PORT HOOD: Mary Janet MacDonald’s recipes are a focal point of many people’s Sundays, due to the success of the “Tunes and Wooden Spoons” web series. Now, MacDonald’s recipes will be the focal point of a cookbook bearing her name.
“It was the followers of ‘Tunes and Wooden Spoons’ who pushed me to do this, but they gifted me with an opportunity to leave something for my children and grandchildren,” said MacDonald, speaking to The Reporter last week. “It also gave me an opportunity to pay respect to three women in my life who were my everything; my mother, who never got a chance to raise me, the lady who raised me, who I called mama, and Cecil’s (her husband’s) mother, Marie.”
MacDonald noted her mother, Margie (MacDonell) MacDonald, died at the age of 37. At that point, she was raised by grandaunt Maggie Anne (Cameron) Beaton. She was also very close to her mother-in-law, Marie (MacIsaac) MacDonald.
“The book isn’t dedicated solely to them, but they are the ones who inspired me the most in life,” MacDonald said, adding that passing on recipes was one of the gifts her mother left her. “I was three when my mother died, but she left a handwritten recipe book that came into my possession just last year.”
The vast majority of the book’s recipes are available online at the “Tunes and Wooden Spoons” web site (tunesandwoodenspoons.com). Even though the recipes can be accessed free-of-charge, a great number of fans urged MacDonald to put pen to paper.
Last year, MacDonald and her daughter Margie mulled over self-publishing such a book. Margie is adept at desktop publishing, and Mary Janet had all the material ready to go.
However, the idea evolved early in the new year, thanks to the help of author Lesley Crewe. Crewe was a guest on “Tunes and Wooden Spoons,” and her connections to Nimbus Publishing resulted in MacDonald getting a call from the publisher.
For a while, Nimbus was the publisher planning to produce the cookbook but, due to scheduling issues, the company wouldn’t be able to do so until 2022.
Knowing that having the cookbook on shelves in time for Christmas would help sales, the publisher offered MacDonald the chance to go with another company — if she could find one offering a quicker turnaround.
At that point, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing entered the discussion. The Lunenburg-based company is slated to have the book ready for sale very soon.
“We had to have everything in by the middle of June, and we went to the printers a week ago Friday (July 30),” MacDonald said. “It’ll be bound and ready for delivery on Sept. 1.”
MacDonald said the Tunes and Wooden Spoons cookbook is for anyone interested in the lifestyle of folks in rural Cape Breton. The web series was able to highlight two of the main facets of local culture: music and food. Hopefully, the cookbook will be able to carry on the food-side of that tradition, she said.
“I think it’s a part of our culture,” she said. “We love to visit, and when you come together, food and music are a natural thing. Certainly in our home that’s the way it is; kids singing, the fiddle and the dancing. We love all of that.
“The first thing you do when you have people in is put the kettle on.”
Although the “Tunes and Wooden Spoons” series is a digital production, MacDonald said the sense of community she feels with followers is a very real thing.
“There are followers out there who’ve become friends that I converse with on a weekly basis, behind the scenes with emails,” she said. “There’s a lady in New Brunswick who contacted me early on, and she started talking about being from Cape Breton originally.
“Honest to God, we just found out we’re related to one another.”
MacDonald’s brother is a genealogy specialist, and he connected the dots. It turned out that MacDonald and the viewer are third cousins.
“She called me this morning and told me she’s coming for a visit this Friday,” MacDonald said, laughing.
Those looking for a copy of the Tunes and Wooden Spoons cookbook will, come September, be able to find the book in bookstores across Canada, on amazon.ca, and by visiting macintyrepurcell.com.