Mary Houser Caditz
March 11, 2014
Mary Houser Caditz, a loving and much-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 Feb. 27, 2014, at age 77.
Celebration of Life: 2 p.m., April 5, 2014, Beaver Lake Lodge, 25101 S.E. 24th St., Sammamish.
Her radiant smile brightened everywhere 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.
Mary 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 the Pomeroy schools before enrolling at the University of Washington, where she became a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.
After their graduation from UW in 1958, she married classmate Kirk Adams; they settled in Seattle, where Mary earned teaching credentials at Seattle University and taught in the Highline School District until they became parents and moved to Medina to raise their daughters, Kari and Kris.
Mary 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, 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 postmark deadline, so she mailed her proposal without trying it herself; the judges did test her directions and declared the Brandy Eggnog Pie the winner, reinforcing Mary’s belief that a cook should think about ingredients as well as operate by instinct, although she always triple-checked her recipes herself every afterward. She soon began a cookbook for her daughters that would also introduce them to the rich 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 happily tested all the recipes for it 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 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 fascinating. According to Beth DeWeese of the WSU Press, “Wandering And Feasting” has been a huge success, a perennial best-seller, often the best-seller 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 1990, and became an advocate in various groups formed to protect the lake from anyone or anything that might harm it, ranging from greedy developers to invasive red swamp crayfish. She was a member of P.E.O. and a founding member of the Black Sheep Squadron.
In 2008, Mary fell in love with Robert Thomas, who became her soulmate 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.
Make donations to Overlake Medical Center Foundation, 1035 116th Ave. N.E., Bellevue, WA 98004, in support of the breast health center, or P.E.O. Foundation, in care of T. Anderson, 17001 S.E. 261st St., Covington, WA 98042.