Author of cabbage cookbook writes big check for PEI women’s shelter

A cookbook focused on the humble cabbage may have been “a bit of a lark,” as author Ann Thurlow describes it, but it’s become a boon for a women’s shelter in Charlottetown.

“I had the idea that if I could sell 500 of these cookbooks, that would be amazing,” Thurlow told CBC PEI. Main Street host Matt Rainnie.

“I thought 500 cookbooks would be the ultimate best thing.”

For months after the October 2021 release of My PEI Cabbage Cookbook, there was no sign that he would do anything more than that. But then the media started paying attention.

There was national coverage on CBC radio and in the Globe and Mail. And then there was the New York Times.

Thurlow, fan of Time Editor Sam Sifton for many years noticed a cabbage recipe in one of her columns and decided to send her a copy of her book. Shortly after, she woke up from a nap to her phone buzzing with messages from friends. Sifton had mentioned his book in his column.

Newer editions of the book feature a quote from the New York Times review by Sam Sifton. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

“I was groggy after my nap and I was like, ‘Is this a dream?'” she said.

This was not the case, and orders started coming in from all over the United States in addition to a crop of Canadian orders.

“Things started to go a little viral,” said John Barrett, director of sales, marketing and development for Veseys Seeds Ltd., the York, PEI company that distributes the book.

“Over the past winter things have really started to take off.”

A pandemic project

The book sold approximately 4,000 copies.

“Everybody is really surprised because nobody ever considers cabbage something special or fun or important,” Thurlow said.

His own love of cabbage is now legendary.

An inside page from My PEI Cabbage Cookbook, featuring a drawing of a bin full of cabbage and a MacKenzie Produce sign.
The book features illustrations by Rebecca Ford. This illustration references MacKenzie Produce, whose problems with cabbage surplus during the pandemic inspired the book. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

The idea was born after media coverage of cabbage growers just outside of Charlottetown, who saw bottoms falling from their market as restaurants were closed in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It made Thurlow think she had to do something to raise the profile of this underrated vegetable.

She started collecting recipes and was surprised how much nostalgia is attached to cabbage.

“Inevitably, it’s ‘My grandmother made the best cabbage’ [or] “My mom made this puff and it was amazing,” Thurlow said.

But in addition to this nostalgia, Thurlow has also collected many contemporary recipes.

Do more

The book was always intended to be a fundraiser. On Wednesday, Thurlow will close the circle on the matter by presenting a check for $12,000 to Blooming House, a local women’s shelter.

“I love what Blooming House does,” Thurlow said. “They don’t just provide shelter, they provide follow-up. They have a lot of clients that they follow up and have found homes for, and they follow them and support them.”

Every quarter we’re going to get a little something out of that book that’s sold.— Liz Corney, Flower House

For Blooming House, which has only been in business for about four years, the donation is special, not least because the shelter will continue to collect royalties from the book.

“We want to be able to do more and I think that’s what Ann’s donation was for,” said Liz Corney, chief development officer and co-founder. “Something that we can say, ‘OK, every quarter we’re going to get a little bit of something out of this book that’s sold’ is huge for us.”

And after

With some relief, Thurlow transfers responsibility for any reprints of My PEI Cabbage Cookbook. in Veseys.

John Barrett poses with Ann Thurlow
John Barrett of Veseys Seeds supports the publication of My PEI Cabbage Cookbook. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

This might give him more time for his next project.

“I’m still a big underdog fan and I want to help the underdog,” she said. “There are other vegetables that I think are grown in PEI but not appreciated,”

She thinks of pumpkins, which are mostly for decoration. We don’t eat them and we should, she says.

Don’t be surprised to see it attacking eggplants as well.

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