Digestible Bits and Bites
In March, we challenged our members and friends to show us what they like to cook on a griddle. Jayashree Sarkar obliged with her pa-jeon, or Korean griddle cakes, a.k.a. green onion pancakes, made with a blend of semolina, rice flour and corn starch. She says they were "good, crunchy on the edges, perfectly soft and moist in the centre, delicate, flavourful and paired so well with the tomato shallot chutney." She gives the full recipes on our Facebook page.
CHC News & Upcoming Events
News & Opportunities
Food for Thought (book reviews)
Events of Interest
1. CHC News and Upcoming Events
Our next event is Ceramics and the 19th-century Canadian Table, which will look at a collection of ceramic tableware on view in Toronto’s Gardiner Museum that depicts idealized scenes of 19th-century Canadian life. Manufactured in England, these objects and others like them participated in the colonial project by imagining and asserting both national and colonial identities.
19th-century Ceramics Event
In this lecture and gallery tour, Sequoia Miller, chief curator at the Gardiner, will discuss how seemingly decorative objects engage complex questions around colonialism, political economy and cultural authority. Dr. Miller will also consider the role of museums in offering new and critical interpretive strategies for thinking through problematic historical objects. This will be our first in-person event—masked, of course!—and is being scheduled for the end of June. Stay tuned!
Salt Beef Buckets Event Report
By Sylvia Lovegren
On Thursday, February 17, CHC welcomed writer, comedian and television producer Amanda “Andie” Bulman to talk about her new book Salt Beef Buckets: A Love Story, published just last year by Breakwater Press. Quite a good-sized crowd joined us on Zoom and were not disappointed. Andie’s passion for her adopted Newfoundland—The Rock—came through loud and clear as she shared with us not only some of the local traditions, but her experiences in learning about them.
From discussing how to forage for wild mushrooms (carefully and with an experienced teacher!) to finding out who has the skill to hunt the seabirds known as murres, a delicacy on The Rock, to knowing the best place for a molasses, salt pork and bread picnic, Andie brought these unique foodways and traditions to life in a most entertaining way. She also talked about how the pressures of climate change are affecting the daily life and diet of Newfoundlanders and ways people are trying to cope. A lively question-and-answer session followed the well-illustrated presentation.
If you missed the event, see below for a review of Andie's book.
Illustration showing various egg styles from The Fireside Cookbook by James Beard. Illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen. Simon and Schuster, 1949.
April Cooking Challenge: Eggs
Spring is the season of new life, and also the time when the hens start laying again, so eggs are a perfect springtime food ... not to mention their association with Easter, of course. So for April, we challenge you to show us something with eggs: baked, boiled, coddled, devilled, fried—or used as an essential part of a dish like egg noodles, pasta, angel food cake, meringues, custard or ... well, you get the idea!
As always, you might enjoy having a look at Canadian Cookbooks Online on our website for inspiration. There you'll find links to scores of Canadian cookbooks of the past. If you post pictures and comments with the hashtag #eggs to our Facebook page before midnight on Friday, March 25, we’ll feature at least one of your entries in our April newsletter.
Photo hints: To get the best results with your photos on Facebook and in this newsletter, follow these tips:
- Make sure your image is big (at least 1MG in file size, or at least 1,000 pixels wide).
- Make your image wide rather than tall. If you're taking a picture of something round, like a cake, include lots of blank space on either side of it.
- Keep the camera still; balance it on a chair back or a stack of books if necessary.
- Use as much light as possible. Outdoor light is great, especially on a cloudy day when there are no sharp shadows. Unless your room is very well lit, place the food near a window, turn on all your lights, and even point extra light sources (ring lights, flashlights) at it from a few different angles.
- Put your food on a tea towel, a wooden counter or a similar neutral background rather than the stovetop.
- Decorations are nice, like a flower in a vase, a charming salt and pepper set, an antique spoon or a decorative plate. But don't go overboard: remember, it's the food we want to see!
Griddle-cooking Challenge Report
From waffles and English muffins to latkes, scones, crumpets and Candlemas crêpes, this month's challenge showed not only the incredible diversity of food that comes hot off the griddle, but also the strong affections that people have for their own preferred variety. There were griddle-fried cakes for Candlemas (a.k.a. Jour de la Chandeleur), Valentine's Day, Accession Day (a very special one this year) and Black History Month, along with a host of personal memories.
Lorraine Fuller asked "So ... here is the question. Are you a maple syrup or corn syrup kind of person?" Her question certainly got the sap flowing! About 45 people were firmly in the maple camp, but about half a dozen said they preferred corn syrup, at least on some dishes, or that they had grown up with it.
Meanwhile, several people spoke with fondness of Golden syrup, and there were a few supporters for birch syrup, apple syrup, date syrup, cane syrup, molasses, agave and sorghum. Some also mentioned their childhood recollections of faux syrup made with watered-down brown sugar.
On February 2, Chantal Véchambre (topmost photo) wrote that "In the Francophone world, today is the "Jour de la Chandeleur" and we eat "crêpes." As you can imagine, you will find different names (more or less funny) in each region of France: tantimolles, roussettes, crupets, chialades, crespets, tourtou, bourriole, chache-creupé, etc.
"The tradition dates back to very ancient times, passing as usual from secular to religious traditions, the main one remaining that February 2nd falls 40 days after Christmas. But the word crêpes comes first from the Latin word "crispus," meaning "wavy," as a crêpe looks. Well, we're just happy today to eat crêpes and enjoy all the other pancakes discovered from all around the world: chapatis, naan, tamales and many more.
"The cradle of French pancakes is in Brittany, where buckwheat took up residence after being brought back by the Crusades. From then, we eat crêpes (wheat-based) for sweet dishes and "galettes" (buckwheat-based, which is not a cereal, but a plant) for savoury dishes. (Never mix up; Breton people are very serious on the point. 😂)
"If you go to Paris, you will find a whole neighbourhood near Montparnasse Rail Station (which leads to Brittany) full of crêperies (restaurants serving only crêpes and galettes). Many rural people came to Paris from Brittany in the 1960s to find a better life and jobs, and many settled right away near the station. From then, folklore and gourmet food under the same roof …
"Long before that, the tradition came to Canada with French immigrants. In Quebec and Acadia of course, where traditions stayed strong until the mid-20th century only, but seem to be reviving now, especially the one where people organized potlucks and performed the "escaouette dance" to thank everyone who participated. They called that "Courir la Chandeleur" (to run the Chandeleur); a good time to mention the amazing book of Georges Arsenault, Acadian Traditions on Candlemas Day.
"Then one day, a groundhog ate a crêpe ... but that is another story."
Stacey Clark-Sproule: "Happy Candlemas Day! I made buckwheat crêpes in this skillet, then topped them with cheese, spinach and egg, and baked until set."
Micheline Mongrain Dontigny: "For the Chandeleur, here is my recipe for Quebec buckwheat galettes. We had some for lunch today."
Ellen Pekilis: "Does this count for the February challenge? It’s a tortilla, but not what we normally think of as a tortilla: the flat bread that you use to wrap fillings. It’s basically a large potato egg patty.
I first had this at the home of a friend who had done relief work for the UN in Guatemala, documenting human rights abuses during the conflict there. When he came home he made friends with people in the local Guatemalan community. One night he had a party to introduce everybody. His Guatemalan friends brought this, cut into smallish cubes that you picked up and ate cold out of hand.
I asked what it was, and it kicked off this whole animated discussion. First, I’d never heard of this type of tortilla before, and they had to educate me about the multiple meanings of the word. Apparently this is the standard lunchbox fare for Guatemalan school children. Although you can eat it hot (as we did last night), they typically take it cold cut into squares for school lunch.
Then came the debate about the ingredients, and things got good-naturedly heated. The one camp said that a proper Guatemalan tortilla can only be made of cubed, pre-cooked potato tossed in eggs with diced onion, grated cheese, salt and herbs. (Then you put it on the griddle, fry for 5 minutes and flip). The other camp said that a proper Guatemalan tortilla requires little bits of cut-up hard sausage.
Well, the sausage versus no-sausage camps had it out that evening, I will tell you. Then the “no cheese” people chimed in to much chirping and derision from all sides.
Ever since then, I’ve just made it the way they described it. I don’t really have a recipe, although I’m sure there are a million out there. For family dinner for three people, I boil up about a pound of potatoes, cube them when cool. Then toss them in 4 or 6 beaten eggs, depending on how extravagant I feel, with as much or as little diced onion as I want.
Last night I finely sliced 4 green onions because I had a whole bunch in the fridge. Fried up about 4 ounces of diced pancetta, because that’s what I had in the fridge as my proxy for the dry sausage (sometimes I use crumbled bacon, sometimes no meat, but I don’t typically have a dry sausage of the type they described around), drained all the oil off and patted them down with paper towel before chucking in the bowl once cooled. I tossed in about a cup of grated cheese, mixed cheddar and mozzarella, because that’s what I had, although I’m sure neither is culturally appropriate.
Added salt, pepper, and fines herbes, because I like fines herbes on eggs. Serve with a light green salad. If I had hot sauce of some type in the fridge or perhaps salsa, I would have put that out too."
Beverly Kouhi Soloway: "Well, there goes the last of my Northwestern Ontario blueberries—but what a way to go! Blueberry pancakes made on the griddle, great for a late Sunday supper as we watch our Northwestern Ontario team play in the finals of the Scotties (the Canadian women's curling championships)."
Lyle Beaugard: "Staffordshire Oatcakes with Mutsu apple filling." (Lyle was among several people who posted more than one dish, but February's short tenure offered less editing time than usual, so only one photo per person appears in this issue.)
Sarah Galvin: "I have wanted to make English muffins for some time. This month's challenge motivated me. Taste good, but next time I would add a couple of tablespoons of sourdough starter and maybe do an overnight rise."
Cathi Riehle: "Apparently it was English muffin morning, I made them also! I did much better this time, thanks to the advice of other members."
Sarah Elvins: "Tried my hand at making crumpets on the old cast iron pan. Took a bit of fiddling to figure out exactly how much batter to put in. Delicious!"
Mya Sangster: "Black History Month—There are eight recipes for Chicken Croquettes in What Mrs. Fisher knows about Old Southern Cookery, 1881. Abby Fisher was born in 1832 in South Carolina."
Sherry Murphy: "Here are Mrs. Malinda Russell's "Flannel Cakes," some on griddle, some baked in oven, from her Domestic Cookbook (1866), the first-known cookbook by an African American! (I used butter in place of lard)."
Stephanie Thomas: "Tomorrow is Accession Day, marking Queen Elizabeth's 70th anniversary on the throne. To mark the occasion, my griddle recipe is drop scones (also called Scottish pancakes and pikelets). Queen Elizabeth made drop scones for President Eisenhower and sent a copy of the recipe to Eisenhower after he returned to the US. The President sent a letter thanking the Queen for the recipe and asked what caster sugar was. A copy of the Queen's recipe is in the National Archives. I have self-rising flour, so I used the recipe in the booklet Favourite Yorkshire Recipes instead of using the Queen's recipe that uses baking soda and cream of tartar as the rising agents. I served the drop scones with homemade (thanks, Mom!) blackcurrant jam."
Meaghan Froh Metcalf: "On weekends, growing up, my Mom would occasionally come home with a package of potato scones that we would warm and eat for breakfast. She'd tell me that her Scottish grandmother used to make them for her when she was a girl. Over time, the shop where my Mom would buy the scones stopped making them, and we didn't eat them anymore.
"A few years ago I was craving tattie scones and found a recipe online. I brought them to my Mom, and could tell how happy it made her to see them again. With this new recipe in hand, they came back into regular circulation on long weekends at the cottage.
"I was prepping for this griddle challenge and considering what to make when I received a text on my phone. My Mom had been going through some old family files and found recipe cards, including her grandmother's tattie scones. She send me a photo of the recipe, and the rest of the story is clearly visible in these photos!"
Catriona Davidson: Scones (BraveTart’s cheese, spring onion and ham recipe) cooked on a griddle in a wood-fired ESSE Stoves and Range Cookers Ironheart oven."
Mars Burfo: "Hope it counts, as not able to use a griddle (induction hob). This is my gluten- and dairy-free hot pan bread. I don't usually measure, as make it quite frequently. GF flour, pinch of salt, oat/soya cream, mix it all to a thick pancake batter. Spoon on a hot griddle/dry heavy frying pan. Keep turning/flipping, until cooked all over. Here served with some maple butter and a dash of maple syrup. 😊"
Sandy Irvin: "Happy Valentine’s Day! Is a stovetop waffle iron a griddle?"
Matthew Hayes: "I also made waffles, but on the cookstove, using my James Smart Mfg waffle iron. I'm not a gadget person, but this one is great!"
And last but not least, an interesting experiment from Jeanine O'Carroll: "Naan bread cooked in a cast-iron frying pan. Gluten-free on the left and regular on the right. My first attempt at making these gluten-free. Will have to see how they taste."
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2. News and Opportunities
CHNY Spring Programs
The Culinary Historians of New York have announced their upcoming roster of Zoom events on the theme of beverages. Click the presenters' names for more information on each session.
- Wednesday, March 16: James McHugh, professor of Asian Religions at UCLA and author of An Unholy Brew: Alcohol in Indian History and Religions, presenting An Ocean of Sura: Drink and Drinking in Ancient and Medieval India
- Monday, April 25: Hyunhee Park, professor of history at CUNY and author of Soju: A Global History, discussing her book about soju, a Korean distilled drink
- Monday, May 9: Robert Hellyer, professor of history at Wake Forest University and author of Green Tea with Milk and Sugar: When Japan Filled America’s Teacups, on the dominance of Japanese green tea over Chinese black tea in 19th-century America
Are You a Great Canadian Baker?
The CBC has put out its call for a new crop of would-be Star Bakers for Season 6 of the now-iconic Great Canadian Baking Show. If you have a way with puff pastry and don't turn pale when someone tells you to whip up a batch of kouign-amann or a picture-perfect Battenberg, maybe you should give it a try. Filming is set to take place this summer. The application deadline is March 13, 2022, and the application form is online.
Join the Preservation Society!
Camilla Wynne of the Preservation Society, known to some CHC members and friends for her presentation at our formerly annual Mad for Marmalade event, offers online workshops in food preserving. Participants can cook along and ask questions during the workshop or save the sessions to watch at their leisure. The upcoming roster is as follows:
- Cans, Jams and Pickles: Preserving Your Pantry: A four-part seminar starting Saturday, March 19, at 1 p.m. EST, in partnership with Atlas Obscura. It covers jams, pickles, chutneys, compotes, tomatoes, and beyond. Admission is $US 215 per person for the complete set of four sessions, with some no-pay spots reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to attend. Get tickets here
- The Preservation Society Guide to Canned Fruits & Compotes: Thursday, April 22, at 7 p.m. EST. Admission: $36.13. Get tickets here
- The Preservation Society Guide to Jam-Making: Sunday, May 8, at 1 p.m. EST. Admission: $36.13. Get tickets here!
- The Preservation Society Guide to Pickling: Sunday, May 22, at 1 p.m. EST. Admission: $36.13. Get tickets here
Empty Bowls to Help the Homeless
On Thursday, March 3, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. the Gardiner Museum invites you to cook along with Empty Bowls: The Online Edition. For over 25 years, the Gardiner Museum, and Anishnawbe Health Toronto have partnered to host this North America-wide project to aid people experiencing homelessness. All of the proceeds go to Anishnawbe Health Toronto, a culture-based Indigenous Health Centre committed to changing lives through traditional healing practices. To date, the Gardiner Museum has raised over $200,000 in support of Anishnawbe Health Toronto.
This year, Empty Bowls is going virtual with the help of Chef Joseph Shawana, and The Food Dudes. Chef Shawana, who is Odawa, part of the Three Fires Confederacy, combines his classical French training and Indigenous background to create innovative Native American cuisine.
Chef Shawana will be streaming live from the Gardiner Museum kitchen as he makes Smoked Trout and Sweet Potato Chowder with Sea Truffle. Participants will receive the recipe and a list of ingredients in advance so they can follow along and recreate the soup at home. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, starting at $10.
2022 Sophie Coe Prize in Food History
The Sophie Coe is a distinguished annual prize intended to encourage, support and recognize good work in the field. It is awarded each year to an engaging, original piece of writing that delivers new research and/or new insights into any aspect of food history relating to any period, place, people or culture. Innovative, well written entries of up to 10,000 words in length in English are welcomed.
The Prize is £1,500 for the winning essay, article or book chapter. Authors may submit one entry only each, and they must be delivered by this year’s deadline of April 22, 2022. Details are available online or through Dr. Jane Levi (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What’s Cooking? (Member News)
CHC MEMBERS: Please let us know what you're up to! We'll publish all suitable news items received at email@example.com by the 25th of each month. (Please write your announcement directly into your email window, with no attachments except a photo. Be sure to include a web link for further information!)
Toronto Star food reporter Karon Liu contacted CHC members and friends when he was researching an article about the joy of cooking from tattered, stained and annotated family cookbooks. Among the people he interviewed was our former board member Ryan Whibbs, who discussed his great-great grandmother Honora Kavanaugh’s 1876 copy of The Home Cook Book. The piece, titled "How old, worn-out cookbooks connect us to a family history that’s about more than just food," was published on February 10.
On March 10, at 7 p.m. EST, CHC board member Sarah Hood will present an illustrated lecture titled History in a Jar: Jam, Jelly, Marmalade & the people who made it as part of a series about food writing programmed at the library at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. Like her talk for CHC in March 2021 on The Marmalade Mavens, it is partly based on her latest book, Jam, Jelly and Marmalade, A Global History. Those who sign up for the free presentation will receive a 20% discount code to purchase the book.
She was also interviewed by Margaret Gallagher about the pleasures of making marmalade for a segment on CBC Radio's "On the Coast" that was broadcast on February 27.
Jane Black's Destinations feature will return.
4. Food for Thought
Have you missed a book review? You can read reviews from all our past issues online. If you are a CHC member who would like to contribute, please contact newsletter editor Sarah Hood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have You Eaten Yet? Stories from Chinese Restaurants Around the World by Cheuk Kwan (Douglas & McIntyre, 2022). Reviewed by Ivy Lerner-Frank (pictured above).
Toronto-based writer, filmmaker, and activist Cheuk Kwan explores questions of national and ethnic identity, immigration, resilience, and adaptability of the Chinese diaspora in this accessible and informative book.
Kwan provides us with compelling portraits of Chinese restaurateurs and their families from Argentina to South Africa, Darjeeling to Istanbul and Israel and 13 other points around the globe—including Outlook, Saskatchewan. He compellingly describes how communities grow, always asking the question “Are we defined by our nationality or by our ethnicity?”
A self-described “card carrying member of the Chinese diaspora,” Kwan was born in Hong Kong and lived in Singapore, Japan, and the United States before immigrating to Canada over four decades ago. Trained as an engineer, Kwan travelled the world, his pride in Chinese culture and fascination with the Chinese diaspora informing a desire to delve into the heart of these communities across five continents. Kwan has an extensive and impressive network of access: here is a man who always knows someone (who knows someone) to make an introduction to just the right person. (Speaking five languages—English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and French—helps, too.)
Each chapter provides the context and rationale for the choice of destination, usually describing the connections that land Kwan in the country at hand. He’s an affable and empathetic host, always ready to get to the heart of his discussions with restaurant owners and their families. The recurring questions invariably revolve around migration stories and what the future holds. In many cases, Kwan’s interlocutors are the older generations whose hard work and determination have created a different kind of life for their offspring, few of whom are continuing in the restaurant business although they remain committed to both their Chinese heritage and their adopted countries.
And then there is the food: the "best dim sum he’s ever had" in Trinidad, chili chicken in Kolkata, an Indo-Chinese specialty, créole cooking in Mauritius (which reminds him of Singapore) and everywhere, nostalgia-inducing Hakka dishes which Kwan ate as a child in Hong Kong.
Have You Eaten Yet? is a complementary volume to Kwan’s documentaries of Chinese restaurants around the world: a life’s work and an impressive legacy of diaspora history and culture. Fans of Ann Hui’s Chop Suey Nation, which focuses on Canadian Chinese restaurants and Hui’s own family history, will find this equally compelling and enjoyable.
Salt Beef Buckets: A Love Story by Amanda Dorothy Jean Bulman (Breakwater Books, 2022). Reviewed by Ania Young (pictured above).
I want "Andie" Bulman to be my friend. After reading Salt Beef Buckets: A Love Story, that was my conclusion. With every page, I felt I was personally invited into Andie’s kitchen, regaled with stories about Newfoundland, its food, culture and history, and future sustainability. After attending Andie’s recent online CHC event, I was even more entranced by her energy, passion, and love of Newfoundland.
Andie’s book is broken into four sections: late winter to early spring, mid-spring to summer, autumn, and Christmas. Section one teaches us how to start a campfire for beach boil-ups and how to harvest chaga fungus sustainably. Section two covers growing food (including seed starting and soil tips), while sections three and four advise how to forage berries and mushrooms while respecting the environment (and other foragers).
Within each section, Andie includes the “old school” recipe of a meal along with her unique elevated take on each traditional dish: “Version 2.0” or “Andie’s Version.” Although there are recipes that the reader may never get the opportunity to cook (such as baked turr), this does not take away from the overall experience of the cookbook. The photography is stunning, and Andie provides so much detail with each recipe that it makes the reader feel honoured to simply learn about the dish.
Salt Beef Buckets: A Love Story is written with wit, humour, and honesty. Andie conveys important messages about sustainability and history, yet never makes the reader feel they are being preached at. Recipe instructions vary from precise steps to “I boiled everything together, and it worked out great.” She writes of failed recipes, foods she should love but doesn’t, and how she was intimidated to start a garden despite a long family history of doing so. This vulnerability within a professional chef’s cookbook is refreshing and provides the reader with a sense of accessibility to every recipe.
Even when a recipe looks intimidating, it never feels like Andie wants it to be. The instructions are clear and well written, and encourage us to play with our food and enjoy the process if we fail. One of my favourite quotes from the book is Andie requesting anyone who manages to make her Old School Beet Salad correctly to send her a photo, as she couldn’t get her attempts to set. It’s that kind of candour that makes me want to spend more time with the cookbook and envision joining Andie for a boil-up. She is a phenomenal storyteller, an honest chef who conveys a brilliant sense of humour. Even if you never cook a single recipe from this book, it is sure to be one of your favourites.
On the Road with the Cooking Ladies: Let’s Get Grilling by Phyliss Hinz & Lamont Mackay (Whitecap Books, 2017). Reviewed by Maya Love (pictured above).
A selection of the authors' North American RV road-trip stories, paired with the grilling and smoking recipes they developed during their travel adventures and culinary encounters. Hinz and Mackay thrill readers with stories highlighting their appetite for adventure, promising, “interesting people, fascinating towns, and new recipes … just a bend in the road away.” The cookbook is a culinary travelogue of the couple’s adventures throughout North America, from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Circle.
The travel stories and recipes are presented in sections. Beginning with snacks and starters, it moves on to a range of burgers, sandwiches, and pizza, meat and seafood grilling favourites, and concludes with vegetable, fruit, and dessert selections. Also included are sections on hot tips from the Cooking Ladies, internal temperature guides (with grill temperatures in Fahrenheit and Celsius), and accessories to the recipes.
The chapters share recipes as well as pages of their travel anecdotes, offering local histories and folklore of featured locations, including: Rum Runners and Prohibition in the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel; Wit or Wit-Out Cheese in South Philly; B.B. King’s Memphis Blues and Barbeque; Following the Food Truck Frenzy in New Mexico; Low Tide at Halls Harbour; and Crossing the Arctic Circle. Clearly the Cooking Ladies have a sense of humour and tell a good story!
Beautiful colour photographs taken by the authors complement the more than a hundred ready-to-grill recipes inspired by the Cooking Ladies road trips. On the Road with the Cooking Ladies is an inspirational cookbook that encourages us to be adventuresome with grilling, smoking and the many ways we can use our barbeques. It’s a fun and friendly cookbook you may want to keep handy for grilling season and will be of interest to culinary historian buffs who enjoy charming travel stories paired with easy-to-replicate tasty North American grilling and smoking recipes.
Post-script: Sadly, Lamont Mackay passed away in March 2021. Phyliss Hinz wrote this loving tribute in her partner’s obituary: “One of the hardest things about life on the road was we were always leaving people behind; people we had met at a moment in time at a particular place on earth. This is the first time in 46 years that Lamont will be leaving on her own, her solo and final journey.” Rest In Peace, Cooking Lady.
Celtia, histoire d’une bière de Tunisie … De Luxembourg à Tunis (Celtia, history of a Tunisian beer … from Luxembourg to Tunis) by Paul Nicolas (SAS Indola Press/Indola Éditions, 2021). Reviewed by Gary Gillman (pictured above).
French author Paul Nicolas has written extensively about Tunisian culture and history. His latest book delves into the history of Celtia beer, introduced in 1951 by the Tunis-based, French-owned brewery Société de Fabrication des Boissons de Tunisie (SFBT). With this valuable addition to brewing studies and brewing history, Nicolas demonstrates that since its industrial onset in the mid-1800s, brewing was always international—and is ever more so today.
Founded in 1889 by French-trained Luxembourg engineer Joseph Baldauff and other investors when Tunisia was a French protectorate, SFBT started as a producer of ice and refrigerated storage facilities, initially established to support butchers. SBFT launched its brewing operation with the introduction of the Stella brand in 1927. Majority owned by Castel, a major French producer and distributor of wine and other beverages, SFBT has long dominated the beer market in Tunisia, with Stella and Celtia as its flagships. As Nicolas makes clear, these beers are emblematic of Tunisia; to be sure the part which consumes alcohol (more on this below).
The many useful photographs and illustrations suggest Stella was originally a dark beer, but today both it and Celtia are golden lagers. The original Stella was 3.5% alcohol, with Celtia 5%, an international norm. Nicolas explores Celtia’s type—a Czech-style (Pilsen) lager—through its visual and gustatory qualities, explains the newer brands of SFBT, and discusses the relationship Tunisians have with beer.
While Tunis and major Tunisian cities tend to be the main markets, beer is also sold in less populated areas, albeit more discreetly. Bars selling alcohol may be popular restaurants with midday terraces or high-end resorts frequented by a moneyed element or tourists. Nicolas explains that beer will not be sold to persons of apparent Muslim adherence unless they are tourists who can show a passport; otherwise, consumption crosses all creeds in this predominantly Muslim country.
The chapters on food and gastronomy are of particular interest. Celtia and other beers often accompany kemia, the appetizer assortment that characterizes Tunisian dining. Beer can appear in or accompany a more modern cookery of diverse inspiration. A series of annexes limns the bios of notable past company executives; long-time SFBT CEO Mohamed Bousbia earns a chapter of his own. The book concludes with a segue into a company-owned winery, and a useful brewing glossary.
If a further edition is issued, for our part, we would like to see 1940-1945 covered (it is omitted in the book), a clearer discussion of the origins of industrial bottom fermentation, and hopefully emergence of a Kindle edition to allow the reader to better appreciate the many illustrations. In sum though, to M. Nicolas we offer toutes nos félicitations.
- Ivy Lerner-Frank (CHC book review editor, Montreal)
- Julia Armstrong (Toronto)
- Luisa Giacometti (Toronto)
- Gary Gillman (Toronto)
- Sher Hackwell (Vancouver)
- Sarah Hood (Toronto)
- Maya Love (London, Ontario)
- Fiona Lucas (Toronto)
- Jan Main (Toronto)
- Bennett McCardle (Toronto)
- Elka Weinstein (Toronto)
- Ania Young (Nanoose Bay, B.C.)
5. Events of Interest
Compiled by Jane Black, Kesia Kvill, Sarah Hood & Julia Armstrong
Some museums and other sites have been able to admit visitors again, following COVID guidelines in their province, but check their websites before turning up at the door!
- Roma at Three Rivers in P.E.I.
- Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site in Nova Scotia.
- Kings Landing in New Brunswick.
- Some parts of Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ontario.
- The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum in Ottawa.
- Hutchison House Museum in Peterborough, Ontario: The Museum office and bookshop are by appointment only, but staff are on-site Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours by appointment Tuesday through Friday.
- Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, Ontario.
- City of Toronto historic properties (Colborne Lodge, Fort York, Gibson House, Mackenzie House, the Market Gallery, Montgomery's Inn, Scarborough Museum, Spadina Museum, Todmorden Mills, and Zion Schoolhouse).
- Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto.
- Dundurn National Historic Site in Hamilton, Ontario.
- Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village in Edmonton.
- Roedde House in Vancouver.
6. International Conferences
Compiled by Kesia Kvill
April 28 to 30 (Lisbon, Portugal, or online)
THIRD INTERNATIONAL FOOD DESIGN & FOOD STUDIES CONFERENCE
Theme: Experiencing & Envisioning Food: Designing Food for Change
Host: The FORK Organization & Faculdade de Arquitetura, Universidade de Lisboa
May 12 to 14 (online)
CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF FOOD STUDIES
Theme: Transitions to a Just and Sustainable Food System
May 14 (Leeds, England)
LEEDS SYMPOSIUM OF FOOD HISTORY AND TRADITIONS
Location: Quaker Meeting House, Friargate, York.
May 30 to June 1 (Dublin, Ireland)
DUBLIN GASTRONOMY SYMPOSIUM
Theme: Food and Movement
June 23 to 28 (Tacoma, Washington)
ASSOCIATION FOR LIVING HISTORY, FARM AND AGRICULTURAL MUSEUMS ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Theme: The Future of the Past
Host: Fort Nisqually Living History Museum
July 8 to 10 and July 15 to 31 (Oxford, UK, and online)
OXFORD FOOD SYMPOSIUM
Theme: Portable Food: Food Away from the Table
Host: St. Catherine's College, Oxford
CFP Deadline: February 15, 2022
September 7 to 10 (Rome, Italy)
ICREFH - INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR RESEARCH INTO EUROPEAN FOOD HISTORY
Theme: Eating on the Move (19th-20th Centuries)
Host: Rome Tre University
October 22 to 23 (New York, USA)
TWELFTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FOOD STUDIES
Theme: Imagining the Edible: Food, Creativity, and the Arts
Host: Marymount Manhattan College, New York
Call for presentations is open.
September 5 to 8 (Ekaterinburg, Russia Details to be confirmed
ICREFH - INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR RESEARCH INTO EUROPEAN FOOD HISTORY
Theme: Food and Memory in European History of the 19th-21st Centuries
Across the far-flung regions of Canada, a lot is happening in the fields of food and history. This monthly digest is a forum for Canadian culinary historians and enthusiasts to tell each other about their many activities. This is a place for networking and conversation about Canadian culinary history happenings. Each month, Digestible Bits and Bites is shared with members of the Culinary Historians of Canada and other interested persons who ask to be on the distribution list.
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