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Digestible Bits and Bites #102, October 2021

Digestible Bits and Bites

The monthly newsletter of the
Culinary Historians of Canada
Number 102, October 2021
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Muriel Hart was among the CHC Facebook friends who participated in our August-September apple challenge, showing off her "Ontario Williams’ Pride apple almond cake, with Québec Domaine Pinnacle cidre de glace and apricot glaze. I used BBC Good Food’s Somerset Pomona, apple & almond cake recipe," she writes. And very good it looks. too!

 

Index

  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


Notes from our Annual General Meeting

CHC held its AGM via Zoom on Sunday, September 26, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST.  A total of 28 members was in attendance, including board members.

Board Positions
Board elections were held for the positions of President, Secretary and Treasurer, and a new Co-Chair of the Communications Committee, responsible for Digital Resources, was appointed. We are indebted to our outgoing President Carolyn Crawford, who will remain on the board for two years as Past President. We also owe grateful thanks for tireless and generous dedication to outgoing Communications Co-Chair Julia Armstrong, and to outgoing Secretary Colin Rier.

The position of President and Secretary remain vacant for the time being. In the meantime, we will rely on the rest of the Executive to share these duties.

CHC co-founder Fiona Lucas, a historian of cookbooks, food, kitchens and culinary material culture, has been acclaimed to a second two-year term as Treasurer. Fiona has served continuously on the CHC board, with the exception of two years about a decade ago. She has filled the role of President twice, and Chair of the Programme and Newsletter committees for several years each.

She holds a BA is in the History of Fine Art and an MA in Canadian History. For 23 years she worked in the historic kitchens of the City of Toronto Museums. In 1994, she co-founded CHC and two years later she launched the Volunteer Historic Cooking Group of the Toronto Museums. Her first book was Hearth and Home: Women and the Art of Open-Hearth Cooking (2006). Her second, co-edited with Nathalie Cooke, was Catharine Parr Traill’s Female Emigrant’s Guide: Cooking with a Canadian Classic (2017).

Liz Truchanowicz. a TV and digital-content producer with a background in theatre and archeology, has been appointed as Co-Chair of the Communications Committee, with a focus on Digital Resources. Liz has already offered invaluable assistance in CHC's digital programming and has revitalized our Instagram feed, attracting many new (and younger) followers. Her current TV projects include Kid Food Nation: The Show, Seasons 1 and 2, and YTV's The Zone.

She holds an MFA in Directing and is an award-nominated director, producer, and non-profit administrator. Other projects of note include working with Canadian Heritage and the Quebec Drama Federation in developing an English-Language artist touring network throughout Quebec, and developing and curating Compass Points, a national program for students and emerging artists at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. She taught content creation and performance at McGill University and the University of Ottawa and is a member of the Lincoln Theater Center’s Directors Lab. Previously, she worked as an archaeologist and had the honour of working on the First Parliament Site in Old Toronto.

 

CHC Board Members, 2021-2022

Executive Committee
  • President: Vacant
  • Co-Vice-President: Samantha George (Oshawa, Ontario)
  • Co-Vice-President: Sherry Murphy (Toronto)
  • Secretary: Vacant
  • Treasurer: Fiona Lucas (Toronto)
  • Past President: Carolyn Crawford (Caledon, Ontario)
Standing Committee Chairs
  • Chair of the Membership Committee: Judy Chow (Guelph, Ontario)
  • Chair of the Programme Committee: Sylvia Lovegren (Toronto)
  • Co-Chair of the Communications Committee/Publications: Sarah Hood (Toronto)
  • Co-Chair of the Communications Committee/Digital Resources: Liz Truchanowicz (Toronto)
Other Board Positions
  • Chair of the Education Committee: Jane Black (Red Lake, Ontario)
  • Chair of the Outreach Committee: Susan Peters (Morrisburg, Ontario)
  • Coordinator of Publicity: Samantha George (Oshawa, Ontario)
  • Member at Large: Kim Moulsdale (Toronto)
  • Coordinator of Refreshments: Sherry Murphy (Toronto)
  • Coordinator of Volunteers: Jennifer Meyer (Toronto)
Constitutional Wording Change
Members approved a slight change to the wording of the CHC Constitution and By-Laws. The section that formerly read "The Culinary Historians of Canada (CHC) is an organization that researches, interprets, preserves, and celebrates Canada’s culinary heritage, which has been shaped by the food traditions of the First Nations peoples and generations of immigrants from all parts of the world" has been amended to reflect current usage.

It now reads "The Culinary Historians of Canada (CHC) is an organization that researches, interprets, preserves, and celebrates Canada’s culinary heritage, which has been shaped by the food traditions of the Indigenous peoples and generations of immigrants from all parts of the world." This wording is considered to be more inclusive, since it includes the Inuit and Métis as well as the First Nations.


Amy Scott with her certificate and congratulatory bouquet.

Honorary Memberships
The CHC Constitution provides for the awarding of honorary memberships to deserving people. Previous recipients are co-founders Bridget Wranich and Fiona Lucas, as well as Mary Williamson, Mya Sangster, Dorothy Duncan, Liz Driver, Elizabeth Baird, Pat Crocker, Anita Stewart, Julian Armstrong and (last year) Rose Murray.

This year, honorary lifetime memberships were presented by Vice-President Sherry Murphy to Amy Scott and Bob Wildfong in recognition of their long and dedicated service to enhancing the appreciation of Canadian food and foodways and advancing knowledge of Canada's culinary history. Both Bob and Amy were elected to the very first board of directors in September 2002, when we were still the Culinary Historians of Ontario.
  • Amy Scott has worked for over 25 years as a historical interpreter at Black Creek Pioneer Village, teaching, presenting and researching foodways of the mid-1800s. Amy holds a Chef's Certificate from George Brown College. She is a prominent member of the Association of Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM), for which she has given many presentations on food-history topics. As a volunteer for CHC, Amy was Vice President for three terms and Membership Chair for two, a total of ten years. As the first VP, Amy was instrumental in helping to write the Constitution and By-Laws. She arranged that a box at Toronto's First Post Office in Toronto would be CHC’s official address and represented CHC at numerous fairs and events. She organized programs like Ruthven: Picnic on the Grand (2006) and contributed to our former newsletter, Culinary Chronicles. She has also interpreted many historical recipes with the Historic Volunteer Cooks at Fort York and Mackenzie House, both National Historic Sites, and was called upon to bake cakes for Toronto's official 175th birthday celebrations in 2009. 
  • Bob Wildfong started as Treasurer, a position he held for three terms. He then became President for two terms and Past President for one. Altogether, he was a board member for over 12 years. It was Bob who shepherded our change of legal name into the Culinary Historians of Canada. Bob has led presentations on such topics as heritage apples, one of his specialities. He contributed to Culinary Chronicles. Also, as a member of ALHFAM, he has led many presentations on seeds and gardening. He became the first Executive Director of Seeds of Diversity in 2002, a position he still fills. Bob has also achieved the title of Head Gardener for Doon Heritage Crossroads, which is part of the Waterloo Region Museum in Ontario, where he still teaches about gardening and food history.

Apparently Bob Wildfong's cat appreciated his bouquet as much as he did!

Committee Report Highlights
  • CHC is overjoyed to relaunch Culinary Chronicles (see news item, below).
  • CHC is currently gathering responses from participants in Just a Bite: Summer Food Memories from Ontario Seniors (see news item, below).
  • Since last year's AGM, CHC has produced a rich year of digital encounters with authors and cooks:
    • Suzanne Evans on her book The Taste of Longing, focused on food in a POW camp during WWII (September 2020).
    • Sherry Murphy starring in a presentation on "Baking for the Victorian Christmas Table—Plum Pudding & Mincemeat Tarts!" (December).
    • Fiona Lucas on "Catharine Parr Traill on Enjoying and Surviving a Canadian Winter" (January 2021).
    • Sarah Hood on the rise and fall of the world’s greatest marmalade makers (February).
    • The Montreal-based group The Wandering Chew presenting a charoset cooking class for Passover (March).
    • Archeologist Dr. David Maxwell on collecting vintage beer cans (April).
    • Ian Mosby and Sarah Rotz on their book Uncertain Harvest: The Future of Food on a Warming Planet (May).
    • Jamie Bradburn on historical food and drink packaging as featured in the book Packaged Toronto: Vintage Food Packaging & the Companies Behind Them (June).
    • Mary F. Williamson and Elizabeth Baird on their new book, Mrs. Dalgairns’s Kitchen: Rediscovering “The Practice of Cookery" (July).
  • CHC has entered into a partnership with Harrowsmith magazine, and is seeing an increasing amount of coverage for our projects in print and online media outlets. Our Facebook group has ballooned in the past year, from about 2,000 members to about 4,500. Our Instagram feed has grown to almost 950 followers.
  • We offered our first publication for sale in December 2020: Baking for the Victorian Christmas Table: A Recipe Collection for Contemporary Cooks, a downloadable recipe booklet that has raised more than $300 to date.
Volunteer Thanks
Grateful thanks are due to all our volunteers. This year, apart from board members, these include:
  • Pat Currie (presenter, Baking for the Victorian Table)
  • Luisa Giacometti (newsletter book reviewer)
  • Gary Gillman (newsletter book reviewer)
  • Vicki Gregory (newsletter proofreader)
  • Sher Hackwell (newsletter book reviewer)
  • Kesia Kvill (newsletter "Conferences" section editor)
  • Amy Lavender Harris (newsletter book reviewer)
  • Frances Latham (newsletter book reviewer)
  • Ivy Lerner-Frank (newsletter book reviewer and event co-ordinator, Charoset Workshop)
  • Maya Love (newsletter book reviewer)
  • Jan Main (newsletter book reviewer)
  • Bennett McCardle (newsletter book reviewer)
  • Meghan Froh Metcalf (technical producer, Mrs. Dalgairn’s Kitchen)
  • Dana Moran (newsletter book reviewer)
  • Liz Truchanowicz (Instagram co-ordinator, technical producer, Baking for the Victorian Table & Mrs. Dalgairn’s Kitchen)
  • Elka Weinstein (newsletter book review editor)
Other Business
Via the miracles of pre-recorded video, John Ota offered a reprise of his talk from last May’s Rural Women’s Studies Association conference, “Maud’s Kitchens: Lucy Maud Montgomery and Modern Conveniences.” John is the author of last year’s award-winning The Kitchen: A Journey Through History in Search of the Perfect Design. Julia Armstrong wonderfully portrayed Montgomery at key points in John’s presentation.

Save the Date! Next year's AGM will take place on Sunday, October 1, 2022. 

 

Culinary Chronicles Relaunch!

By Fiona Lucas

CHC’s Board of Directors is delighted to announce the debut of a new annual publication: Culinary Chronicles: Occasional Papers of the Culinary Historians of Canada. All up-to-date members received it as a downloadable PDF, and everyone who joins in the coming months will get it too.
Non-members can now purchase it for $10 via our website. We are indebted to Julia Armstrong for designing and laying out the inaugural edition, a document of more than 75 pages.

About Culinary Chronicles

This new publication is identified as a "new series." Longtime members will remember the original Culinary Chronicles, a paper-based quarterly newsletter published from spring 1994 to fall 2012. For several years it was simply called The Newsletter of the Culinary Historians of Ontario (as we were then), but it finally acquired an actual name as of Number 40 (Spring 2004).
All 71 issues are posted on CHC’s website and are available for free download, along with an index of the first 32 issues.

That paper newsletter started as a grassroots four-pager but in time became eight, 16, 20 and sometimes 24 pages full of historical information in essays, articles and photographs. It also held members’ news, book reviews and program summaries. The revived Culinary Chronicles will exclude those features because, since May 2013, they have had a home in this newsletter, which goes to over 1,000 subscribers.

The nine papers that comprise our first issue were first presented at three panels sponsored by CHC at the Rural Women's Studies Association Triennial Conference, hosted online from May 11 to 15, 2021, by the University of Guelph in Ontario.

CHC’s first panel was From Rural Hearth to Cookstove. Chantal Véchambre asked how Acadian women cooked in the early decades of settlement. Gary Gillman spoke of Margaret Simpson, a pioneer publican-brewer of Upper Canada. Fiona Lucas talked about Catharine Parr Traill’s nine kitchens, as revealed in the family’s writings. John Ota visited and explored two of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s kitchens.

Our second panel was Recipes and Remembering. Carolyn Crawford related the story of the manuscript cookbooks of the five Berry sisters of Chinguacousy Township. Suzanne Evans shared how The Five Roses Cook Book aided Ethel Mulvany, a Canadian POW in Singapore. Nathalie Cooke talked of amusing moments when women kept food knowledge to themselves.

Food on the Rural Canadian Home Front was our final panel. Samantha George introduced us to the wildly successful Second World War campaign started by Canadian rural women to make jam for British families. Shirleyan English recounted her happy experience as a 16-year-old farmerette during the war, while Bonnie Sitter showed wonderful farmerette photographs.

 

Don't Miss "First Catch Your Gingerbread"!

On Sunday, October 17, CHC presents a Zoom chat called First Catch your Gingerbread with food historian and writer Sam Bilton at 1:00 p.m. EST. Did you know that a mistress of a French king was poisoned by a piece of gingerbread? Or that gingerbread men were thought in some quarters to be reminders of the human sacrifices made in bygone days?

Join Sam, author of
First Catch Your Gingerbread (Prospect Books, 2021) as she explores the history of this sweet teatime treat. Admission: $19.10 (general); $11.34 (CHC members). Tickets are available on Eventbrite.
 

Mark Your Calendar!

CHC is working on a yummy roster of winter events:
  • November: Baking for the Victorian Christmas Table – Plum Pudding & Mincemeat Tarts!: A reprise of our beautiful presentation featuring star baker and historic cook Sherry Murphy demonstrating recipes from Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for Private Families.
  • Sundays, December 5 & 12, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.: CHC Hearthwarming Zoom Series: Canadian Winter Holiday Traditions: As winter closes in, different groups across Canada celebrate numerous winter holidays with "hearthwarming" and heartwarming traditions and traditional foods. CHC member John Ota, author of the acclaimed book The Kitchen: A Journey Through Time ... in Search of the Perfect Design (Penguin Random House, 2020), will host a series of two live Zoom interviews with six different Canadians from six different provinces sharing some of their favorite holiday memories. Each interview will be followed by a brief Q&A. Tickets and more details will be available on Eventbrite soon.
  • January: Salt-Rising Bread Workshop: An introduction to a vanished technique.
  • February: Sequoia Miller of the Gardiner Museum talks about colonial dinnerware and how it reflected the foods being served and their social and cultural milieu. 
 

Just a Bite Deadline Extended

CHC’s project Just a Bite: Summer Food Memories from Ontario Seniors has received many delightful responses; thanks to all participants!

Just a Bite will be a collection of food memories from summers long past, a project to preserve and share youthful memories from the season between the summer and fall equinoxes. The collection will ultimately serve as a repository of historical memories for future researchers.

Through the summer, we widely shared a booklet of questions to elicit these food memories. Although the September 30 submission deadline has passed, we thought one last call-out would be a good idea. There are two downloadable PDF versions of the booklet:
We will definitely need volunteer transcribers and fact checkers for the submissions, so if you are interested, contact us at justabite@culinaryhistorians.ca.
 

October Cooking Challenge: Soups & Stews

As the weather chills down, our stoves are heating up again. What soups and stews are best loved in your household? Whether it's a traditional recipe with roots going back over centuries or your own favourite hack on something from a tin, we want the photos and comments! If you post pictures and comments to our Facebook page before midnight on Friday, October 24, we’ll feature you in our November newsletter.
 


Apples Cooking Challenge Report

We asked you what you like to do with apples, and boy, did you respond!



Alice Mac (whose apples are pictured above the headline of this article): "I grow my own—Gravenstein, Cox Orange Pippins, Braeburn, and Fuji. I also receive gifts of apples from others. I have enough each year for all the sauce, pies, crisp, cakes, apples with cheese and cider for family and some friends. Some years back we built an apple grinder and pressing set up to keep all operations in-house." She shared images of the grinder on our Facebook page.



Elvira Regier Smid: "I made German Apple Cake: Short crust pastry, 1 kg of Manitoba apples, for the filling take 2 packages of a German brand of vanilla pudding and cook them with 3 cups of white wine! Bake time is very long: nearly 2 hours. Results were great. I found the recipe in my aunt’s collection, and the timing was perfect as the apples were ready to be picked."



Stephanie Thomas: "I made Canadian Living's Apple Spice Pudding Cake [pictured above]. It's the first time I have baked something in a slow cooker. I had some apples left over, so I made Apple and Smoked Gouda Beer Bread using cheddar instead of smoked gouda. The recipe is from the Ontario Apple Growers."



Mya Sangster: Tartes of Apples without covers, from A Book of Cookery Very Necessary for all such as Delight there in, gathered by AW, 1591.



Photos Below
  • Top left, Maya Love: "Apple and whole-wheat oatmeal cake made with apples from the tree growing right outside my kitchen window. The branches full of apples are up high, but our neighbour climbed a ladder to pick them for me. Recipe courtesy of Jill Wilcox, in The Londoner, September 16."
  • Top right, Jean Goldie: "My friend’s friend’s apples were the basis for this delicious apple pie!  Can hardly wait until it cools off enough to eat!"
  • Bottom left, Ellen Pekilis: "This is actually quite a meaningful dish for us. It’s a Rosh Hashanah Apple Cake. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. Tonight was the first night of the two-day celebration. We celebrate with apples and honey to wish for a sweet year. The cake picks up on that theme with apples and a really yummy caramelized topping."
  • Bottom right, Michael Gallant: "I love cooking and baking in vintage cast iron—this was an apple pie from last year, as we don’t orchard-pick until mid/late September. The skillet, originally from an old Ontario foundry, was purchased from a thrift store."
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


News from Taste Canada
Taste Canada has added a new Shop Local feature on their website to make it easier for Canadian readers to shop at their local bookstores. Cookbook lovers will now be able to explore Taste Canada Shortlist titles from 2018, 2019 or 2020 and click the Shop Local button to find a Canadian independent bookseller to purchase a copy.

Taste Canada's Ambassadors are individuals who have an incredible passion for Canadian cookbooks and a love for all things Canadian cooking. Each member also represents a different province within Canada to encompass best the vast variety of creative culinary minds this country has to offer.
  • Nicole Harling, Home Cook, Baker and Blogger
  • Joe Thottungal, Cookbook Author, Chef and Restaurateur
  • Fareen Jadavji-Jessa, Home Chef and Food Blogger
  • Michael Howell, Chef and Cookbook Author
  • Renee Kohlman, Cookbook Author
Also, Taste Canada is calling for content submissions (recipes, kitchen tips or short videos) from all shortlist authors, past and present, to be featured on their website during the 2021 awards' season and on social media channels.
 

Dan David Prize
The Dan David Prize is looking for early- and mid-career scholars who are active within and beyond the academy and who have made and will continue to make a significant contribution to the study of the past. It awards up to nine prizes of $300,000 each year in recognition of the winner’s achievements as well as their potential for future excellence. Nominations for the 2022 Prize are open until November 1; anyone can nominate, but self-nominations are not accepted.
 

Oktoberfest Heritage Luncheons
Monthly heritage luncheons are resuming at Hutchison House Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, beginning with Oktoberfest Heritage Luncheons (dine-in or takeout). These feature sausage, potato pancakes, roasted squash, sauerkraut and applesauce, with a plum kuchen (cake) for dessert, all for $20. The deadline to register is October 1!

Curbside pickup is on October 6 between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. In-person dining takes place on October 6 at noon or 1:30 p.m. There is limited seating, and proof of vaccination is required. For more information or to order a meal or book a table, contact 705-743-9710 or info@hutchisonhouse.ca.

 

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 sarah@culinaryhistorians.ca 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!)


Image courtesy of the Oxford Symposium, reprinted with permission.

CHC member Sher Hackwell of Vancouver recently attended the 40th annual (virtual) Oxford Food Symposium, a UK-based conference bringing together global thinkers in the culinary realm. She reports on it here:

Rather than a roster of celebrity chefs, the symposium invites international academics, experts and historians to present papers on myriad topics, like the foods of 17th-century French fairytales or food globalization and diversity. Margaret Atwood kicked off Day One with her engaging talk Fictional Foodies. Imagination was the 2021 theme, so clearly, anything was on the table.

It wasn't all academia; virtual cocktail parties were encouraged, as were immersive sessions—symposiasts were invited to create their version of a European TV dinner based on a performance artist's interpretation of the same.

As a first-time attendee, I observed the collaboration of an impressive group of accomplished culinarians. The 2021 Young Chefs' Collective was a standout, where early-career symposiasts presented innovative projects and works-in-progress.

The symposium demonstrated that food is more than reality shows and Insta foodporn; this robust and influential contingent of open-minded thinkers examined how food shapes and connects us and inspires change. As symposium presenter
Rob Hopkins of the Transition Network proposed, "food has the power for transition because people can relate to it."

Next up: 
OxSymp 2022—Portable Food: Food Away from the Table. In July 2022, the symposium will revert to St. Catz, Oxford, UK, with talk of a virtual component following 2021's online success. Meanwhile, you can attend their "Kitchen Table" webinars, like Time to Change the Plate: The Challenge of Communal Catering, which will be held on October 7 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. BST (1:00 to 2:30 p.m. EDT or 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. PDT).
 

Ottawa writer, historian and CHC member Suzanne Evans explores the stories of women, war and survival through the lens of food and community in her most recent book, The Taste of Longing. At 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 3, she will offer a virtual reading and discussion of her work in a Toronto Food Film Fest session moderated by CHC board member Fiona Lucas.

The Taste of Longing , which was featured in a CHC event earlier this year, tells how food memories in general—and The Five Roses Cook Book in particular—aided Ethel Mulvany, a Canadian POW in Singapore. It has been selected as Foreword INDIES 2020 Book of the Year Award (Biography Adult Nonfiction) and shortlisted by the Taste Canada Award (2021) and Ottawa Book Awards (2021).

Toronto Food Film Fest is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and showcasing thought-provoking independent films about food from around the world. The 2021 edition runs from Friday to Monday, Oct 1 to 4. Further information and tickets are available online.

3. Destinations

St. Edmunds Township Museum (Tobermory, Ontario)
Story & photo by Jane Black

St. Edmunds Township Museum consists of a two-story "one-room" schoolhouse, large maritime artifacts on the grounds, and a log cabin. The schoolhouse holds a multitude of exhibits: local artifacts, dioramas and displays. Exhibits cover pre-colonization to the more recent past with a special emphasis on the maritime history of the Bruce Peninsula.

Jacob and Agnes Belrose, with "help" from their toddler son Andrew, built the cabin in 1875. Among first settlers in St. Edmunds, their daughter Margaret was the first person of European descent born in the township. They continued to live in the cabin for the rest of their lives, raising eight children within the small space. Many of the artifacts in the cabin were donated by the Belroses' descendants. In 2014, some necessary renovations were performed to ensure structural safety.

Restored to the turn of the century, the kitchen (pictured below) hosts numerous artifacts, including a range of cast-iron pots, laundry implements and a butter churn. A small museum, it is worth the stop on the way to or from the Chi Cheemaun ferry. The museum is staffed by volunteers, and entrance is through donation from May to October.


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 elka.weinstein@utoronto.ca or Sarah Hood at sarah@culinaryhistorians.ca.

   
First Catch Your Gingerbread by Sam Bilton (Prospect Books, The English Kitchen series, 2021). Reviewed by Julia Armstrong (pictured above).

A collection to delight culinary historians and curious cooks alike. Bilton, who lives in Sussex, UK, has worked on projects with the National Trust and runs a historically themed supper club called Repast. A member of the
Guild of Food Writers, her expertise in food history and writing are evident in equal measure: this is a softcover book to enjoy in an armchair as much as a cookbook to use in the kitchen.

But a whole book on gingerbread? Well, I was surprised by the wealth of information (including detailed footnotes) and the number of recipes (more than 50). As Bilton explains, gingerbread has an extensive history; it has existed in various forms in Britain and throughout Europe for centuries. In the first third of the book, she shares the mysterious evolution of the spiced confection, ushering us from the ancient world’s use of spices to medieval banquets that included cakes of honey, breadcrumbs and spices to the introduction of treacle (molasses) as a byproduct of sugar production, resulting in the type of gingerbread we know today.

There are many delightful tidbits and tangents along the way. I was astonished to find out about the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 in Boston, when a production tank burst and sent two million gallons of molasses oozing through the streets! And I was intrigued to learn that in Britain “gingerbread has been synonymous with fairs for hundreds of years. It was considered good luck to eat a piece of gingerbread bought at a fair.”

While the book focuses on Britain—one of the country’s earliest known gingerbread recipes is from a 15th-century source­­­—Bilton touches on related spiced treats from elsewhere, including the French pain d’épice. The oldest version of gingerbread in Russia was shaped into  a “sun deer,” a reindeer with antlers resembling the sun’s rays; at winter solstice these were given as tokens of good fortune. German Christmas traditions have St. Nicholas appearing with a rod for naughty children and gingerbread for good ones. In the Netherlands, heart-shaped offerings were given as “edible love letters.” We also learn about elaborately carved molds for stamping dough and scholarly tracings of the origins of the gingerbread man.

Bilton sprinkles the text with literary mentions of gingerbread, from Shakespeare to Dickens. Many of the recipes in Part II also have extensive introductions with yet more interesting notes. This section is divided into Biscuits (i.e., Cookies), Wafers & Griddle Cakes; Bread & Yeasted Cakes; Savouries; Desserts & Sweetmeats, and Miscellaneous Recipes. All recipes are based on or inspired by historical sources, adapted by Bilton for modern kitchens. While many of the cookie variations, breads and desserts are enticing, I admit that the savouries did not appeal as much; examples are stews, terrines and salads that include crumbs of gingerbread or pain d’épice.

Unfortunately, I found many of the images disappointing and their colour muddied (unlike the appealing ones on Bilton’s blog, comfortablyhungry.com). While it is challenging to photograph so much dark food, the production team could have done more with styling and lighting.

Still, I recommend this book for its breadth, charming subject, and treasury of historical recipes made accessible. As in this peddler’s song (“Hot Spice Gingerbread!”, 1796), I now realize that “My gingerbread lottery is just like the world, / For its index of chances for ever is twirl’d.”

CHC is pleased to present a Zoom chat with author Sam Bilton on Sunday, October 17 at 1:00 p.m. EST. 
Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

   

Shelf Love: Recipes to Unlock the Secrets of Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi (Appetite by Random House, November 2021). Reviewed by Ivy Lerner-Frank (pictured above).

I’ll be honest: Ottolenghi doesn’t really do it for me. I’m always thinking that I’ll find the perfect recipe in his books, only to find that I don’t have a) all the ingredients, b) sufficient time, c) pots, or d) patience to pull it all off, even those which he calls simple. Enter Shelf Love

Written by Ottolenghi and his right-hand recipe developer Noor Murad, Shelf Love aims to answer the question “what’s for dinner?” Inspired by Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Persian traditions full of herbs and fresh flavours, the authors are supported by a team of predominantly female chefs, writers and food stylists from the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, including Tara Wigley, co-author of the award-winning Falastin: A Cookbook written by Ottolenghi’s other collaborator, Sami Tamimi. 

The book is divided into six sections: That one shelf in the back of your pantry (dried or canned beans, pulses and pastas); Your veg box, focusing on frugality, creativity, and mindfulness—using what’s on hand in whatever state it’s in; Who does the dishes, primarily one dish/pan/baking sheet meals; Fridge Raid, for spins on comfort food; The freezer is your friend, including frozen vegetables, pastry, seafood and fruits; and At the very end, desserts. I found that the complexity of the dishes increased with each chapter, but that could be a subjective interpretation. 

There’s a decided flavour profile to these recipes: zaatar, tahini, tamarind, sumac and preserved lemons feature prominently. But there are more than enough other savoury flavours to satisfy other palates. Beyond Potato Salad, a riff on Salade Olivieh, mixes potato mash with tarragon, nigella seeds and pickles, and the Smoky Marinated Feta adds a tasty component to anything from pasta to salads to an apéro spread. 

Helpful sidebars with each recipe feature tips, tricks and encouragement. There are do-it-ahead recommendations and substitution options, suggestions on how to “make it your own,” and technical tips on designing a cobb salad, grating tomatoes, and making gnocchi—with sumac onions and brown butter—from scratch. (The authors kindly include the advice to use shelf-stable store-bought, which would be my option.)

While some dishes were multi-step and required numerous bowls and plates in the preparation stage (for example, fish kofta and curried cauliflower cheese filo pie), most recipes are straightforward and use ingredients that one truly does have in the kitchen.

The volume is lavishly illustrated with photographs, including some step-by-step. There’s even an
Ottolenghi Test Kitchen YouTube site where Ottolenghi and Murad prepare dishes and ham it up onscreen, well worth the watch.

If you have been intimidated—or even annoyed—by the fussiness of other Ottolenghi books, this may be the one for you.


   
Acorn: Vegetables Re-Imagined, Seasonal Recipes from Root to Stem by Shira Blustein & Brian Luptak (Appetite by Random House, November, 2021). Reviewed by Maya Love (pictured above).

At the award-winning Vancouver restaurant The Acorn, vegetables are the center of attention and the focus of every dish. In their first cookbook, Shira Blustein and Brian Luptak—the owner and chef, respectively, share the restaurant’s truly unique plant-forward recipes that celebrate plants from root to stem. Acorn offers a year’s worth of seasonal recipes, and through creative preserving and pickling the most is made of each season to inspire us to enjoy the endless possibilities of vegetables.

Central to the cookbook is a discussion about some of the wild-crafted and foraged ingredients used in the recipes, including greens, herbs, mushrooms, vegetables, buds, blossoms and berries. Creating dishes with wild-crafted and foraged unique ingredients is part of the philosophy of The Acorn, connecting the recipes both to environment and seasonality.

At the beginning is an Essentials chapter full of curated recipes for pickles, ferments, vinegars, oils, preserves and plant-based alternatives. The fundamentals of dehydrating, fermenting, smoking, pickling and preserving techniques are explored, with an emphasis on recipes that are snapshots of the seasons. The recipe chapters themselves are structured by the season. Every recipe includes plating instructions, so your dishes will look just inviting as the color photographs shown.

Throughout the chapters, by including stories and photographs, the authors introduce us to the farmers, foragers, wineries, and distilleries they have built relationships with. The book concludes with a chapter on cocktails with a selection of The Acorn’s enticing alcoholic and creative nonalcoholic beverages, like an autumn iced tea made with rooibos. Base recipes are included for imaginative seasonal syrups, bitters and shrubs. Artisan sake master Masa Shiroki, whose community profile is featured in the cocktails chapter, created Oma-sake for The Acorn.

Acorn is a visually compelling cookbook offering us endless possibilities to explore vegetarian cooking with seasonal and wild-crafted ingredients gifted by nature. It is an inspirational cookbook that encourages us to be adventuresome with vegetables, and to incorporate unique ingredients found in nature and in our local farmers’ markets into our cooking. 

Review Contributors
  • Elka Weinstein (CHC book review editor, Toronto)
  • Julia Armstrong (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

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!

6. International Conferences

Compiled by Kesia Kvill

2022

February 11 to 12 (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
AMSTERDAM SYMPOSIUM ON THE HISTORY OF FOOD
Theme: Food and the Environment: The Dynamic Relationship Between Food Practices and Nature
Host: University of Amsterdam

May 30 to June 1 (Dublin, Ireland)
DUBLIN GASTRONOMY SYMPOSIUM
Theme: Food and Movement
CFP: From March to October 2021

June 23 to 28 (Tacoma, Washington)
ASSOCIATION FOR LIVING HISTORY, FARM AND AGRICULTURAL MUSEUMS ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Host: Fort Nisqually Living History Museum
Theme: The Future of the Past
CFP Deadline: December 15, 2021

July 8 to 10, through to July 31 (Oxford, UK, and online)
OXFORD FOOD SYMPOSIUM
Theme: Portable Food: Food Away from the Table
Host: St. Catherine's College, Oxford
CFP Deadline: January 31, 2022

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.
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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