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Five Questions with Mary Janet MacDonald, author of Tunes and Wooden Spoons.


1. When did you first learn to cook?

Good conversation, a cup of tea and home baking go hand in hand, and from the time I was a young child it was important to have "something good for tea" should a friend or neighbour drop in for a visit. So, I learned to cook/bake at a young age because it was an important part of a Cape Breton home.

2. Do you have a favourite recipe?

I would have to say that the three recipes that are my "go-to" would be my tea biscuits, my cinnamon rolls, and my chocolate chip jumble cookies. I can't pick just one!

3. Who were your greatest childhood influences?

First would be the lady who raised me, Maggie Ann Beaton, whom I called Mama. As she was my grandmother's sister, she knew what hard work was all about and since we lived on a small farm, it was from farm to table with a few bare necessities purchased at the store. She was born in 1902 and was a very resourceful and hard-working woman. Working with what you had in the cupboard was her rule — butter, milk, and eggs were available on the farm, and precious commodities like flour, molasses, sugar, and raisins were purchased and used as needed. They call me an "influencer" because of the number of followers I have on my Facebook page but Maggie Ann Beaton was the greatest influencer I knew.

4. Why is dance and music so important in your life?

Growing up in Cape Breton and in a hotbed of Scottish culture, it consumed every part of me from a young child up to today. Our home was always filled with music from fiddle tunes to stepdancing to singing. The Gaelic language and culture and all its traditions make up the very fabric of many communities on our island. I would not be me without the influence of every aspect of the traditions passed on to me. I am very proud to be a Gael.

5. What do you think people in the rest of the world need to know about Cape Breton?

I believe strongly that Cape Breton is a piece of heaven. I speak from growing up on the rural west coast of the island and loving it with all my heart. I would hope that people in the rest of the world would come here because it has breathtaking vistas, rugged coasts, amazing and friendly locals, music that speaks to your heart, and dancing that speaks to the music. It is beautiful and richly diverse and everyone feels welcome and at home and they shouldn't be surprised if a local just invites you to their home for a ceilidh, a good cup of tea, and some goodies to go along with it. "Come to Cape Breton, your heart will never leave."