Cookies and Tea

What do Dishpan Cookies, the Coastal Missions, and a local potter have in common? A lot in a serendipitous way. In fact, that trio has given me joy more than once. Take the other day, grey skies, garden calling to be cleaned up, my back telling me to chill, my mood bordering on a major blah when I remembered my list of Dubious Advice (refer to my blog posts on how to navigate aging).

Dishpan cookies and coffee in a Jane Wolters’ mug.

Dubious Advice # 11…Do something productive. Don’t mope around whining and groaning about how tired you are. Do Something!

I made cookies. Dishpan Cookies, big lumpy raisin, nut, oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies and served them with tea.

The first time I sampled Dishpan Cookies was recently at Chemainus potter Jane Wolters’ studio. Years ago, we had visited her studio and Grant spotted a vase on a top shelf that he liked and brought it down.

“Oh” she said, “I had forgotten about that vase.”

We had a feeling she was reluctant to let it go. It’s been his favourite vase and one we use often. So just before this past Christmas, when Grant was getting rid of some of his books, he decided his big hardcover book on the history of ceramics should go to Jane Wolters and we dropped it off at her house. She followed up with an invitation for tea and cookies at her studio a month later.

Oh, her studio. It was a wild and wonderful mish mash of working area with potting wheels plural, kilns and clay, pots in different stages of readiness and shelves of her earthy pottery and more shelves of her newer more metallic finishes. We wandered and touched and stroked. I had done some wheel work years ago and this was one of my dreams. As I was looking at Jane’s work I recognized her style, and realized that some of my pottery that I had bought along the way at art shows or fairs or gift shops was made by her. Jane insisted we both pick a piece of pottery as a gift as a thank you for the ceramic book. Grant chose a mug and I picked a tiny vase for my snowdrops.

Flowers in our vases from Jane Wolters

We sat comfortably in her studio as Jane served tea in her own pottery cups along with a plate of big fat chunky Dishpan Cookies. “These are good,” we raved as we gorged on her cookies and asked about the name.

“The recipe came from the couple who ran Coastal Missions.” she said. “I met them when we used to sell eggs from our hens and we soon became friends. After that every Christmas they would drop by with plates of a variety of home-baked cookies. They said the Dishpan recipe came from someone up the coast who they would visit on their missionary voyages.”

“But the name?” I asked.

“Likely the only bowl big enough to mix a huge batch of cookies in those up-coast logging and fish camps was the tin dishpan. They had to make do.”

I remember the Coastal Mission people who once lived along the water in Saltair and knew about the work they did travelling to the remote coastal villages, bringing more than just religion to the people scattered up and down our waterways. The Columbia Coast Mission boats carried goods, people, medical help and were an essential part of the Vancouver Island coast. (Now

This Coastal Mission connection was another serendipitous moment for me for it was part of different dream. I once planned to travel on those boats as a nurse going to the remote Indian Villages. And as I have a few ministers and missionaries in my background a bit of churching would have been possible too. One of my favourite books is Totem Poles and Tea by Hughina Harold who travelled by Coastal Mission boats to Village Bay and served as a nurse and school teacher in 1935.

And so, we sat In Jane’s studio soaking up her lovely energy and eating her scrumptious cookies as I basked in the revelation of the culmination of my dreams, even by association. (Jane is also an accomplished artist.)

Grant sat across from us and later remarked that we were a lot alike.

My only regret was that we were so busy talking that I forgot to take pictures of Jane’s studio. I did stop though to capture their whimsical array of garden tools along the fence as we were driving off.

Garden tools along the fence at the potter’s studio

When I got home, I checked the bottom of each piece of pottery that I thought was Jane’s and sure enough they had her signature big W. And the other day when my writers group met at my house, I baked a big batch of Dishpan Cookies and served them on a pottery plate made by Jane. And of course, read them this story.

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More dubious advice on how to navigate aging coming next month.

Island Crone by Liz Maxwell Forbes


10 thoughts on “Cookies and Tea

  1. The Mission boats came into Ocean Falls (up Cousins Inlet).
    Our family was two generations born there and three that lived there. I remember my parents talking about the visits.

    • lucky you with family memories of the mission sounds so romantic to me..thank you for Liz

  2. The thing that makes your blog even better than those amazing cookies is that I can re-read the blog!🤗

  3. Just read your last two blogs (somehow I missed reading the one on Valentine’s Day) and was immediately inspired to start down sizing but now I’ve decided I am going to have a cup of tea and a cookie! Maybe I’ll start decluttering tomorrow! Great blogs, Lizzie, and I love your photos. I would also like the recipe for Dishpan Cookies!

  4. Tom and Debbie both live next door to me, great neighbours. Love your blogs, Liz.

    • so they are the people who gave you cookies at Christmas! Did you tell them I served you their Dishpan cookies?

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