Digestible Bits and Bites #97, May 2021

Digestible Bits and Bites

The monthly newsletter of the
Culinary Historians of Canada
Number 97, May 2021
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In April, we asked you about your favourite recipes from food-company pamphlets and package labels. Beverly Kouhi Soloway responded with Caribbean Rice & Sausages from Hunt's Tomato Paste. She writes that "they had a little booklet with the tomato paste on the grocery shelf, back in the 1970s when I first left home. In our house, somehow the name morphed to 'Spanish Rice.' I haven't changed a thing, and 45+ years later we still love it. The whole little Hunt's cookbook has fallen apart, but I still use several of its recipes."



  1. CHC News & Upcoming Events

  2. News & Opportunities

  3. Destinations

  4. Food for Thought (book reviews)

  5. Events of Interest

  6. International Conferences

1. CHC News and Upcoming Events

The Edible Future?

Coming up soon! On Thursday, May 13, at 8:00 p.m. EDT, CHC welcomes authors Ian Mosby and Sarah Rotz to discuss their new book, Uncertain Harvest: The Future of Food on a Warming Planet.

In a world expected to reach a staggering population of 10 billion by 2050, and with global temperatures rising fast, they believe that humanity must fundamentally change the way it grows and consumes food. Uncertain Harvest brings together scientists, chefs, activists, entrepreneurs, farmers, philosophers and engineers working on the global future of food to answer questions on how to make a more equitable, safe, sustainable and plentiful food future.

Mosby, an award-winning historian of food and nutrition, and Rotz, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences at Toronto's York University, look to the past to help us better understand our culinary future. They explore our ongoing history of mostly failed predictions and use that to look at contemporary predictions of a food future dominated by robot farms, cultured meats and photosynthesis-hacked GM rice. Join us for an engaging Zoom presentation by the two authors, followed by a Q&A period.

Admission: $18.59 ($11.54 for CHC members). Tickets are available on Eventbrite. Save on this ticket price and admission to future events by becoming a CHC member for only $30 today!

Photo by Matthew Blackett

Save the Date: Vintage Food Packaging
On Thursday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m. (EDT), well-known researcher and writer Jamie Bradburn will talk about historical food and drink packaging as featured in a new book from the publishers of Spacing magazine: Packaged Toronto: A Collection of the City's Historic Design.

Join us as he takes readers on a journey back in time to witness the emergence of the Canadian design aesthetic, from Mr. Christie's Cookie Tin for Soldiers to Harry Horne's Double Cream Custard Powder, and much more. Tickets will soon be available on Eventbrite.

Thrilling Mystery Event for July!
CHC is planning a very exciting program for July. We can't tell you much, except that it will be great. Details coming soon; stay tuned!
Taste Canada Hall of Fame Nominations
The Culinary Historians of Canada are pleased to announce that nominations are open for this year’s Taste Canada Hall of Fame Awards, known in French as Le Temple de la Renommée des Saveurs du Canada.
The honour was created in 2009 to recognize Elizabeth Driver’s massive achievement in researching and writing Culinary Landmarks: A Bibliography of Canadian Cookbooks, 1825–1949 (University of Toronto Press). In 2010, the Hall of Fame also began to honour authors posthumously for their contribution to Canada’s culinary history and almost two centuries of Canadian cookbooks. Ever since, there have been two annual Hall of Fame Awards—one to recognize current living authors and the other for authors deserving of posthumous appreciation.

As the first inductee, Liz Driver has presented the awards at the ceremony every year, along with a member of the Culinary Historians of Canada since 2014, when the Culinary Historians began their sponsorship of the awards. To date, there are 29 culinary stars in the Taste Canada Hall of Fame. (The current living and posthumous inductees to the Taste Canada Hall of Fame are posted on our website, with photos and bios.)

The nomination criteria require that the author be Canadian or reside in Canada and deserving of recognition for a landmark achievement and/or a longstanding contribution to Canadian culinary books, either a stellar book or a body of work, in any language. The Hall of Fame Award recognizes Canada’s culinary heroes who, through books, have helped to shape our distinctive food culture in a significant way or who have influenced our perspective of it, and thus have had a lasting impact on Canadian cuisine.

This year’s inductees will be announced at the annual Taste Canada Awards ceremony in the autumn!

Nomination Process
  1. Choose the living and/or deceased Canadian author you think most deserves to be inducted into the Taste Canada Hall of Fame / Le Temple de la Renommée des Saveurs du Canada. The author(s) must be deserving of recognition for a landmark achievement and/or a longstanding contribution to Canadian culinary books. They have written a stellar book or body of work in any language.
  2. Write a text—as short or as long as necessary—to persuade the judges that your selected author should be this year’s inductee. Your aim should be to champion the author, rather than present a resumé. Convey to the judges, who may not be as familiar with the author as you are, how that person has shaped our distinctive food culture or influenced our perspective of it. Explain how the author’s stellar culinary book or body of work has had a lasting impact on Canadian cuisine.
  3. Send your submission by Friday, June 18 to Liz Driver (647-526-4877 evenings, and Fiona Lucas (416-781-8153 evenings,
Members of the Taste Canada Hall of Fame
  • 2020: Stephen Yan / Norene Gilletz (1941–2020) 
  • 2019: Naomi Duguid / Jessie Read (1905–1940)
  • 2018: Graham Kerr / Constance Hart (1826–1898)
  • 2017: Bunny Barss / Edna Staebler (1906–2006)
  • 2016: Julian Armstrong  / James Barber (1923–2007)
  • 2015: Rose Murray / Nellie Lyle Pattison (1879–1953);  Helen Wattie (1911–2009) and Elinor Donaldson Whyte
  • 2014: Michel Lambert / Mona Brun (1920–2013)
  • 2013: Elizabeth Baird / Mère Emélie Caron (1808–1888); Helen Gougeon (1924–2000)
  • 2012: Anita Stewart (died 2020) / Catharine Parr Traill (1802–1899); Jeanne Anctil (1875–1926); Margo Oliver (1923–2010)
  • 2011: Marie Nightingale (died 2014) / Jehane Benoît (1904–1987)
  • 2010: Carol Ferguson (died  2018) and Margaret Fraser (died 2012) / Kate Aitken (1891–1971)
  • 2009: Elizabeth Driver

Rural Women’s Studies Association Conference

From May 11 to 15, the University of Guelph hosts Kitchen Table Talk to Global Forum, the 14th triennial conference of the Rural Women's Studies Association (RWSA). The RWSA is an international association that shares knowledge about rural women, food and such other issues as activism, feminism, social justice, mental health, innovation, community development and cultural expression. Registration for the conference closes on May 9.

CHC is excited to sponsor three panels featuring presentations by CHC members. (A fourth planned session, Newspaper Food Columns by Rural Women, has been cancelled.) The topics of their papers range from rural recipe collections to wartime food-supply activism, with visits to Acadian hearths and the kitchens of Catharine Parr Traill and Lucy Maud Montgomery. The CHC sessions, which will be chaired by Julia Armstrong, are: Admission for the full conference is $87 + HST (along with the virtual sessions, plenaries and keynotes, attendees will enjoy performances and receive an e-version of the RWSA cookbook); one-day admission is $35 + HST.

Exhibition Launch Honouring Anita Stewart

On Thursday, May 13 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. EDT, a digital exhibition titled From Our Mothers' Kitchens: Cooking in Rural Canada will launch at the University of Guelph in conjunction with the Rural Women's Studies Association conference. Because of the exhibition's focus on Canadian food and rural communities, it is dedicated to the memory of Anita Stewart (1947-2020), the first Food Laureate of the University of Guelph and a CHC Honorary Member.

Curated by students in Dr. Rebecca Beausaert's Food History class at the University of Guelph, this exhibit highlights how rural and agrarian areas in Canada have shaped Canadian food trends and preferences over the past 160 years. The exhibit is part of the What Canada Ate site, developed by the University's Archival & Special Collections and the History Department, which provides free access to nearly 300 complete digital facsimiles of Canadian cookbooks from McLaughlin Library's extensive Culinary Collection.

The launch will be accompanied by remarks by CHC founder and board member Fiona Lucas and members of the University community. To attend, please email Dr. Rebecca Beausaert ( by May 12; a Zoom link will be sent to attendees on the day before the launch.

4,500 Beer Cans Report

by Sylvia Lovegren

On April 15, Dr. David Maxwell of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia joined CHC for a Zoom presentation entitled The Canadian Archaeologist Who Collected 4,500 Beer Cans. Dr. Maxwell led us on a beautifully illustrated chronological trail, following the changing shape and technology of beer cans, starting with their introduction in the US in the late 1920s.

We learned that the earliest cans were coated on the interior with pitch in order to keep the beer from interacting with the metal in the can—an innovation that didn’t last long, fortunately! Early cans were also designed with short necks and looked very different from the cans we’re used to today; it was fascinating to see the transition from each one to the next. The evolution of self-opening cans was also interesting, and we learned that the earliest models were either very difficult to open or produced dangerously sharp edges.

Dr. Maxwell also shared anecdotes about using his knowledge of beer-can design to date archaeological sites. A number of listeners were beer-can collectors themselves, and they enjoyed sharing some of their collecting finds and knowledge during the Q&A period.

Those who registered for the event were also given a link to Dr. Maxwell’s important field identification guide to 20th-century North American beer cans, published in the journal Historical Archaeology.

You’re Invited!
On the 10th of every month, CHC board meetings are open to any member in good standing who'd like to meet other culinary historians, find out more about upcoming plans, have a say in decision-making, and participate in organizing our events and activities.

The meetings are held via Zoom. If you'd like to attend one, contact CHC president Carolyn Crawford at

Aunt Ellen's Rhubarb Cake & Irene's Rhubarb Crumble: two of CHC newsletter editor Sarah Hood's favourite family recipes.

May Cooking Challenge: Rhubarb
What's more exciting than the first crops of summer? This month, we challenge you to cook, bake or preserve something using rhubarb (extra points if you grow it yourself!). Those who post photos and comments with the hashtag #rhubarb on our Facebook page by midnight on Wednesday, May 24 will be featured in the June newsletter. 

Mya Sangster's Rice Krispies Treats.

Package-Label Recipes
Last month we challenged you to share your favourite recipes from a package label or one of those pamphlets published by food companies. There was lots of passionate discussion on Facebook about Rice Krispies Squares (or are those Kraft Marshmallow Treats?), and CHC Honorary Member Mya Sangster tracked down the original recipe, which consists of 6 cups of Rice Krispies, 4 cups of mini-marshmallows and 3 tablespoons of butter heated gently, mixed well and pressed into a square pan. "I had forgotten how good they were," she writes.

Michelle Groulx posted a family favourite: Peanut Butter Cookies made with Crisco.

Wendy Taylor Martin shared her tale of a recipe lost and found: "My family fell in love with a recipe in the early '70s by Eagle Brand," she writes. "I made it so many times I can't count them! In the '80s I moved away from home, and when Dad's birthday came around, I couldn't find the recipe. I contacted Eagle Brand, and they sent me some they thought might be right, but no, and I was heartbroken.

"A couple years later when
I was flipping through a cookbook, I discovered that I'd used it as a bookmark. I was saved! I used custard for the filling because I always wanted to save the extra half-can to make some Eagle Brand Coconut Macaroons!" She has kindly transcribed the recipe:

Eagle Brand Almond Torte
  • ¾ cup butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • ½ cup almonds, sliced, roasted
  1. Have all ingredients at room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter. Gradually add sugar.
  3. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  4. Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Mix well.
  5. Sift flour and baking powder together; stir into creamed mixture a little at a time.
  6. Spread batter in 2 greased and floured 9" round pans.
  7. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.
  8. Cool 30 minutes in pans, then turn out on cake rack.
  9. Cut each into 2 layers and fill each layer with cream filling (or thickened custard as I do; I use Bird’s).
  10. Frost top with Chocolate Glaze; sprinkle with almonds.
Cream Filling
  • 1 envelope unflavoured gelatine
  • 1 cup cold water
  • ½ can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ pint whipping cream, whipped
  1. Stir gelatine into water on top of double boiler.
  2. Stir in condensed milk, salt and eggs.
  3. Cook over simmering water 10 minutes, stirring frequently until thick.
  4. Remove from heat & cool to lukewarm.
  5. Stir in vanilla and fold in whipped cream.
Chocolate Glaze
  • 1 square (1 oz) unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs cream or milk
  • 1 cup sifted icing sugar
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  1. Melt chocolate, then blend in butter and cream.
  2. Remove from heat, then add sugar, salt, vanilla.

Jennifer Mark Baden notes that "This shortbread cookie recipe used to be on the back of Canada Cornstarch boxes and was the first Christmas cookie I learned how to make as a teen in the mid-late '90s. Sadly, I don’t think they print the recipe anymore, or use cardboard boxes either (though I could be very wrong, seeing as I haven’t set foot in a grocery store in 16+ months.)

Join the Culinary Historians of Canada!

The membership year runs from one annual general meeting (usually late September/early October) to the next. Download a membership form here and join us today! 

2. News and Opportunities

Historic Jewish Cuisine
On Wednesday, May 12, at 1:00 p.m. EDT, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research presents a free cooking demonstration titled A Taste of Rome’s Historic Jewish Cuisine. Rome is home to one of Europe's oldest and most delicious Jewish cuisines. Shaped by centuries of hardship and tightly-bound community, la cucina Ebraica Romana (the Roman Jewish kitchen) is defined by its elegant approach to vegetables, saucy braised meats, love of small and briny fishes, and masterclass level of skill for frying foods in olive oil. Join celebrated cookbook author Leah Koenig for an online cooking demonstration highlighting some of Rome's best dishes. The recipe for concia, a bright and silky marinated zucchini dish, will be made available before the event, so students may pick up ingredients and cook along.

Leah Koenig's writing and recipes have appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Food & Wine, Epicurious, Food52 and Tablet. She is the author of six cookbooks, including The Jewish Cookbook (Phaidon, 2019) and Modern Jewish Cooking (Chronicle Books). Admission is free; registration is required.

YIVO is also presenting an online course called A Seat at the Table: A Journey into Jewish Food, an exploration into the heart of Jewish food, with an emphasis on the Ashkenazi table. This course features hundreds of never-before-seen archival objects, lectures by leading scholars, and video demonstrations of favourite Jewish recipes by renowned chefs. The registration deadline is August 31.

Food Season at the British Library

The British Library's Food Season is already in full swing, with a mouthwatering menu of digital events inspired by the cookbooks, recipes and culinary stories in the collection. Founded and curated by food historian and British Library curator Polly Russell, with award-winning food writer Angela Clutton as guest director, the season features an array of chefs, historians and food writers for a series of live conversations that you can tune into wherever you are.

Speakers include Madhur Jaffrey, Raymond Blanc, Calum Franklin, Tom Kerridge and Ruby Tandoh, covering topics from manuscript cookery sources to food and machismo, the cheese history of the UK, Caribbean cooking and restaurant criticism. Upcoming sessions include:  
Disrupting Dinner: African Spices
Studio ATAO and Feast Afrique present a series of cookbook discussions called Disrupting Dinner that focus on one BIPOC-authored (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) cookbook every three months. During three monthly meetings, participants spend about an hour cooking recipes from the book and a second hour exploring the book's larger themes.

The current book, In Bibi's Kitchen by Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen, "presents 75 recipes and stories gathered from bibis (grandmothers) from eight African nations: South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, and Eritrea. Most notably, these eight countries are at the backbone of the spice trade, many of them exporters of things like pepper and vanilla."

Upcoming sessions, which start at 3:00 p.m. PDT, will focus on "Sauces, Language and Appropriation" (May 15) and "Breads, Grains, and Preserving Community" (June 12). Admission is $25 to $50.
Indigenous Chefs Series Continues
The University of Minnesota annual conference on Native American Nutrition presents Celebrating Indigenous Women Chefs, a free webinar series that highlights the culinary expertise of Indigenous women through live monthly cooking demonstrations. They take place from noon to 1:15 p.m. CST on Tuesdays: May 11, June 8 and July 13. Past sessions are posted to YouTube.
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 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!)

Photo by Alan Shackleton. Used with permission.

On April 7, the Beach Metro Community News, based in east-end Toronto, published a lovely story honouring our own Jan Main (pictured above) for her 36 years as author of the paper's monthly column The Main Menu. In the piece, Jan reminisces about the changes she has seen in home cooking and restaurant dining over that time. (Congratulations on your impressive track record, Jan!)

On April 21, CHC board member Sarah Hood was the featured guest for the fourth episode of the radio show Food for the Future, hosted by home economist Peggy O’Neil, which shares stories from farmers, agri-food experts and families to address food waste, city farming and cooking at home. Sarah discussed home canning, CHC and her new book, Jam, Jelly and Marmalade: A Global History.

All the episodes are posted online; upcoming episodes will include the following:
  • Sat, May 1: Recent UN report and statistics on global food waste with Vimlendra Sharan, Director United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
  • Sat, May 8: Connection to the Food System with Lella Blumer, Sustainable Backyard
  • Sat, May 15: Family cookbooks and forgotten food skills with Darina Allen, celebrated author and owner of Ballymaloe Cookery School, Co. Cork, Ireland

3. Destinations

Fort Saint James. Photo by John Stanton, FortWiki.

Fort Saint James National Historic Site (B.C.)
by Jane Black

Many enjoy a good relaxing rest or nap after a meal, an option not normally available at a historic site with costumed interpreters. Fort Saint James, in British Columbia, is an exception, as it is the only national historic site in Canada that operates a B&B, allowing guests to spend the night in one of two houses. Perhaps it would be more correct to say a D&B&B, as it also includes a dinner on the night of arrival.

The site, restored to the year 1896, is the largest surviving group of wooden buildings from a fur-trade centre. Founded in 1806 by Simon Fraser, its original buildings are built in the "piece-on-piece" style (as opposed to the log-cabin style); the latter is easier, but over time the timbers sag under the weight of the roof.

The trade here was between the local Dakelh First Nation and the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), both of which are represented by costumed interpreters. The site was the centre of transportation and communication in the area, which saw furs loaded onto boats destined for London in exchange for European goods. Prior to the formation of British Columbia, Europeans called the area New Caledonia, and Fort Saint James served as its capital. HBC members, however, referred to it less grandly as "the Siberia of the fur trade." Some considered it a punishment posting, while others married local Dakelh women from the nearby village of Nak’azdli and started families whose descendants still live in the area.

Food came to the fort in a variety of ways, including agriculture, fishing and hunting. It took several years for the fort to become self-sufficient. For many years the Europeans depended on salmon, bought from the Dakelh, to survive, which severely eroded the profit margin. The warehouse and trade stores included sugar, flour, tea, spices and other non-local necessities.

Gardens and a small farm are maintained at the site; visitors are able to participate in the upkeep in various ways at different times throughout the year. Livestock includes horses, goats and chickens. Daily chicken races (which visitors can participate in through the placement of friendly bets), occur at 11:30 a.m. every day the fort is open.

Food at the fort was prepared through open fire, open hearth and ovens, and staff continue to bake ginger cookies in the ovens for visitors. More modern fare is found on-site at the café. The menu changes daily in keeping with the season, quite often offering fare akin to that which was served in 1896, such as rabbit stew.

Particularly unique to Fort Saint James is the Fish Cache building built in 1889. The Dakelh constructed buildings raised off the ground, sometimes with a living tree as a support, to store salmon. The Fish Cache incorporates this idea and uses the piece-on-piece construction of other buildings to create a salmon storehouse. Some of the logs used in the Fish Cache came from other buildings, making them over 200 years old.

The unique opportunity at Fort Saint James is the ability to spend the night in two of the historical homes. The recreated bedrooms include 1896-style beds with Hudson's Bay blankets and other period artifacts. The first one, constructed in 1884, is the Murray House, or Officer’s Dwelling House. In 1896, it was home to the man in charge of the fort, A.C. Murray, and his family. The second option is the Men’s House, initially constructed to be the clerk’s house, which also dates from 1884. Over the years it served as a staff house, school and private residence. Restored to 1896, when it served as the guest house, a temporary home for visitors to the fort, such as pack train workers and trappers, it contains four single beds among three rooms. Many of those who stayed at the guest house were local Dakelh people who initially traded goods at the fort but later were employed for their skills in boat making, other skilled labour, or as day labourers.

Whichever house one decides to stay in, one should bear in mind that houses in 1896 did not include modern amenities such as electric lighting or indoor plumbing. Visitors are advised to bring a flashlight with them should they need to use the modern washrooms (which have a shower), located a short walk away. In lieu of an alarm clock, one may awaken to a rooster.

Check-in is at 4:00 p.m., and the site closes at 5:00 p.m. The stay includes a prepared supper that is ordered ahead of time as part of the reservation process. Afterwards, some guests enjoy having tea and dessert on antique china. Breakfast also changes depending on seasonal availability. The dishes are not always the most historically accurate, but an effort is made to use local ingredients, and the ability to spend the night in the historic setting with free range to walk around the site makes this a unique experience nonetheless.

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 Elka Weinstein at or Sarah Hood at

Oishii: The History of Sushi by Eric C. Rath (Reaktion Books, 2021). Reviewed by Ivy Lerner-Frank (pictured above).

“Sushi is very simple food, but often exoticized,” says Eric C. Rath in his informative, lovingly illustrated book Oishii. “It’s another reason why we need a careful exposition of where it came from, how it developed, and how it might change in the future.” Rath, a professor of premodern Japanese history at the University of Kansas and author of numerous books about Japanese food and culture, lays out the linguistic and food origins and prospects of sushi. Starting with the medieval period and moving into the contemporary era, this comprehensive and very readable volume is best accompanied with a plate of sushi (and perhaps some sake) nearby. 

Rath explains the importance of sour taste in sushi’s origins, revealing various methods of lactic-acid fermentation and the significance of preservative elements, tartness and time in its preparation. He introduces funazushi, a preserved crucian carp, and one of the first-found examples of sushi early on in the book, explaining the smell—like blue cheese; the mouth feel, like prosciutto or salami; and the taste, so sour that it “often causes a physical reaction.” Rath then proceeds to give several recipes for funazushi at various points throughout the book, demonstrating how the sushi, as well as diners’ tastes, have evolved over the centuries. 

The latter part of the book is devoted to exploring how sushi has been transformed from snack to delicacy, from being sold at food stands to high-end restaurants; the post-war popularity and proliferation of sushi bars; and the rivalry between sushi and soba as a popular food. He examines the professionalization of sushi chefs and the formalization of sushi training and the simultaneous emergence of kaiten conveyor-belt sushi and take-away restaurants, where sushi is produced en masse rather than in an artisanal way. 

Oishii means “delicious,” and this describes the book from both a culinary and a visual perspective. The book is dotted with recipes, from the simple Five Lord’s Soup (“Finely dice pickled fish and meat on a cutting board. Add water and boil. Use this as the basis for soup stock.”) to minnow sushi—for those with access to minnows, it’s ready to eat in one day—and how to select the right mackerel to avoid dried-out flesh. Complementing these are more contemporary recipes for home cooks, archival photographs and woodblock prints, and mouthwatering closeups of prepared sushi, making Oishii an enlightening treat for the senses.

Cherry by Constance L. Kirker and Mary Newman (Reaktion Books, 2021). Reviewed by Maya Love (pictured above). 

This new contribution to the Reaktion Botanical series is a charming read from beginning to end. Beautifully illustrated, it reveals the history, culinary and medicinal uses, symbolic meanings and artistic representation of the cherry tree. Kirker and Newman, also co-authors of Edible Flowers: A Global History, draw on their extensive experience and research skills to explore the sensuous history and folklore of the beloved cherry tree and its stunning blossoms. The difference between the main varieties of cherry trees? The Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus serrulata) is known for its beautiful springtime blossoms, while sweet cherry (P. avium) and sour cherry (P. cerasus) are commercially important varieties grown for human consumption.

Everyone enjoys picking and eating cherries, and seemingly no one can resist the beauty of the flowering cherry tree. Cherry blossoms appeal to all of our senses and are loved the world over. The tradition of hanami, blossom viewing, is an ancient custom originally adopted from China, symbolizing reawakening of nature after winter. Drawing on the nostalgia of cherry blossom season are hundreds of sakura folk songs, haiku poems and popular cherry blossom festivals.

Of particular interest to culinary historians, the authors include a chapter titled "Fruit: From Tree to Table" that discusses cherry cultivation, cherry pickers, supply chains, agriculture and production; pick-your-own cherries, beverages and liqueurs, gourmet and artisanal products, lacto-fermentation, cherry-pie baking, the romantic association of cherries and chocolate; and the canning, preserving, freezing and drying of cherries. Current research is also highlighted, focusing on the genetics, breeding, food processing and marketing trends, while taking into account the needs of today’s consumers.

The more than 100 colour photos and illustrations add a great deal to the book, as does the representation of global cherry recipes. Included in the appendix is a historical timeline of cherry references starting in 5,000 BCE, as well as a list of worldwide cherry-related associations and websites. Kirker and Newman have written a delightful, informative book that explores all the nuances of the beloved cherry tree.

Review Contributors
  • Elka Weinstein (CHC book review editor, Toronto)
  • Judy Corser (Delta, British Columbia)
  • Pam Fanjoy (Hillsburgh, Ontario)
  • Luisa Giacometti (Toronto)
  • Gary Gillman (Toronto)
  • Sher Hackwell (Vancouver)
  • Amy Lavender Harris (Toronto)
  • Sarah Hood (Toronto)
  • Frances Latham (Stratford, Ontario)
  • Ivy Lerner-Frank (Montreal)
  • Maya Love (London, Ontario)
  • Fiona Lucas (Toronto)
  • Jan Main (Toronto)
  • Lisette Mallet (Toronto)
  • Bennett McCardle (Toronto)
  • Dana McCauley (Toronto)
  • Dana Moran (Ajax, Ontario)
  • Valerie Sharp
  • Mary Lou Snow (Conception Bay, Newfoundland)
  • Meaghan Van Dyk (Abbotsford, British Columbia)

5. Events of Interest

Compiled by Jane Black, Kesia Kvill, Sarah Hood & Julia Armstrong

With a COVID third wave upon us, all bets are off as to which in-person experiences will be available this year. The following sites were open during parts of 2020, and may be admitting visitors in 2021, but check before turning up at the door!

6. International Conferences

Compiled by Kesia Kvill


May 11 to 15 (online from Guelph, Ontario)
Theme: Kitchen Table Talk to Global Forum
Host: University of Guelph, virtual
Registration: To register, please visit this link
Note: CHC will be presenting three panels during the conference.

May 31 to June 4 (online)

Host: European Institute for Food History and Cultures

June 2 to 5 (Las Cruces, New Mexico)
Theme: Challenging Crops & Climate

June 9 to 15 (online)

Theme: JUST FOOD: because it is never just food
Host: The Culinary Institute of America & New York University

June 11 to 14 (Archibald, Ohio) 

Theme: Looking Forward…The Next 50 Years
Note: Will be entirely virtual. Registration opens soon.
July 1 to 2 (Marburg, Germany)

Host: Philips-University Marburg and Virtual
July 9 to 11 (Oxford, England)

Theme: Food and Imagination
Host: St. Catherine’s College OR Virtual
July 29 to 30 (Vienna, Austria)

Theme: Canned Food, History and Development
Host: International Research Conference Online

September 7 to 10 (Rome, Italy)

Theme: Eating on the Move (19th–21st Centuries)
Host: Roma Tre University

October 28 to 30 (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Theme: Making Sense From Taste: Quality, Context, Community
Host: Aarhus University

Note: Blended digital and in-person

May 30 to J
une 1 (Dublin, Ireland)
Theme: Food and Movement

CFP: From March to October 2021
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. 
The Culinary Historians of Canada would like to share this digest with a wide audience. You are encouraged to post or forward this information. 


  • To receive their free monthly edition of Digestible Bits and Bites, interested readers need only send a request with their email address to the editor.
  • Past issues of Digestible Bits and Bites are posted on the Culinary Historians of Canada website.
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