Crème de la Crème Cookbook


Cookbooks are available for Sale at Glenhyrst for $20.00 (Including tax).















Glenhyrst Art Gallery is re-releasing its classic cookbook, crème de la crème, just in time for Christmas.

The cookbook, available for sale for $20 at the gallery, 20 Ava Rd., Brantford, evolved over the years and was inspired by Glenhyrst’s annual antique fair. Proceeds will go toward Glenhyrst programming and arts education.

A book launch event will be held at Glenhyrst on Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.  Staff from the Golden Teapot will be joined by several other cooks to serve hors d’oeuvres prepared from crème de la crème recipes. The event will include guests who will share memories of the creation of the original crème de la crème cook book.

The book features 85 illustrations penned by Georgie B. Lewis, who was curator of Glenhyrst for many years, and her daughter, Robin B. Lewis, illustrator of the Canadian children’s book classic, Red is Best, and former student of Walt Kelly, the creator of the syndicated comic strip Pogo). Many of the illustrations feature whimsical chickens wearing chef hats and aprons carrying platters of seafood or tasting pumpkin soup.

For more than two decades in the 1960s and ’70s, Glenhyrst was home to a three-day antique fair.  The event served as a fundraiser for Glenhyrst and included about 16 antique vendors from all over Ontario and Quebec who came to showcase their collectibles.

A few years after the fair’s inception, the Women’s Committee of the Glenhyrst Arts Council decided to offer high tea in conjunction with the annual event. Traditional high tea items, such as cucumber sandwiches, scones with double clotted cream, brandy snaps and lemon curd tarts, were served. The tea was a huge hit, with many people having to be turned away.

The women, epicurean enthusiasts, decided to up their game, offering gourmet lunches and dinners. A blue-and-white striped tent set up behind the main house was a beehive of activity.  Two sittings of 80 people each were catered by volunteer wine stewards and servers.  Potted geraniums decorated each table.  The fine crystal goblets, polished sterling silver cutlery and copper platters used to serve were befitting of the food.  And the food became as important as the antique fair with which it was paired.

Each year the women researched and tested many classic dishes with influences from countries around the globe. Seven thousand meals were sold over the next decade. They were so popular people wanted the recipes and the idea for the crème de la crème cookbook was conceived.

The crème de la crème committee, led by chairperson Gertrude Williams, a passionate gastronome, who had taken cooking classes from the famous chef and cookbook author, James Beard, spent months scrupulously vetting recipes. They created, tested and modified recipes to determine the most delectable dishes to include in the book.

Williams’ daughters, Susan and Sally, recall coming home from high school to find their house often filled with committee members testing and discussing the recipes. They remember that there were sometimes disagreements among the members: one woman wanted to add asparagus water to the asparagus soup—horrors! Asparagus water is bitter, and that wouldn’t do. But, after months of examination and experimentation, the women arrived at the final recipes that comprise crème de la crème.

Each year a new supplement was added that included recipes from the lunch and dinner menus.  Not for dieters, and with liberal use of whipping cream and butter, the menus and recipes, like traditional Ballotine au Poulet de Vermouth, Cheese Souffles, English Sherry Trifle and Strawberry Charlotte Rousse, were used by many a Brantford cook for entertaining.