How 20th c. Canadian Cookbooks Both Wrote & Erased History

Selected Recipes:
Tomato Soup Cake w Cream Cheese Frosting
Cheddar Shorties
Manoomin

The 20th century saw many periods of change (flavoured with surprisingly persistent continuity). One of the biggest catalysts for change was of course, the wartime period. Looking at repositories of wartime recipes is a fascinating glimpse of how Canadian Cookery and home life changed. However, I also learned that while cookbooks are a unique method to illuminate history, they can also actively erase important histories as well. Read More »

When Your Biscuits Are Like Rocks: Including Imperfection in Historical Interpretation

Canada Part 2: 19th c. Ontario Cooking featuring Immigrants from the Isles

Selected Recipes
New Cock-a-Leekie Soup
“Excellent Hot Tea Cakes”
“Cranberry Pie”

If you’ve ever watched “Chopped: Canada”, you can sympathize with me when I say that I would be first on the chopping block. Do I cook with enthusiasm? Heck yes! Bravery? You betcha! Skill? Eh….in time, I tell myself, in time.Many times over this Historic Kitchen project I have looked askance at my final product….doubting that I have made it correctly. I would bet good money that my attempt at Patina of Pears would make even the dour Cato the Elder roll over laughing. The difficulty with creating recipes of unfamiliar dishes is that you have no ideaif you are wrong, or how you are wrong. Just that unpleasant niggling sensation that something must be different….since “there is no way this thing should be so jiggly/…neon…/crunchy/[insert questionable adjective here]!”Read More »

Baking with the Bard: Where’s My Sparknotes?

Selected Shakespearean Recipes:
Mynst Pies
A Fine Paste
A Compound Sallat

You  know when you read Shakespeare, and there are those convenient footnotes explaining all the contextual references to contemporary Elizabethan popculture? If you’ve ever tried reading Shakespeare without looking at these handy explanations, you sort of feel like you are only getting half the picture. Lines have very shallow meaning, but you don’t know what it is you don’t know. Shakespearean works, like historical recipes, are best understood when read with a full grasp of the common knowledge of their time, these things that are so common sense, that contemporary writers don’t bother explaining them. They assume their audience knows all about it. Well. Maybe back then they did! Now, much of that ‘common knowledge’ is lost. And unfortunately, there is no handy sparknotes for historical cookbooks!Read More »

But What If We Don’t Like It? Cooking Roman Staples and the Dilemma of Authenticity

Selected Classical Recipes
Layered Cheesecake – The Classical Cookbook
Fish in Coriander Crust – The Classical Cookbook
Nut Cake – Roman Cookery

GrecoRoman Pt 5.

When making the array of ‘Roman staples’ (of which many didn’t make it into the post), I encountered a problem. I frequently didn’t like them. However, I’d bought the ingredients, I was hungry, I was darn well going to eat them.

I have been lucky to have so much choice in selecting recipes. I could have easily chosen only items I know I would like. But I forced myself to step outside my boundaries -and heavily resisted the inclination to adjust the recipes to my taste. Making food I like wasn’t the point (but was usually an added benefit). The point was seeing if I could learn something new about the Greeks and Romans through their food. But how much can you learn if it isn’t authentic?Read More »