November 10, 2015

Writing for the small press, it was a nice bonus if I could have a piece published in two magazines. This would mean getting paid twice for the article. This always helped me stretch my budget a bit even if the double payment was still quite small.

I believe the following book review was published in both Prairie Fire Magazine as well Indian Record:

Indian Record


by Tanya Lester

Rubaboo by Dorine Thomas, Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1981, 99 pp., $6.95 paper.

Rubaboo derives its title from the Metis term for pemmican stew. The book is a potpourri of recipes and ‘how tos’ that can be leafed through quickly, but deserves a slower perusal to savour Dorine Thonas’s writing and illustrations.

Thomas has the ability to make a sentence, a phrase, or even a footnote conjure up a vision of past Red River life. In one recipe, Thomas suggests that bannock can be baked “wrapped around a green stick propped in front of the fire until golden brown.” This is the Indian equivalent of the wiener roast.

Linked the past with the present, Thomas offers practical instructions and hints with detailed diagrams and charts. Here are recipes for candle making and herbal tea. Oudoor enthisiasts can benefit from the section on weather forecasting and her catalogue of edible and poisonous plants.

As useful as the book is as an authentic homemaker’s guide, its principle revelation concerns the life and values of the women — white and native — of the Red River community. For instance, in referring to dye plants in the chapter entitled “Homespun and Dried Flowers,” Thomas writes, “Metis women learned from their Indian mothers which plants would produce the best shades and in turn taught the settler women.” And in her discussion of medical remedies, she states, “The medicines used by the Scottish ladies mingled with those of the native people to produce a traditional medicine that was the best of both cultures.”

The contrast between the “bloody battles … over language, trading, religion and land claims” waged between white, Indian and Metis men, and the peaceful sharing of cultural basics between the Red River women, is a striking one.

Then she tempts the reader to join the homage to her ancestors. “Their needles sewed the clothing and stitched together friendships over the quilting frame,” she writes in the chapter called “Thimbles and Friends.”

While the book’s bibliography of written sources is an asset, oral historians will find disappointing Thomas’s failure to elaborate on the “old-timers” referred to in in Rubaboo. To identify specifically these peoples’ contributions and the process she used to elicit information from them would have proved most valuable. This documentation could have displaced, for example, the index. It is not necessary to a book of this length already laid out in concise chapters.

These minor faults, however, do not seriously detract from the book’s essence. Rubaboo is a celebration of Metis and all women’s heritage of housewifely duties. It has been and will continue to be read over “innumerable cups of tea.”


Tanya Lester is a writer, psychic reader, reiki master and housesitter. For more information on what she does go to , Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. Email:

Tanya’s books include Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader (can be purchased from the author or from, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams & Tricksters and Women Rights/Writes. Her books are several libraries and the last three are also in the Legislative Library of Manitoba.

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