am glad I did. Otherwise, the layers would have been shorter.
The frosting recipe calls for 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar; you could cut this back if you prefer less sweetness (I used about 2-1/2 cups and still found the frosting a little too sweet for my taste).
~ recipe adapted from The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate Macdonald (Race Point Publishing, 2017), as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.
THE ANNE OF GREEN GABLES COOKBOOK: Charming Recipes from Anne and Her Friends from Avonlea
written by Kate Macdonald and L.M. Montgomery
illustrated by Flora Waycott
food photography by Evi Abeler
published by Race Point Publishing, September 2017
Cookbook for ages 8-12, 112 pp.
*Enjoy this short Raspberry Cordial video:
📗 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY! 📗
The publisher is generously providing a copy of the cookbook for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EST) Tuesday, February 20, 2018. You may also enter by sending an email with “ANNE” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good Luck!
❤️ HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY TO ALL YOU KINDRED SPIRITS! ❤️
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