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Gospel of Gert, recipe book - Food Gypsy

The Gospel of Gert – A Family History of Food

As technology reaches deeper into our lives and processed everything threatens to consume us, we seek comfort in the simplicity of what once was.  The return of slow food, our appetite for organics, farm to fork concepts, and the rising of Food Network personalities that epitomize our ideal food culture to iconic rock-star status .

Food is our connection to one another, to family and home, to birthdays, weddings and family picnics; the intertwining of our lives as told at the family table.

Ross _ &_Gertie_ Cameron
Ross & Gertrude Cameron, 1926

Gertrude Cameron (nee Flannigan) was born in Pilot Mound, Manitoba on July 12, 1906. Ross Cameron was born in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan on Dec 29, 1900.  They were married on Dec 15, 1926 and moved to the family farm in Cutknife, Saskatchewan (Home of the World’s Largest Tomahawk) where they raised seven children: Betty, Glenn, Fern, Arnold, Ellen, Sharon and Diane.

Gertrude (Gertie/Gert) learned to cook as most of us do, from her mother and the women in her community; neighbors, family and friends. Over a wood stove pioneer women made everything from bread to beans, three meals a day, long before the advent of frozen pizza. Theirs was a friendly competition to see who could out-do whom at local fairs and church suppers.

Working on the farm burns calories, this is why breakfast on the prairies starts with toast and ends with pie.  No prairie woman worth her lard would send men into the field on less.

Lunch was called “dinner” and featured whole hams, entire loaves of bread, vegetables straight from the garden and… pie.  At the end of the day, after the dirt of the land was scraped from under finger nails and washed from behind necks, there was supper.  A larger version of “dinner”, finished with cake or pudding or (dare I say it) more pie.

How Gertie Cameron managed in her busy day (hand scrubbing laundry, chasing children, chopping wood, tending her garden and plucking chickens) to make individual desserts for each of the seven children around the table I have no idea.  I can barely manage a scratch together a batch of cookies between IMing, there’s Gertrude making little cakes and puddings and the most precious of all things; homemade ice cream with ice chipped from the family ice-house.

This was a tradition she maintained for much of the family’s time together as they moved from Cutknife, Saskatchewan (Home of the World’s Largest  Tomahawk) to Dawson Creek, British Columbia in 1947, where husband Ross went to work at the town hall.

Is it any wonder that the Cameron Family’s most treasured possession is Gertrude Cameron’s family recipe book, lovingly referred to as “The Gospel of Gert”.

Gospel_of_Gert_2 Gospel_of_Gert_3

Great Grandson, Kris Johnson, trotted me down the hall at “Nana & Poppa’s” after a breakfast of waffles and eggs and toast and bacon and sausages and fruit (and constant threats of more) to the table where The Gospel of Gert is kept.

As an only child I freely adopt, thus extending my tribe over many lands, Kris is among my tribe.  He came to me a wide-eyed broadcast student in the 90’s, I believe may have corrupted him on many levels.  After years stories of the infamous Nana & Poppa, I was treated like family in their home and permitted to thumb the cherished pages of their family Gospel.

Son Arnold & daughter-in-law Bernice Cameron (AKA: Ace & Bunny) in the kitchen at Christmas

Gertrude’s recipe collection, clipped from magazines and newspapers or transcribed from the radio show “Kathy’s Kitchen”, are held between the pages of an accounting ledger from the Village of Dawson Creek.  Yellowed and watermarked from years use, stuck to the lined paper with bits of glue and cellophane tape, they document family history.

An intimate tale told over the stove, in the cool hours of the morning when the ladies did their canning and made pancakes.


Times of struggle, tales of resolution and sagas of celebration, togetherness, tenderness and individual desserts.  So sayeth The Gospel of Gert.

Ace_& _Bunny_&_the_girls
1960, Grimshaw Alberta, Ace & Bunny with their girls Kim & Jill

Passed from Gertrude’s kitchen to the fourth eldest; Arnold Cameron and his wife Bernice (AKA: “Ace & Bunny” or “Poppa & Nana”) after Gertrude’s passing in 1982; this humble collection of family pride is the link to the heart of the home, the many meals shared therein and a passion for good food passed through four generations.

Recipes still in use in Ace & Bunny’s kitchen (Home of The Endless Waffle) include Gertie’s salad dressing (eggs, sugar & vinegar- a family favorite), mustard pickles, hand-churned ice cream as well as the unwritten secret of “how to freeze beans without them goin’ all rubbery”.

As we traipsed through the family property, in Coldstream BC, with its half acre garden and chicken coop, Kris and I reminisced over our similar upbringing.  Families of hardworking people with a respect for the land and what it provides, and the grounded nature that this has lent us in life.

Great Grandson, Kris Johnson, raiding the family garden

“We’re not really a religious family,” Kris observes, between mouthfuls of raspberries from the garden “so Great Grandma’s recipe book is kind of like the family bible.  It’s the thing that binds us, the religion of food.”

Walking back into the cool house on a that hot summer day, we pass a sink full of cucumbers ready for pickling and find Ace, returned from his chores, in rubber boots and shorts.

“It’s too hot for pants” he claims.
“He’s always in those dam boots,” says Bunny, smiling and shaking her head “sometimes he wears them into town!”

Ace takes his boots off and relaxes in his wool socks, legs tanned from just above the knee to mid calf, his eyes filled with mischief.  Must be the epiphany of a lifetime of “homemade” that makes for a family of such beautiful souls.

Long live The Gospel of Gert.

 *Archive photos compliments of the Cameron Family, with much thanks.*

As a (pinot noir soaked)  aside:  Besides his work as a hand-model here on Food Gypsy, Kris Johnson’s passion for good grape can be explored on his blog: World of Winecraft at (Make wine, not war! )

Ace_&_Bunny Cameron
Ace & Bunny, still lovers after all these years.

Fearlessly cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer, food marketing consultant, recipe developer and sustainability advocate. A Cordon Bleu trained chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and now shares all things delicious - right here.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this beautiful entry. Having you come back into my life last summer was such a wonderful gift, and I’m so happy I was able to bring you out to Poppa & Nana’s for a visit and to glimpse further into “from whence I came”. I can’t wait to share this with the family, thanks Corinna!! (And, not gonna lie, that salad dressing recipe is absolutely amazing. SO. DELICIOUS. Will have to share for you to post on FG).

    1. KJ – Thank you for sharing a wonderful story and your family with me, my “brother from another mother”. You are grealtly loved. (Everywhere we go, fun follows.)
      ~ Corinna

  2. Thank you for such an awesome article. I read it with so much pride and love for my amazing family. That book is truly a treasure and holds many recipes that can’t be duplicated. I have to actually go through again next time I am home. Cheers

    1. Thank You Jill –
      Such a wonderful story. Had to tell it. Thanks to the family for the photos… they make the piece! Glad you love it. You have a wonderful family.
      ~ Corinna

  3. This is a very special story. Thank you for doing this. I always wonder how many stories are behind those recipes. I, like my sister, have much love for my family and proud of the wonderful things that are created from the basics. It truly is an art that people have lost. When my kids were little, letting them “bake stuff” helped them to develop cooking skills for their adult life. They knew potatoes came from the ground and not just a bag at the store.They knew the eggs that they ate were from chickens. Now, that I’m a Nani, “baking stuff still happens”, potatoes are still dug from the ground and the chickens are still laying eggs.
    Thank you, again!

  4. Great article Corinna. I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of this family officially for 30 years and the food has always been an amazing part of it all. Not to belittle the family members. But, as with many stories, there is a sad side. I, as a son-in-law, usually have to do those dishes at Christmas!

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