Who cooks and eats here: Wendy Cracknell and friends
Where: Lake of Bays, Ontario, Canada
Rent or Own? Own
I've known Wendy my whole life. My earliest memories of her include her curly red hair, glasses, truly gigantic pet cat Dudley, and her pink and orange tie-dye Prince t-shirt. She's my next-door neighbor in my favorite place in the world, the Lake of Bays in Ontario, Canada.
Our cottage on the Lake of Bays is a sacred spot for my family. My whole family makes the trip up from North Carolina at least once every year, and my Dad drives the full 18 hours at least three times. As with any sacred place, it's home to lots of traditions: playing 65 (a gambling card game) with neighbors in the evenings, the annual hot dog and s'mores night, hiking in the woods to find the fungus my mom will inscribe with this year's big news. And Wendy's always been a part of it. She's always the first person to say hi when we arrive, and she's always happy to chat when we float over to her dock to invite her to play cards.
So when I say I want to live like Wendy, you know what I mean. Most cottages on the Lake of Bays and in the whole lake country region of Muskoka are only meant to be lived in during the summer. Most — like ours — aren't insulated and have no central heat for the cold Canadian winters other than a fireplace. But a few years ago, Wendy moved into her cottage full time. It's now insulated, heated, and cozied up for when she gets back from snowmobiling in the winter.
When Wendy winterized her cottage, she made a big change to the kitchen: a pass-through window to the living room. Now she can drink her morning coffee looking out over the lake - even in the winter, when it's frozen solid with four feet of ice.
If anything is more common in Muskoka cottages than a general lack of insulation and heat, it's the deep family history embedded in each cottage. Wendy's cottage is no different. Her grandmother's collection of beautiful China sits on display in the dining room. Lining the walls up high are plates Wendy gave her mother, Jean, who my dad always refers to as "Teach."
My favorite part of the kitchen is the 1955 Findlay stove, half electric and half wood-burning, and all of the warm wood tones that start in the kitchen and lead out into the living room and dining room. Drinking hot coffee made on that stove while sitting and looking out at the lake - sounds like the perfect life to me.
10 Questions for Wendy (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Looking at the wonderful surroundings that I see when I look out side: the lake, trees and nature.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My favorite tool, I would have to say, is the old stove, which is half electric and half wood.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
I believe it would have to be with my closest of friends sharing a glass of wine and eating great food.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
The closeness of my fridge and stove. It is not a regular setup.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I could have opened up the wall to the living room sooner, to get the great view of the lake.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
The new butcher block counter.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
A new fridge and dishwasher.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Easygoing and basic.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Do not over think your cooking, keep trying and do not give up. Try to add your own twist to things.
10. What are you cooking this week?
Chicken and ribs, salad and red peppers baked with scrambled eggs inside of them!
Resources of Note:
- Findlay stove, c. 1955
- Candles from Collingwood, Ontatio
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(Image credits: Lisa Pepin)