Charlottetown’s Hungry Hearts

Welcome to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and the birthplace of Confederation!

A tour of Charlottetown’s literary fare would not be complete without a mention of the island’s most famous author L.M. Montgomery and the iconic 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables.

Although this young orphan grows up in the country near the town of Avonlea, Anne makes memorable trips to the capital. In the chapter “An Epoch in Anne’s Life,” a young Anne is invited to travel with her friend Diana Barry to visit wealthy Aunt Josephine Barry. Miss Barry takes the girls to the Exhibition grounds where many Avonlea residents are in attendance, winning competitions for their prized agricultural products and home-made edible goods.

The next evening, the girls attend a concert at the Academy and afterwards go to a restaurant for ice cream at 11:00 p.m. Oh the decadence of city life—Anne isn’t sure at first how she will “ever return to common life again” (270). But upon reflection, she realizes what she truly values:

It’s nice to be eating ice-cream at brilliant restaurants . . . once in awhile; but as a regular thing I’d rather be in the east gable at eleven, sound asleep, but kind of knowing even in my sleep that the stars were shining outside and that the wind was blowing in the firs across the brook” (270).

Painted in Waterlogue

Photo Credit: Shelley Boyd

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Cowcumber Boats

Recipes Notes (by Alexia Moyer)

Next week you will read all about Charlottetown’s literary fare on our sister blog. To pique your appetite, behold . . . a recipe featuring a certain slate-breaking, mouse-saucing, kindred spirit-searching redhead.

Cucumber . . . concummer . . . cowcummer . . . cowcumber. All are variants of cucumber. Or so says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). What the OED does not discuss are cucumbers in relation to boats. Is this vegetable sufficiently seaworthy? I – who have read at least four of Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey/Steven Maturin series and can therefore tell a luff from a lubber’s hole – would not venture to sail in one. The cucumber is, however, an excellent vessel for tuna salad. Or so says The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook from which this recipe is drawn.

Montgomery’s Anne books are chock-full of fare. At least two people have noticed this. The person who borrowed the Anne of Green Gables omnibus before me – from the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec – had discreetly (in pencil) underlined any and all mentions of food. I couldn’t help but feel a certain kinship with this unknown reader, vandal though s/he may be.

The second person is Kate McDonald, granddaughter of Montgomery and author of this literary cookbook. Within, you will find recipes for raspberry cordial (sans alcohol), plum pudding (sans mouse) and the cowcumber boats tested below.

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Susan Swan’s 1983 novel The Biggest Modern Woman of the World

The Biggest Modern Woman of the World

Susan Swan’s 1983 novel The Biggest Modern Woman of the World is a fictional autobiography of nineteenth century Maritime giantess, Anna Swan. The novel is divided into four chronological sections, each of which questions, either implicitly or explicitly, gender and national relations during the Victorian era. Like its narrator, the novel is obsessed with bodies—and with ingestions and expulsions. Whether a doctor is trying to take Anna’s measurements or midgets are drinking growth potions, nearly every page features an anatomical concern. In one memorable scene, P.T. Barnum’s curiosities gather for an eating contest at Delmonico’s, “a popular French restaurant at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth Street” in New York City (76). After having “inhaled [nineteen] puddings like air,” Anna loses the contest to a “normal” because her corset is too tight (77). This scene exemplifies the specificity of her embodied experiences as both an individual of incomparable size and as a woman who remains subject to Victorian mores and conventions. Here, the quantity that Anna eats—too much for a woman but too little for a giant—directly relates to her competing vectors of identity.

Swan, Susan. The Biggest Modern Woman of the World: A Novel. Toronto, Canada: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1983. Print.

Written by: Valerie Silva

Valerie Silva is currently in her final year of the Master’s program at McGill University, where she studies contemporary Canadian literature. Her current research focuses on affect, objects, and the body in contemporary Canadian life writing.