Sweet Patti’s Favourites: Patti Bird’s gift to family, community

ELORA – Jayne Cremasco’s sister Patti Bird was born on Cremasco’s 10th birthday.

“We have shared that special day and a special bond for the past 58 years,” Cremasco said. 

“I don’t know how to celebrate April 13th without her.”

Patti Bird (Armstrong) passed away in December after a brave fight with ovarian cancer. 

“Patti had a huge heart, full of love for her family, friends and life. She was always there in a heartbeat if you needed her,” Cremasco said.

“She loved to entertain and have people fuss over the huge spread she would put on. She hosted a Christmas open house for years which we called “Patti’s Eat Fest.” 

Patti’s daughters, Stacey and Jodi, and her husband Russ Bird all agreed.

“She was a host for sure,” Jodi said. “She had a beach party one February. She moved the kitchen table and created a patio. There were themed appetizers, sangria, and a big palm tree. It was crazy.”

Stacey said Patti, who had a passion for music, once had an “old-fashioned kitchen party, with local musicians. She also loved to host at the family cottage in Belwood.”

Cremasco said Patti loved to carry on family traditions and favourite recipes “like grandma’s butter tarts.”

You can find that recipe in Sweet Patti’s Favourites, a cookbook created by Patti, her family and her friends. 

Patti’s family said when she was given her final diagnosis, it was her wish that all proceeds from the sale of her cookbook be donated to the oncology department at Groves Memorial Community Hospital.

“She was so appreciative of the care that she received there. And she was so grateful that she was able to do her treatments at Groves,” Stacey said. “She was made so comfortable, and everyone knew her.”

Sweet Patti’s gift – Patti Bird’s family, from left: Bowen Kunderman-Bird and Stacey Bird, Jodi Bird and Russ Bird. Photo by Lorie Black


Patti was chef and owner of Sweet Patti’s Catering in Elora. Previously, she had worked at the Elora General Store and Dragonfly Café, at Resa Lent’s The Desert Rose Café and at Grand River Catering. 

“She just fell into it. She never went to school,” Stacey said. “I’d call her from university and ask her how to make something and she just knew.”

Patti asked Cremasco for help in documenting her favourite recipes so her family would have them after she passed.

“Originally, she hoped to have it in her hands for Christmas giving,” Cremasco said.

“But I don’t think she realized the scope of work that was needed. We sat for hours going through her piles of cookbooks and hand-written recipes looking for special ones.”

Many of the favourite dishes Patti created had never been written down – “they were only in her head,” said Cremasco. 

Bird noted, “Patti was a shoot-from-the-hip kind of cook. That’s why she had to get this documented. She never made anything exactly the same way twice. But it always tasted good because she knew what went together.”

Patti wanted to include those undocumented recipes and to test every recipe. So, with help of family and friends, she recreated them to ensure the measurements and directions were accurate. 

The cookbook became the focus of Cremasco’s visits with Patti during Patti’s illness. 

One of Cremasco’s fondest memories during that time was trying to locate photos that eventually went into Patti’s cookbook. 

They were older pictures that “were in photo albums on the highest shelf of her bedroom closet,” said Cremasco who was awaiting hip surgery and Patti was very ill. 

“We were trying to decide who would climb the ladder and who would catch the other if the climber fell off. We laughed until we cried.”

Resa Lent, whose Desert Rose Café Cookbook had been an inspiration to Patti, “actually came here a few times and helped mom test recipes and get things written down,” Stacey added.

Other friends and family members helped too. 

Jodi, who lives in the family home, noted that one day when she came home, Patti “was just chillin’ on the lazy boy.” Patti’s dear friend Cheryl, who had come to visit “was sitting on cushions on the floor just typing away.”

“She would ask everybody who would come to visit her what recipes they thought should be in the book,” Stacey added.

Jodi especially loved Patti’s Caesar salad, Stacey her scalloped potatoes, and Bird her lasagna. 

“Her cherry cheesecake was very popular. And her butter chicken. And she was known for her butter tarts,” Stacey said.

Jodi said she loves to cook, and worked in her mom’s kitchen often. She and Stacey have both inherited their mother’s love for cooking. Jodi is considering re-opening Sweet Patti’s Catering.

Cremasco said she is grateful for the quality time she had with her sister creating the cookbook. 

“Every time a book sells, I smile knowing inside how pleased Patti would be. The project meant so much to her,” she said.

Copies of Sweet Patti’s Favourites are available at the Groves Gift Shop or by emailing missjodibird@hotmail.com.