Mrs. Chard’s Produce Stand

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Have you ever wanted to travel to a place where life is simple, quiet, and steeped in early American history with little sense of time’s intervention?  A place where modern demands and pressures suddenly don’t seem so important?  There is such a place, and one that many Americans have never traveled to, nor even know much about – the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,  known as the U.P.  The small towns tucked away among the birch trees feel like you have stepped into a time warp.  Many areas have no cell service (gasp!) or paved roads, but do have bald eagles screaming across a lake or wild blueberries waiting to be picked, that is, unless a bear gets there first.  This book was written about such a place.  It’s the area along the northern reaches of Lake Huron at the southeastern tip of the U.P. known as Les Cheneaux Islands.  Many believe this was the land of Hiawatha.  One can paddle the very channels that were crossed by LaSalle and Father Marquette.
It is in this American paradise that the idea for the cookbook was born.  Author Bonnie Stewart Mickelson spend the summers of her youth in Les Cheneaux Islands, where her grandparents had first vacationed many decades before.  The beloved family camp is known as “Windswept,”  a beautiful word  that you can almost breathe in and feel.  It was here in the islands that Bonnie and her family met Mrs. Chard and her produce stand.  Mrs. Chard and her husband operated their little produce stand for the summer visitors to the islands.  The stand was nestled in the shade of the maple and tamarack trees, along with sunflowers and hollyhocks, interspersed around an  array of colorful vegetables and fruits.  Mrs. Chard sold miniature vegetables long before they came into vogue.  She would also share her recipes with her customers, and they would in turn share some of their own.  Many of the recipes in the book are from these sources.  In addition to the recipes and stories, some of Mrs. Chard’s letters to the author are there for the reading, where she will talk about everything from the weather to creatures of the forest.
I wish everyone who loves to cook had a copy of this book.  It is hard not to want to make everything inside.  The recipes run the gamut from Wilderness Bay Whitefish Salad to Wild Duck Roasted with Pineapple.  The old-fashioned desserts are to die for – spice cake with maple frosting, toffee-nutmeg cake, peach pie, concord grape pie (my favorite), a pumpkin pie with a penuche topping, black cherry cobbler, and a buttery creamy caramel recipe from an old, old cookbook from a candy factory, that the author says is so good, it should be a guarded secret.   Thank goodness there are no secrets; everything is in the book.  You may not be able to feel the light spray of the waterfall on your face, or smell the sap coming from the trees, but you can make Mrs. Chard’s recipes.

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20 Responses to Mrs. Chard’s Produce Stand

  1. lisa keys February 16, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    Note to self: visit this area of the country before the bucket kicks in!

  2. MsZin February 16, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Your blog poses a threat to my book budget! I think this book is one I won’t be able to resist. My husband and several of his friends took a motorcycle trip to this area a few years ago. He said it was beautiful, just as you described.

  3. Debbie Vanni February 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    I think everyone needs to go visit the UP!

  4. MsZin February 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    I agree.

    My husbands been there, and all I got was a Yooperland t-shirt.

  5. Debbie Vanni February 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Yes, you need more than a Yooper t-shirt!

  6. Linda Freemott September 17, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    Just read your review of Bonnie’s book HollyHock & Radishes…it is one of my favorites and you must get copies of Private Collection & Private Collection II that Bonnie did for the Junior League of Palo Alto, Ca. She has been a friend of our family for more than 30 years. She is a treasure just like her books….

    • Debbie September 17, 2013 at 6:29 am #

      Hi Linda- I have both Private Collections and have made almost every recipe in both books. They are staples in my kitchen. Don’t know what I would do without them! My copies are earmarked, written in, and splattered, with tape holding the covers together. Love the Hollyhock & Radishes, too, along with one Bonnie wrote for a school. Wish she would do more!

      • Linda Freemott September 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

        I too have the Overlake Cookbook.
        Have you ever gone up to the UP of Michigan and visited her little
        town. Oh so special. There are pages in all my “Bonnie” cookbooks
        that sometimes the pages are so stuck together that I have to dampen
        and separate. I’m very luck that I have 2-3 sets of her books but will
        never get rid of any of them…all signed by my dear friend.

        I would love any other special recommendations that you might have
        for cookbooks….both of my sons are excellent cooks because of Bonnie!

  7. Tara January 26, 2019 at 12:21 pm #

    Julia Chard is my great-great aunt. I am so fortunate to be able to read the letters and hear Aunt Jude’s voice in my head. We would visit once a year while vacationing in Cedarville. Uncle Marv would tell us stories, none of which I can remember, but I do remember how captivating he was in telling them. Oh how I wish I could go back, but I know it wouldn’t be the same. This cookbook is truly a treasure and brings nostalgia even to those who were never there.

    • Debbie January 29, 2019 at 11:33 pm #

      I’m thrilled that you wrote, Tara! It’s one of my favorite cookbooks. You’re right; it’s such a treasure. What heartfelt memories you must have. Thank you for sharing your story.

  8. Linda Freemott January 30, 2019 at 7:47 am #

    Note to Tara and Debbie, I have tried to find Bonnie for the last couple of years.
    Is she still with us? I have so many memories of dinners at her home in Atherton, a 4 day
    weekend with our young sons at Windswept!.

    If you have any news of Bonnie please share.

  9. Linda Freemott January 30, 2019 at 8:05 am #

    Tara & Debbie, I have tried through a couple of avenues to reach Bonnie in the last couple of years. I would appreciate it Tara if you could let me know if Bonnie is still with us.

    I cook out of one of cookbooks at least once a week even at an old age of 71. So many great memories with Bonnie, Lars, Jr. League members in her kitchen cooking!

    • Debbie January 30, 2019 at 5:28 pm #

      Hi Linda! I know where Bonnie is! She owns and operates a culinary school in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. https://www.lcculinary.org Bonnie is my hero! Two of my all-time favorite cookbooks began with the Private Collection 1 & 2. I have made just about every recipe in both of them. Then I found the Mrs. Chard’s and the school cookbook. Bonnie is a genius. I hope you will be able to reach her!

  10. Linda Freemott January 30, 2019 at 5:57 pm #

    Debbie you have made my day. I will reach out and see if I can get in touch with her.
    You are the BEST….

    • Debbie January 31, 2019 at 12:03 am #

      You’re welcome, Linda! Glad I could help.

    • Debbie February 2, 2019 at 1:55 pm #

      Let me know, Linda! I’m excited for you.

  11. L February 2, 2019 at 2:07 pm #

    We connected….thank you! thank you! thank you!….amazing what social media etc can do
    when it comes to connecting…

    Can’t thank you enough!

    Best Regards, Linda

    • Debbie February 2, 2019 at 2:29 pm #

      Linda, I’m so happy for you – and Bonnie!! Thanks for letting me know.

  12. Bridget February 6, 2020 at 8:08 am #

    I grew up under the tutelage of Grandma Judy (Chard), as she was called by all of us children in the area. She was a wonderful person and a great cook. I keep her cookbook handy in my kitchen and know many of the recipe contributors.

    I am happy to count Bonnie M. among my friends. She is awe-inspiring. She has been instrumental in the establishment of both the boat building school and the culinary school, and worked for the historic preservation of the old Hessel Schoolhouse.

    A bit of editing information concerning your write-up. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the U.P. not the UP. And it’s Les Cheneaux Islands not “the” Les Cheneaux Islands, as the word “the” preceding the name is redundant. Both common mistakes. Someone has even marketed bumper stickers with UP printed on them.

    Thanks for promoting Grandma Judy’s legacy and Bonnie’s labor of love.

    • Debbie February 8, 2020 at 12:33 am #

      Hi Bridget – I love your wonderful stories of Grandma Judy and Bonnie. This cookbook is one of my favorites as are Bonnie’s. I use both of the Private Collections just about every week. I wrote this blog a long time ago, and do know that it’s the U.P. not UP. Just typos on my part, which I fixed. My husband’s Finnish family settled in the U.P. coming via Ellis Island. He still has many cousins around Marquette, and we also own property on Lake Superior in Big Bay. The U.P. is such a beautiful part of the world. Thank you so much for writing. I would love to visit your area someday.

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