Browse Thora Gunnlaugson
One of two collections of recipes hand written and illustrated. Print out your own copy and colour the pictures, if you would like!
Thora Johannesson/Thorleifson/Gunnlaugson created this first version of her Icelandic Canadian Recipes in the early 1980s.
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Written and illustrated by Thora Johannesson/Thorleifson/Gunnlaugson.</p>', 'text' => 'Maria wiped away the tears that chose to roll down and moisten her loving smile as she anxiously reached up to secure the top button of his coarse homespun sweater. Yes yes you will do well Joi minn my brother Jon will help you to secure a good position and soon you will send the fare for your brothers and myself and we will join you in New Iceland. And then a quick embrace a touch of cheeks - first on one side then the other - and he rushed onto the boat - imagining it to be an old time Viking boat with its mighty dragon at the bow. He was off the shore and away from the land of rock and lava moss and lush green sod the land he loved with all his heart the land which to this day his descendants refer to as by saying home to Iceland. The same emptiness filled Jois heart as had overcome him as he bid his mother farewell. The ships captain had timed their voyage well. It had been smooth and with no trouble even if the boat had been crowd-ed and undesirable. The shores of the new land which now they hugged in search of a safe landing place looked very green beyond the rocks and the trees looked very tall. Deep in his heart he knew that his mother had not heard from her brother in the two years since his departure. Most of the immigrants would continue on their way to the Manitoba settlement of New Iceland but Joi would disembark and seek work im-mediately - was it not almost as far again from here to Manitoba as it was back to Iceland So work he would he must send fare for his wid-owed mother and she only thirty-four years of age and for his little brothers. Until now they had always been together on their little farm and never more than half a days walk from their home. Joi watched the coast line as they continued inland. Bateaus he was told were common on the St Lawrence River waterways. They were comparatively inexpensive to build easy to handle and very capable of carrying a heavy load. Canoes flat-bottomed boats rafts and a variety of other water transportation were either busily doing their job along the coastline or else were tied to a well-secured pole. There they lazily bobbed up and down to and fro in time to the ebb and tide. Boats like the Oliver Mowat 1873 - 1921 were in common use as well. They carried barley and hops through the canal systems into the United States. The shipping trade was extensive and ship building pro-vided an industry that kept an extremely large number of people em-ployed. Upkeep and general repair kept an equally large number in ser-vice. Joi listened carefully as the captain showed him the sights pass-ing by. Joi soon got a job in the ship yards and in less than a year he saved a respectable sum as well as gaining very good experience which never ceased to be an asset to him. Joi was however bound for New Iceland in Manitoba even if it meant going farther away from Iceland itself. When the opportunity arose to work his way west on a cattle boat he carefully encased his savings in his leather pouch wrapped his few possessions in a bundle with his freshly laundered clothing and introduced himself to Angus Orr. Manitoba Joi asked in a questioning voice. He was not confident of his English. I work he added. Angus Orr observed the tall muscular frame and doubted him not. He nodded and beckoned Joi on to the boat. And thus he worked his way west to Manitoba feeding and tending the cattle on the river boat. It did not take long to find some of his country-men when he reached Winnipeg. Many were already established in their vocations. They would gladly have employed Joi but no he sought farm land which was still available for homesteaders. He learned that his restless uncle had ventured here and there and was last known to be south of the border in the United States. Joi obtained his Homestead rights in the southern settlement. He stared at a simple piece of paper in a language he could not under-stand and marveled to think that here was the land he desired so eas-ily available to someone like himself. He carefully folded the paper and stored it away. With the help of others who were also staking their claim he found his land and began to work hard. Having made the financial arrangements before setting out from Winnipeg he already had assurance of assis-tance to bring his mother and brothers to join him as soon as passage was available. It would be a glad reunion. He looked to his neighbors. Sod houses which were very familiar to Joi from life on their farm in Iceland had been quickly raised. He accepted advice from those who had already the experience and learned quickly how to plan his farm site. He came to know the few native Indians who were in the district. They too were poor and made their living hunting trapping and gathering from what nature provided. They willingly shared their knowledge with Joi. The first winter was hard and Joi survived on the supplies which he had brought from Winnipeg and on the good will and knowledge of hi neighbors. He spent the winter cutting and splitting poplar logs from his upper bush land. By January he had already enough logs too begin fitting them together. Working with his neighbor they raised two small log houses in that first spring. Joi was just finishing shingling the roof of the house when he received work that his family had arrived in Win-nipeg. They would be arriving after a long walk. They came herding with them four milk cows which Joi had bought from a family friend. When they arrived they were greeted with a warm house still smelling of the aromatic oils of freshly cut poplar. What a wonderful day Joi and his brothers worked together to cut timbers for a table and two long benches. What else did they really need. The farm work was hard as Joi already knew. His land was good but in places rocky. Joi had been able to clear twelve acres in the first sea-son and it had provided him with wheat for bread and for seed for the next season. Now Joi and his brothers spent the winter cutting and selling cordwood to the town folk. This provided them with needed cash for the implements and utensils which would make their lives a bit eas-ier. Once his small log house was built and his family had settled in Joi be-gan to think of other necessities. In the far south-east corner of the house yard Joi chose a spot well shaded by an old oak. He wanted plen-ty of shade from the hot summer sun. Using poplar poles he erected a simple triangle-shaped frame at least six feet across at the ground lev-el and with poles only on the upper two slopes. Confident of the size of this frame he marked out a square on the ground a foot narrower than his proposed roof frame. He dug a hole five feet deep squaring it off carefully throughout. Accordingly the frame was placed over the hole. With poplar roofing timbers in place turf pieces - rooted grasses which held the soil together - were cut carefully. These were placed to cover the roof frame. The south end of the house was piled high with the earth removed from the hole. The north end was carefully boarded up with as large a door as was possible. When winter had taken hold and the ground was frozen deep water was gradually added until the holed was filled with ice. Then a layer of straw about one foot deep was placed on the ice. The resulting ice house served the home for the next summer season keeping milk cream butter eggs meat and other cooked goods frigid. When Joi opened the fire-box door at the lower front of the smoke house smoke belched out with the sudden release of air. The smoulder-ing fire was burning low and more oak sticks must be added to keep the concentration of smoke continuous. Above the fire box in the wood frame house the rafters hung laden with salted meat. Once the meat was well-smoked it would keep the family well fed until the following winter when they could once again count on the frost to keep their meat fresh. Joi had built the smoke house next to the ice house. The wood he used for the fire was oak. There were two reasons for using oak. First oak burned slowly and gave no undesirable strong or offensive odor which willow and cherry did. He would also save the oak ashes to be used in soap making. Cast iron pots such as these were a luxury the fortunate owner of such a pot would share it with his neighbors. The stone pit would be filled with fire made again from oak and when the embers filled the pit the cast-iron pot would be carefully set on top. If it was to be used to scald a pig it would immediately be filled to two-thirds with water. Immediately - this was very important since the pot must not be allowed to heat and then crack when the cold water was thrown in. If it was to be used for soap making the strained rendered pig fat was immediately added. Cast iron pots were indispensable. Not only were they the most dura-ble but also they were unaffected by their contents - which sometimes included the likes of corrosive lye - used in soap-making. They also held the heat well once they were heated up carefully. The ones shown here had very special requirements. One had a tight-fitting lid and in it were kept the oak ashes saved during the smoking of the meat. Hardwood ashes provided the best lye and it was vital to keep the ashes dry until it was time to make the soap. The cast-iron jug was used to salvage all the rendered fat and lard that was not used in the cooking of the food in the kitchen. The ashes and the lard were the main ingredients in soap making. If the soap appeared to be turning out particularly well it would be a lux-urious extravagance to add oil of citronella a lemon scent to the work-mans hand soap. Cast iron kitchen utensils were also a great asset. They could be hung over the open fire in the fireplace placed over the open fire of the kitch-en stove or even set in hot coals in a pit. Only under extreme heat would food scorch in them and then only if the water had evaporated. The cast iron tea pot would be hot when the boiling water and tea were added. There would be little doubt that the tea would remain hot until it had all been drunk. Likewise the pot and the Dutch oven were commendable assets for low temperature cooking and the resulting food would still be full of nutri-tion and flavour. Cast-iron was easily kept clean. Open fire would burn anything off and a good rubbing with lard would leave them looking like new. As soon as Joi had established himself in the community as a customer at the local grocery he asked to have his name added to the long list of those wishing to obtain a banana crate apple basket or fruit basket. The banana crates were carefully lined with cloth and then used as laundry baskets. They were so tall they held a lot while not occupying precious space. Early in the autumn train loads of Ontario apples arrived in their pre-cious baskets. They were called Snow Apples and although they were not good keepers they were a special treat. They made an easy and de-lectable desert being so sweet they were also inexpensive. Ane the baskets These baskets and later the grape baskets were precious and were used for years to come. These baskets were made of a very thin and durable wood - layers of the wood were loosened with a mallet and the years growth rings were the right width for the sides of the many basket types which were need-ed for transporting the years fruit. If these baskets were treated with care they served for many years for vegetable baskets. Wool was sorted according to its quality and stored in baskets. Eggs and wild fruit were gathered in the grape baskets. Many baskets graced the family living quarters as well. They were lined and covered with gay pieces of chintz cloth and even sometimes with a frill of lace. Carefully lined baskets filled with nuts and apples lent an air of wealth when placed on the table beside the horsehair chair. The frilly baskets held Rosas knitting and embroidery. Ontario cheese factories pressed their cheeses into cylindrical blocks each about six inches in depth. They cured them and when they were satisfactorily aged they packed them into boxes which had been manu-factured for the purpose and shipped them to waiting markets in Western Canada. Two blocks were packed to a box. In the stores these huge blocks were placed on a cutting board and sold by the approximate pound. But the box Those who were fortunate enough to gain favour with the merchant and became the proud possessor of a cheese box treated it with respect indeed. The lady with an eye to elegance dressed it up. The same was true for ap-ple boxes. From this....to this The ideas were as numerous as the people who chose to take advantage of the possibilities. But with a minimum of effort a scrap of cotton print chintz and a touch of lace the results became elegant. Books and periodicals were few. The result was they were treated with ut-most respect. It was therefore a tre-mendous asset to have apple-box book cases. Butter was made from the cream skimmed from the milk which Surtla the red and white cow generously provided. Butter was made in a hand-dashed wooden or crock churn. When the cream curdled and the butter settled out it was washed in a bowl with clean cold water. The butter was salted and stored in blocks formed in a butter press. Butter was often sold in pounds to local merchants. There was no problem freezing meat for storage in a prairie winter for summer use meat required special care. Meat of any kind - beef mut-ton of fish- were well salted in layers and packed in wooden barrels or stone crocks of various sizes. Jois favourite method of preparing meat was to smoke it in his smoke house. Joi and the rest of the early pioneers were by necessity and by nature a very thrifty people. They scrimped and saved. Paper money was tucked away in a leather pouch - undoubtedly made from home-tanned leather. Coins had their place in little hideaway containers - crockery or dainty wooden boxes. So they did prosper in ways none of them would have expected based on their lives in the old country. Soon enough sufficient money would be accumulated to hold a bee to raise the rafters of new buildings. Neighbors would gather to assist in the building of wood-framed houses and barns which soon dotted the prairie landscape. 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A childrens' story describing the journey of the emigrants from Iceland and the process of settng up homesteads in Manitoba. Written and illustrated by Thora Johannesson/Thorleifson/Gunnlaugson.