Mary Houser Caditz|
Mary Elizabeth Houser Caditz, a loving, beloved and spirited woman, well known for her best-selling cookbook, Wandering and Feasting, who cared passionately about her family and friends, social justice, and coffee lattes, died on February 27, 2014. She was 77. Her radiant smile brightened every place she went, and she always operated with strength and determination; she fought cancer successfully for 29 years with the help of Dr. J. Walter Smith until his retirement and then with Dr. Kathryn Crossland. She was born in Walla Walla on July 10, 1936, to Alton and Elizabeth Houser and grew up on their wheat farm in Garfield County. Mary attended school in Pomeroy before enrolling at the University of Washington, where she became a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. After their graduation from the University in 1958, she married classmate Kirk Adams; they settled in Seattle, where Mary did graduate work at Seattle University to earn her teaching credentials and taught fourth grade in the Highline School District until they became parents and moved to Medina, where they raised their daughters, Kari and Kris. She worked with the Seattle Junior Programs and served as a volunteer in Medina Elementary School activities. When both her children were in school, she resumed her teaching career, again with fourth graders, who were her favorite age group, this time at the St. Thomas School in Medina, and she developed her keen interest in good food with family and friends. She noticed an announcement of a Mercer Island Reporter's recipe contest and imagined a recipe for a Brandy Eggnog Pie, but there was no time to test her idea for the dessert before the entries needed to be postmarked, so Mary mailed her proposal without testing it herself; the food editor of the paper did follow Mary's directions and declared the Brandy Eggnog Pie the winner, delighting Mary and reinforcing her belief that a cook should think about ingredients as well as operate by instinct, although she always triple-tested her recipes herself ever afterwards. She soon began a cookbook for her daughters that would also introduce them to the bounties of their home state. In 1983 she married Sylvan Caditz, who traveled with her on many of her visits to every county in Washington state as she did research for her book and who was happy to test al the recipes in the book, as well as those that didn't make the cut. The book soon grew from a notebook for her family into Wandering and Feasting for everyone, one of the best selling books that the Washington State University Press ever published. Academic presses seldom publish cookbooks, and the WSU Press had never done one before they gambled on Mary's, but Keith Peterson, a historian who likes to cook, the editor who first read her manuscript, found Mary's recipes excellent and her integration of them with historical sites and vignettes intriguing. According to Beth DeWeese of the WSU Press, Wandering and Feasting has been a huge success, a perennial best-seller in academic press terms ever since it was published in 1996, often the best-selling book of their year. Mary rejoiced later when her daughter Kari and her sister-in-law Chris won national recognition for recipes they made up with her advice, and she continued to work on various cooking ideas but she was so busy with other interests and projects that she never completed another recipe book that she was ready to publish. Mary moved to Pine Lake in Sammamish in 1990, and became a leader of various groups formed to protect the lake from anyone or anything that might harm it, ranging from over-zealous developers to invasive red swamp crayfish. She was also a long-time member of P.E.O. and a founding member of the Eastside Black Sheep Squadron. In 2008 Mary fell in love with Robert Thomas, who became her soul mate and constant companion in their mutual quest for learning, especially about the history of events and sites related to social justice. They travelled extensively throughout Europe and North America to visit places related to their interests that included the underground railway, slavery, and women's suffrage, always remembering to make reservations for culinary explorations wherever they went.
Her immediate survivors are Robert I. Thomas of Sammamish; daughter Kari Engelsvold of Bellevue; daughter Kris Thordarson and her husband Eric of Bellingham; sister Caroline Houser of Seattle; brother Gary Houser and his wife Chris of Pomeroy; grandsons Jordan and Scott Bowers of Bellevue; granddaughters Anna
and Kari Ann Thordarson of Bellingham; and nephews Gregory Houser of Pomeroy and Andrew Houser of New York City.
A Celebration of Mary's Life will be held April 5th in the Beaver Lake Lodge, 25101 S.E. 24th St. in Sammamish, 98075, at 2:00 p.m. A graveside service will take place in Pomeroy on June 15. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorials be sent to the Overlake Medical Center Foundation, 1035 116th Avenue NE, Bellevue, WA 98004, support of the breast health center or to the P.E.O. Foundation for the Mary Houser Caditz Scholarship Fund, care of P. Anderson, 17001
SE 261st St., Covington, WA 98042.
Published in The Seattle Times on Mar. 9, 2014