Digestible Bits and Bites #103, November 2021

Digestible Bits and Bites

The monthly newsletter of the
Culinary Historians of Canada
Number 103, November 2021
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CHC member Ellen Pekilis's freezer is always full of homemade soups, so it's not surprising that she participated in our October soup and stew challenge. Here, a beef pho (a Vietnamese-style soup). See below for more comforting bowls of steamy goodness by Ellen and others.



  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


Welcome to our New Secretary!

After our AGM in September, the Secretary position was vacant. However, board member Susan Peters of Morrisburg, Ontario, who formerly filled the Outreach Char position, has stepped up to fill the vacancy, for which we are very grateful. The Outreach Committee will go on hiatus until pandemic recovery allows more groups to resume their normal roster of activities.

Susan has a background in both history and anthropology, with a long-held interest in material cultural and culinary history. This passion led her to become a tea sommelier, and a writer and educator in tea history. After 30 years of experience as a historical researcher, she has learned to look to many resources for evidence of culinary traditions. She is the archivist for the Dundas County Archives in rural eastern Ontario.

Mark Your Calendar!

CHC is working on a yummy roster of winter events:
  • November 17: The Real Story of the "First Thanksgiving" in 1621 (See news item, below.)
  • November: Baking for the Victorian Christmas Table – Plum Pudding & Mincemeat Tarts!: A reprise of our presentation with historic cook Sherry Murphy demonstrating recipes from Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for Private Families. (Information to follow.)
  • Sundays, December 5 & 12, 1 to 2 p.m.: Hearth Warming Stories (See news item, below.)
  • 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.

U.S. & Canadian Thanksgiving Event

At 7:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday, November 17, we're very pleased to be presenting an event called The Real Story of the "First Thanksgiving" in 1621 with author and CHC member John Ota.

As part of the research for his recent book The Kitchen, John travelled to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where he cooked a meal over an open fire with renowned pilgrim foodways historian Kathleen Wall. On the 400th anniversary of the Harvest Celebration Feast involving the New England colonists and the Wampanoag Indigenous people, John will share his experiences of the culinary history, architecture, cooking methods and dishes from the first Thanksgiving of 1621.

He will also talk about the history of Thanksgiving in Canada. John’s presentation will include over 100 visual images, recipes from 1621 and truths and misconceptions about this favourite holiday occasion. Admission: $19.10 (general). $11.34 (CHC members). Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

Hearth Warming Holidays Event!

At 1 p.m. EST on two successive Sundays, December 5 and 12, John Ota will host Hearth Warming Stories, Celebrating Some Canadian Winter Holidays, Zoom interviews with six Canadians about their favourite holiday traditions, memories and foods from six different provinces. Tickets will be available on Eventbrite soon.

Episode 1 (Sunday, December 5)
  • Chef, writer, comedian and CBC contributor Andie Bulman of St. John's on holiday fare in Newfoundland
  • A discussion of Hanukkah in Montreal with food historian and CHC member Kat Romanow and activist, mother and lawyer Sydney Warshaw, founders of the Montreal-based Jewish food history group The Wandering Chew
  • Edmonton native, Nanaimo resident, cook and cookbook collector Charlie Galan, chair of the
    Edmonton Historical Society, on festive West Coast foods
Episode 2 (Sunday, December 12)
  • CHC member Kesia Kvill, a PhD candidate in WWI foodways at University of Guelph, exploring holiday food in Norwegian Alberta
  • CHC member Lisette Mallet, president of the Société d'histoire de Toronto (Toronto Historical Association) on an Acadian Christmas in New Brunswick
  • Kristin Olafson-Jenkyns, author of The Culinary Saga of New Iceland: Recipes From the Shores of Lake Winnipeg (2020), describing foods of New Iceland in Manitoba

Don't Miss The List!

CHC issues its annual Membership Directory on January 1 of each year. Members in good standing are included in the directory and receive a copy. Be sure to join or renew your membership by midnight on Friday, December 17 in order to be included.

Membership for up to two people residing at the same address or members of the same organization is only $30 per year or $55 for two years. Other benefits of membership include:
  • Your monthly Digestible Bits & Bites e-newsletter
  • The annual Culinary Chronicles journal (new series)
  • Significantly reduced fees for most programs
  • Attendance and voting privileges at the AGM
  • Contribution toward annual sponsorship of Taste Canada’s Hall of Fame, recognizing key figures in Canadian food writing
  • Potential programs in development, such as members-only content on our website

First Catch Your Gingerbread Report

By Sylvia Lovegren

On Sunday, October 17, author Sam Bilton presented an entertaining and educational history of gingerbread, based on her new book from Prospect, First Catch Your Gingerbread. She tracked spiced honey breads or gingerbread-like cakes from early classical times and ancient Chinese conquerors to the bawdy 18th-century fairs in England where gingerbread was sold and the appearance of gingerbread in Dickens’s David Copperfield.

She also explored the idea that the idea of spicing ancient honey cakes came more from the pharmacy than from the kitchen; that is, spicing may have been medicinal rather than culinary and followed the shift from the use of honey to that of treacle (or molasses), and the immense social changes involved therein. Lovely illustrations added to the interest. An interesting Q&A followed the talk, and for those of us who have the book, Bilton highly recommended the Dickensian recipe for “gorgeous gingerbread” as one of her favorites. Ticket holders were given a recording of the presentation to review at their leisure.

CHC Publications

In case you missed the news, CHC has started to publish downloadable documents that can be purchased on our website with PayPal, credit card or Visa debit..
  • Culinary Chronicles: Occasional Papers of the Culinary Historians of Canada, New Series, Issue 1: The nine papers that comprise this 76-page issue were first presented by CHC at the Rural Women’s Studies Association Triennial Conference: $10 CAD including tax
  • Salt-Rising Bread: A scholarly, annotated and illustrated recipe handout including modern instructions, prepared by Fiona Lucas and based on Catharine Parr Traill’s Female Emigrant’s Guide: Cooking with a Canadian Classic, edited by Natalie Cooke and Fiona Lucas (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2017, pp. 344–47). Free
  • Baking for the Victorian Christmas Table: A recipe collection for contemporary cooks: A downloadable 21-page PDF booklet based on five years of hands-on workshops, containing a dozen modern interpretations of 18th- and 19th-century recipes for traditional holiday treats that would have been prepared in Canada during the Victorian period, including Mincemeat Tarts, Plum Pudding, Gingerbread, and Twelfth Cake. $8 CAD, including tax.

Potatoes at the Leslieville Farmers' Market in Toronto. Photo by Sarah Hood.

November Cooking Challenge: Potatoes & Rice

Chilly November calls for comfort foods; what's your go-to starch? Whether it's a paella, pilaf/pilau, latkes, potato bread or just plain mashed, we want your photos and comments! If you post pictures and comments with the hashtag #starch to our Facebook page before midnight on Thursday, November 25, we’ll feature you in our December newsletter.

Soup and Stew Challenge Report

CHC members and Facebook friends have been steaming up their kitchens this month with lovely pots of soup and stew!

Ellen Pekilis: "After years of food challenges, I figured out that my kid just doesn’t like what we consider “normal” western breakfast food. She hates most sandwiches too—but she loves homemade soup. Most days she has soup for breakfast in the morning and another flavour in a thermos for her school lunch. I have an entire soup shelf in my freezer downstairs with lunch-sized portions of different soups, so in the morning I just grab one out and defrost it.

"Sorry I can’t style the pictures nicely, but I literally reheat a container and put it on the table for her to eat before heading out the door for school. Last week’s breakfast included (above the title): squash soup with barley (barley is very popular); miso soup with tofu, spinach and udon noodles (above); beef pho (top of page); and sausage kidney bean (below), which is a real old-time favourite (it’s hit or miss if she’ll eat the kidney beans).  I do boil up the noodles fresh for the pho and the miso soup, because she says they get mushy when they’re frozen."

Mya Sangster: "In recipes for Lobscouse (below), the meat mentioned is either beef or lamb; the vegetables are potatoes, onions, carrots and swedes [aka rutabagas]. Some recipes also call for parsnips and leeks. According to Felicity Cloake, lobscouse is thought to have its origins in the simple cooking of Hanseatic sailors. Liverpool, an important seaport, became strongly connected with lobscouse. Liverpudlians are known as Scousers. Lobscouse is a traditional Welsh dish."

Wendy Diana: "It's called sour soup, jiaozi (below). It's really great. Please forgive my poor English. But I took pictures of how to make them persistently. If you want to taste it, you can ask me. I can help you." [Editor's note: jiaozi are Chinese dumplings and, yes, these do look delicious!]

Elka Weinstein: "Beet borscht (below) with Monforte fresco (memories of my Bubby)."

Chantal Véchambre: "Part one: On my mom's side. You could think of a winter soup, very hearty and invigorating. In fact, it is a traditional summer soup from Provence (below), made with seasonal vegetables: fresh white, red and green beans, tomatoes, zucchini and a little carrots and potatoes, all cut patiently in 'mirepoix', to which will be added a nice handful of macaronis (coquillettes). Seasoned, just before serving, so as not to lose the taste, with a paste (the pistou) made of basil, garlic and olive oil.

"Direct heir to the Italian minestra (and therefore the minestrone) of Genoese who once came to seek work in the southeast of France, where this soup has definitely taken root. And sprinkled with Parmesan of course. Each village, each chef, each family has made the recipe evolve over time, but its sunny spirit still reigns throughout Provence."

Pamela Capraru: "Beautiful, sunny fall weather here in Toronto yesterday, and it was stock-making day! Two huge pots on the stove (below). Five rotisserie chicken carcasses with skin and meat, five large Ziplocks of veggie trimmings, plus fresh carrot, celery, two large yellow onions, a head of garlic, chili flakes, thyme I dried myself, whole peppercorns, bay leaves from a friend’s garden in Crete, and ginger and turmeric root from another friend. I let it go all day and evening.

"Big job to cool, strain, bag, seal, and get it into the chest freezer. (One step at a time.) I drink it hot in the mornings like tea, with fresh lemon juice, a big spoonful of white miso paste, and scotch bonnet hot sauce mixed in. Also planning to make borscht from my great-aunt’s recipe. More Ukrainian style than Romanian—no added meat except for the chicken in the stock. And slow-cooker congee, which I’ve never made before, found a recipe on Epicurious."

Janna Costanzo: "Found in Grandma’s old cook book from 60s: roasted butternut squash soup (below) that melts in your mouth."


Alice Mac: "Soup soothes my soul. And chicken soup with homemade egg noodles is the best. Good chicken broth, meaty chunks of chicken, diced vegetables and homemade egg noodles is the recipe. Season to taste and serve with good bread. Our Community Kitchen group does a Soup Exchange every year. The premise is that you make half a dozen litres of soup and exchange each one for a different soup from someone else (below). We then share the recipes so that we can reproduce our bounty."

Joe Coleman: "I am a culinary professional with 25 years under my belt. Soup was the first thing I began to be noticed for, almost 20 years ago, while working in Banff. It was the only creative outlet I had in the kitchen in those days. Not only was it important to produce menu soups consistently day to day, but also to produce quality daily soup features. This forced me to look at food like a chef. It taught me how to look in a fridge for suitable odds and ends, to connect the dots, and to make soups that were delicious, presented nicely, and that did not look like a bowl of leftovers.

"Soups that are the result of purging produce from the fridge are fine at home, but they should not be an afterthought in a restaurant. It can be a basic purée soup with five ingredients, it can be incredibly technique-driven, like this consommé (below), or anything in between, just not an afterthought.

"Consommé is a dying art as more restaurants began to enjoy the convenience of bouillon cubes, powdered bases and pastes, causing stock production to fall to the the wayside. To transform a quality stock into a consommé, you begin by mixing raw ground meat (complimentary to the type of stock), egg whites, and a brunoise mirepoix before pouring the cold stock over this mixture and placing over a low flame. The protein in the ground meat, along with the albumen from the egg whites, begins to coagulate as the temperature climbs, eventually rising to the top of the pot. This is aptly referred to as the raft, which is a network of proteins that acts as a filter, trapping all impurities as the rise to the top of the pot as it very gently simmers.

"If the contents of the pot are allowed to reach a hard simmer (or heaven forbid a boil) the raft will break apart and the process must be started again, after you have strained and chilled the stock. When done correctly, the final product should have a clarity that would allow you to (in the words of one of my culinary instructors) read the year on a quarter at the bottom of a 20-litre cambro.

"With all this time put into your broth, consommés are typically not held hot as a soup, rather all garnishes are prepared separately before adding them to the bowl and gently pouring the consommé over top. This particular consommé I served for a chefs' table and was made from duck bones and garnished with duck confit, navy bean, celery root, heirloom carrot, a chiffonade of baby kale and radish sprouts. For added effect, I had the bowls placed in front of the guests with only the garnish before pouring the piping-hot consommé from teapots at the table, so that the guest would be hit with all the aromatics of the consommé as it is poured."

Beverly Kouhi Soloway: "This is a recipe I came up with about 30 years ago(!). My kids called it 'Italian Soup' (below)—I think because it has pasta in it, and we top it with an Italian cheese blend. So, even though my 'kids' are men, we still call it that—and I still make it the same way. It's sort of like a minestrone. I start with my own turkey broth, then add carrots, onions, green beans, corn and (at the end) spinach. A bit of tomato paste, some spices and herbs, and the best part of all: slices of locally made 'smokies'—a precooked smoked sausage. In the last 10 minutes, a small pasta-like macaroni is added. When it's dinner time, the soup bowl is sprinkled with Italian cheese ( a four- or six- cheese blend), then popped under the broiler.  'Italian' bread on the side for dipping is a must!"

Micheline Mongrain Dontigny: "Many members were very much interested about my recipe and post on salted herbs. I think you will like this Barley Soup with tomato and salted herbs (below) that I prepare with my salted herbs."

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
On Sunday, November 14, at 7 p.m. EST, the Taste Canada Awards Virtual Ceremony will premiere on the official Taste Canada Facebook page. Taste Canada Hosts, Shahir Massoud and Ariane Paré-Le Gal will announce the Gold and Silver winners for each category, recognizing the best of Canadian food writing published in 2020. The winners of the Taste Canada Cooks the Books student competition, presented by Canola Eat Well, and the Taste Canada Hall of Fame, presented by CHC, will also be announced.

This year's Cooks the Books Student Cooking Competition presented by Canola Eat Well is now underway. Students will use their recipe submission to highlight foods grown and produced in Canada while celebrating our country's unique diversity, as a way to embrace the 2021 competition theme, Canadian Focus with Global Influence.

Taste Canada has also added two new ambassadors: home cook and food blogger, Phuong Tran and chef and television personality Malaya Qaunirq Chapman.


Baroque Feast
At 7 p.m. EST on Wednesday, November 10, the renowned baroque musical ensemble Tafelmusik is presenting its first "Tafel Talks" session of the season. "Baroque Feast" is a conversation that explores the parallels between the musical and culinary arts while savouring the essence of all things baroque.

It features historian, writer and media producer Laura M. Carlson, host and producer of the award-winning culinary history podcast The Feast; pastrychef-turned-bartender Farzam Fallah, who has worked with Terra, Ruby WatchCo, Pizzeria Libretto and Richmond Station, and chef Samantha Medeiros of La Palma Restaurant. The discussion will be moderated by Tafelmusik violist Patrick G. Jordan. Admission: $15. Tickets are available online.


Royal Education Week
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is not being held in person this year; it is expected to return for a 100th-anniversary celebration in 2022. But in the meantime, The Royal is presenting The Royal Education Week, with free daily programming about food and farming:
  • Monday, November 1 – Virtual Field Trips to an Ontario Pig and Egg Farm
  • Tuesday, November 2 – The Royal Food & Nutrition Forum
  • Wednesday, November 3 – Ag & Food Virtual Career Fair
  • Thursday, November 4 – The Royal Education Symposium, with keynote speaker Bob Blumer (Zero Food Waste), Marianne Smith Edge (Exploring the Complexities of Sustainability From Farm to Fork) and Lucia Weiler & Sue Mah (Nutrition for Healthy Aging).
  • Friday, November 5 – Virtual Field Trips to an Ontario Turkey and Dairy Farm

Inaugural Museums Summit
Registration is now open for the in-person inaugural Museums/Musées Canada Summit 2022. It will take place in Kitchener-Waterloo from Sunday to Wednesday, January 16 to 19, 2022, and will focus on leadership, travelling exhibitions and the future of the industry, providing mentorship, networking and creativity through dialogue and professional development opportunities.  

Highlights include a tour of the Stratford Perth County Museum and a virtual presentation from Australia with keynote speaker Janet Carding, former CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum and Vice President of the CMA. A joint session with young professionals presenting a vision for the future for equity, diversity and inclusion at museums will be included in addition to a variety of other events.   

Admission, including full conference, two breakfasts, one lunch and a transit pass: $349 (established professionals); $279 (emerging professionals/students). Tickets are available online.


Prohibition History
On Sunday, November 21 at 4 p.m. EST, Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor present Prohibition and Repeal, a talk by Tammy Coxen, author of Cheers to Michigan and owner of Tammy's Tastings, about what people drank during and after Prohibition. Admission is free, but preregistration is required.

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!)

With pandemic guidelines loosening in Ontario, CHC founding member Liz Driver, curator at Toronto's Campbell House Museum, has invited CHC members Sherry Murphy and Mya Sangster to animate the historic kitchen for the public in costume. They'll be baking on the open hearth between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, November 10 and 24, and December 1, 8, 15 and 22. Check with Campbell House to confirm details before visiting.

CHC past president Carolyn Crawford is a contributor to The Rural Voice magazine, based in Blyth, Ontario. Her most recent story (only available to subscribers) is about Canadian War Cake.

CHC board member Sarah Hood was a guest with Preservation Society's web-based community on the app DEMI. It's a group of people with a passion for preserving, started by expert jam-maker Camilla Wynne, who has appeared at CHC events in the past. Sarah spoke about her most recent book, Jam, Jelly and Marmalade, A Global History.

3. Destinations

Camboose Cooking (Algonquin Park, Ontario)
Story & photo by Jane Black

The Algonquin logging museum in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park is a 1.3 km self-guided trail that starts at the staffed visitor station. The first step on this trail is the Camboose Camp.

The term camboose comes from the French word cambuse, which can mean the pantry of a ship or a hovel. The English camboose could be either the sand-and-stone firepit in the middle of the building, or the building itself. This reconstruction is for 52 loggers and a cook.

In the 1800s, few male settlers in Ontario and Quebec were able to financially sustain themselves solely though farming. With the harvests over and winter coming, many would pack up their belongings, say goodbye to wives and children and head out to the forestry camps. Each bunk slept four, with men doubling up on a single straw mattress. Blankets were provided, and men used their coats for pillows. They slept in their clothes, seldom washing more than hands and face during the logging season that lasted from October to March. Boots and socks dried out around the cooking fire at night. The remaining creature comforts inside the windowless building consisted of benches at the end of the bunk beds, a bread box, and the "van" box, a kind of tuck shop that men could buy tobacco and clothing from against their wages.

The camboose was very drafty, with cold air being sucked through the walls and out the hole in the ceiling above the fire. In the short winter daylight hours, lumbermen woke up in time to put their boots on, eat, and make it to the logging site where they would stay all day, not making their way back to the camboose until after sunset. The camp cook woke even earlier to ensure that the breakfast of beans, salt pork, bread and tea was ready for the men. Upon their return to the camboose, the men ate a dinner also consisting of beans, salt pork, bread and tea. The cook was assisted in his duties by a chore boy, whose responsibility was to keep the fire going all day and night.

In the Parry Sound North Star article “The Last of the Camboose Shanties" (July 4, 2017), John Macfie quotes a memory of Norman Cameron, born in 1894, where he recalled baking bread in the camboose: “The men all slept in the cookery, and it had a big four-foot hole in the middle of the roof. They had a big hole dug in the ground and filled with sand, and they had two stakes in here and an iron bar across, with hooks in it of different lengths for putting the pots close to the fire.

“Up in the woodshed here, I have an old bake kettle that I got beside that camp. An iron lid on it, and you bake your bread in it. Make a big fire of logs, pull the logs over to this side and make a hole in the hot sand, set the [kettle] in and cover it right over with sand. Bake that for one hour and 40 minutes—the bigger the kettle, the longer it would take. To be a good sand baker, you gotta know just how much dough to put in, so it would [rise] up to the lid and no more. If the bread raises too high, it’ll lift the lid and let sand in on your bread.”

Sand and ash were common additions to the food; however, despite the consistent menu, unwashed peers, and bare-bones lifestyle, the guide book assures readers that many men enjoyed their time spent eating and sleeping in the cambooses. Admission is free with park admission.

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

Food for Thought will return next month.

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


February 11 to 12 (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Theme: Food and the Environment: The Dynamic Relationship Between Food Practices and Nature
Host: University of Amsterdam

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

June 23 to 28 (Tacoma, Washington)
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)
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)
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. 
The Culinary Historians of Canada would like to share this digest with a wide audience. You are encouraged to post or forward this information. 


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