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The author of the first dessert whose books defined Canadian sweets

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From a small farming town in Alberta where she worked as a caterer, Jean Paré began a new career as a cookbook author at the age of 54. And when the male-dominated industry of the time refused to print her first cookbook, rejecting overly sweet recipes, she founded her own publishing house.

Ms. Paré went on to publish over 30 million copies, becoming one of the top cookbook authors in the world. She died last month at the age of 95 in Edmonton.

After leaving the restaurant business, Ms. Paré’s next decision was to write a series of over 200 cookbooks called “Company’s Coming.” The series, which she wrote for 30 years until her retirement in 2011, included titles like “150 Delicious Squares”, “Muffins & More and “30-minute meal on weekdays.”

Times food writer Christina Morales has written an excellent obituary on Ms. Paré (pronounced “Perry”) and her fascinating journey from home cook to author, who has helped shape perhaps millions of Canadian kitchens with her simple recipes. .

[Read: Jean Paré, Best-Selling ‘Everyday’ Cookbook Author, Dies at 95]

I asked Christina to share some details about Ms. Paré’s life that were not published in the obituary. Here is what she sent me:

Ms. Paré was known to order desserts before anything else on the menu or to celebrate a special occasion by ordering all the desserts on the menu. Her granddaughter Amanda Lovig Hagg said that among her favorite books to produce for “Company’s Coming” was one called “Chocolate Everything,” because chocolate was her favorite food. “The process was a dream for her because she was able to eat chocolate for a year,” Ms Lovig Hagg said. “She was never able to pinpoint her favorite recipe, but it was anything chocolate.”

With recipes including four-ingredient coconut rolls and Nanaimo bars, Paré’s first cookbook, “150 Delicious Squares,” was something of an ode to her sweet tooth. It has sold over 14 million copies.

[Read: A Bite-Size Square of Canada’s History, Culture and Craving]

The book was rejected by publishers, ostensibly for its abundant sweet recipes, but another dynamic was also at play: gender.

“By producing ‘150 Delicious Squares’ she was fulfilling the need of every mother or housewife to be able to have that collection of squares that they could take to a bridge club or a Boy Scout picnic,” said Liz. Driver, a curator at the Campbell House Museum in Toronto. Ms Driver has spent more than two decades researching the history of Canadian cookbooks and has compiled what the University of Toronto Press has called “the definitive history and bibliography of Canadian cookbooks”. printed between 1825 and 1949.

But the popularity of such recipes was likely lost to the men who ran the publishing industry at the time, Ms. Driver told me.

“What do they know what women want in a recipe? ” she says.

In her study of Canada’s cookbook heritage, Ms Driver said that community cookbooks, particularly in rural areas and among women’s or church groups, were a popular format for disseminating recipes locally and were commonly sold at fundraisers.

Ms. Paré saw an opportunity in this culture of revenue sharing to establish her business.

“Her books were a hybrid between the community cookbooks everyone knew and the general cookbooks from major publishers,” Ms Driver said. “And that’s the kind of innovation she brought.”

The place of his prolific collection of recipes in Canada’s culinary heritage rekindles the question of what exactly Canadian cuisine is.

[Read: Canada Letter: How We Cook, Eat and Drink]

The answer appears to lie in a patchwork of regional culinary traditions, from Irish influence in Newfoundland cuisine to authentic Ukrainian cuisine found on the Prairies, said Montreal-based pastry chef and restaurant critic-turned-author Lesley Chesterman. cookbooks.

She bristles at the fact that one would dare to call poutine, Canada’s sacred national dish, anything but an invention and the pride of Quebec alone.

The food scene in major Canadian cities is changing, spurred by imported tastes from immigrants and so-called big-city chefs returning to open restaurants in their hometowns, Chesterman said.

The needs of Canadian home cooks are also changing. Ms Chesterman said that while Ms Paré was less well known than someone like Jehane Benoît, considered Canada’s Julia Child, both women likely benefited from a cookbook market that, unlike today, was not particularly saturated.

“There was no Ina Garten as a competition back then,” she said.


  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau traveled to Mexico City for a two-day summit between Canada, the United States and Mexico. In his public remarks, Trudeau emphasized economic cooperation on the continent, though political observers say Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s president, has shown little interest in forging ties with the continent. Canada.

  • If you’ve run out of ideas for your next travel destination in Canada, consider the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The area was featured in The Times 52 Places to Go in 2023 (as was the Vjosa River, which I am named after, but it’s a trek farther from Canada).

  • After an online vote among its members, Girl Guides of Canada has chosen a new name for one of its branches: Embers. The branch, for girls aged 7 and 8, was previously called Brownies. The organization pledged to rename it after current and former members who are people of color said the name had caused them harm.

  • Michael Snow, Canadian painter, musician, photographer, sculptor and filmmaker, died last week in Toronto. He was 94 years old.


Vjosa Isai is a research journalist for The New York Times in Canada. Follow her on Twitter at @lavjosa.


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