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Stella Davies is not just a great cook, but a local legend, according to her granddaughter Andrea Minor.
“My grandmother, who is 91 years old, is the author of two Canadian bestseller cookbooks,” Minor explained. The first book, released in 1979, is Friends and Gems of Sunset Country. It sold over 28,000, according to Minor, and was the precursor to the next book, Sunset Country Revisited, which came out ten years later.
Davies is known for at tending local markets, selling her food — especially her pies, butter tarts, jams, jellies, and of course, her books.
Darlene Furlong, Davies’s daughter and Minor’s mother, explained the genesis of the books. “When she wrote the first book, she used to go in the fall fair and always win all the prizes for her cakes and all kinds of things and people would always say, ‘You know Stella, can I have your recipe?’ “So one day mum said, ‘You know, I should just put this all in a book.’ And she did. She started doing it and she found a publisher in Winnipeg, Gateway Publishing, and put together a cookbook.
“I remember the night that they arrived I was working four to 12 at the hospital — I’m a nurse — so I took them up to the hospital and by the end of the evening I’d sold a whole pile, like 20 or 25 books because everyone up there wanted to buy one.”
The family marketed the first cookbook, getting them into Coles, sold to tourist camps, and in a Minnesota gift shop, which ultimately led to the second book. Now, the Sunset Country series is expanding.
“Together her and I have co-authored a third book, just published last week,” Minor shared. Sunset Country and the Next Generation has been a long-distance and long-term project between Minor and Davies. “It’s been in the making for a long time, ten years maybe,” said Davies.
“She asked me one day, she said, ‘Nan, do you think you and I could do a book together?’ “I thought, ‘Well that’s kind of a nice idea.’ So we’ve been kind of working on it sporadically because she’s down in Texas and I’m here. Last year when I was down there we did quite a bit on it and then she’s basically put it together. She rearranged all the pictures, the recipes and everything and basically did most of the legwork.
“She’s a fantastic cook, she cooks differently than I do, she uses a lot of spices and she seems to – have an inherent knowledge of what goes good, she’s very talented like that.”
The book features salads, dips, desserts, and other dishes, using things the family has in the house. For those who want to get their hands on this latest hometown cook book, Minor will be home for a book signing at the Cloverbelt market July 19.