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Digestible Bits and Bites #101, September 2021

Digestible Bits and Bites

The monthly newsletter of the
Culinary Historians of Canada
Number 101, September 2021
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Welcome to the bounty of autumn! This illustration comes from a botanical compendium created by Bavarian apothecary Johann Wilhelm Weinmann (born in Saxony in 1683). It shows greengages, wild blue plums, golden gages and the small red cherry plums known as myrobalan. For more information, see the book review section, below.

 

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


ZOOM In for Our Virtual Annual General Meeting

The Culinary Historians of Canada are looking forward to meeting our members at our Annual General Meeting again, virtually! All members will receive an email with Zoom log-in information a week before the meeting. Like last year, we plan to arrange for friends of CHC to be able to watch the meeting online via Facebook Live.

Our guest speaker will be the exuberant John Ota on “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.

All 2021 memberships expire on the day before the AGM; only members in good standing may stand for board membership, elect board members and vote on official matters that may arise. Please renew your membership by clicking the link to our membership application and renewal page as soon as possible. Membership is still only $30 for one year (or $55 for two years). If you are not sure of your membership status, please contact Membership Chair Judy Chow at membership@culinaryhistorians.ca.

Join Us!

We are looking to expand the CHC board. Will you join us? Our President is stepping down, so the position will be vacant. The Treasurer position is open for election, although the incumbent is standing again. We welcome volunteers from any part of the country to offer even a few hours a year to one of our committees (Membership, Programming, Communications, Education, Outreach, Publicity, Refreshments and Volunteers). To express interest, please contact info@culinaryhistorians.ca.

All AGM materials will be posted to the Upcoming Events section of the CHC website. For further information, or to find out about board vacancies, contact info@culinaryhistorians.ca.
 

NEW EVENT! 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 p.m. ET. 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.

 

Apples from A Cornucopia of Fruit and Vegetables (see book review, below).

August–September Cooking Challenge: Apples
We’re taking a month off from cooking challenges, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Since we’ve had such an enthusiastic response to our rhubarb and berry challenges, we offer you a similarly seasonal proposition for August and September: apples (and yes, crabapples count!).

Do you grow them or pick your own? Do you make killer crabapple jelly, applesauce or apple chutney? Do you roast apples with pork? Do you bake apple pie ... cake ... muffins ... Tarte Tatin? Press juice or cider? Or maybe just try a tasting of unusual varieties? Let us know! If you post pictures and comments to our Facebook page before midnight on Friday, September 24, we’ll feature you in our October newsletter.
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




Royal Fair Competitions ... Coming Soon!
The 2021 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair will not take place in person this year, but the Royal Food Competitions will go ahead! Now's your chance to show off all the gardening and baking skills you’ve picked up over the past year. With record-breaking entries in 2020, the competition is hotter than ever. Deadlines and details on how to enter this year’s edition, including competition books, are available on the RAWF website.
 

Cookbooks Galore!
The University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) library has just uploaded its 150th digitized cookbook! The library has been in the process of digitizing cookbooks from the Newman Western Canadian Cookbook Collection, which was established in 2015 and has grown to more than 2,000 titles. You’ll find examples of cookbooks from local church and ladies’ groups, company promotional pamphlets, utility company cookbooks, and community and philanthropic organization cookbooks.

All titles are openly available and are housed in UFV’s institutional repository, HarvestIR. Click here to access the collection. The library also posts a recipe of the week from the digitized collection; connect with UFV Library on Facebook and Twitter to follow along.
 

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!)



CHC president Carolyn Crawford has started writing for The Rural Voice, which calls itself "the magazine of agricultural life" for its Ontario community. Her first article is about the true definition of chili sauce, and she offers a recipe, as follows.

Destinations



Lunchtime in the One-Room Schoolhouse
Story & photos by Jane Black

The month of September marks the return to school. For some students, this is an eagerly awaited time; others dread the loss of the freedom and fun of the summer months; and many have mixed feelings. Across Canada, many one-room high schools serve as museums capturing the pedagogical experiences of times gone by, from Mount Hanley School Section Number 10 in Nova Scotia to the Verdun School of Alberta, which boasts an attached teacherage.

In some remote or rural areas of Canada, the one-room schoolhouse is still in operation. Keewaytinook internet High School (KiHS), for example, operates classrooms in 15 First Nation communities, 12 of them so remote that they are only accessible by air. Connected by internet, these classrooms offer students the opportunity to receive a quality education in their own communities. Ranging in size from the double classroom in Fort Severn to the converted boardroom in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, most classrooms are inside portables.

While almost all students in the KiHS communities go home for lunch, cooking in these classrooms takes place as part of an overall nutrition program. In some cases, students are provided with breakfast foods such as oatmeal, cereal, toast, and coffee or tea. At other times, they receive more substantial meals, such as tuna casserole or moose stew. In Fort Severn, Labrador tea made from locally foraged leaves is often found on the stove in the mornings. Most of these classrooms have a full-sized fridge and stove, while a few make do with toaster ovens, microwaves and electric appliances. The kitchen area is also important as food preparation is a required element of many courses.

The modern conveniences of a KiHS classroom are a stark contrast to the facilities of the early one-room schools, like Brocksden school, outside Stratford, Ontario. Built in 1853, it is a preserved example of the many one-room schoolhouses that used to dot the rural countryside. Erected on a fieldstone foundation with red brick inside a beam frame, it was originally covered with grey board-and-batten and trimmed with black paint, the state to which it has been restored to today.

Inside, the walls were a dark green lime plaster with pine wainscotting and floorboards. Part of the front wall was black plaster. A four-light chandelier and oil-lamp sconces provided light for evening events, and heat came from the black-box stove. A basement was added in 1946. In 1967, it opened as a museum restored to circa 1910, with many artifacts original to the school located and returned.

Student lunches at Brocksden changed considerably over its 113 years as a school for the descendants of Highland Scots and Hessen Darmstadt Deutsch settlers. Lunch suggestions for students attending the museum for a day of 1910 schooling include sandwiches made with sliced beef, pork, ham, sausage or headcheese. Jams could include strawberry, raspberry or currant. Hard-boiled eggs were also popular. For dessert: homemade cookies or fruit such as apples, pears, peaches or plums. If a beverage was brought, it was likely milk, apple juice or apple cider. Students could also drink water from the well. At times, a hot stew was prepared for the classroom. It was a real "potluck," with students contributing different items such as root vegetables.



By the time Brocksden closed in 1966, more processed foods such as peanut butter and bologna were apparent in students’ lunchboxes, which were often decorated with popular television characters. An older lunchbox from around 1910 on display at Brocksden features a separate container for drinks. A manufactured lunchbox was rare as most of the students who used a container repurposed old honey cans: they were the right size and came with a handy handle. Other students brought their lunches wrapped in a piece of cloth or in a basket.

Owned and operated by the Easthope Historical Group, Brocksden operates a program for students so that classes can come and experience a day in the life as an early settler child. Otherwise admittance is through appointment and by donation.

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.

   

A Cornucopia of Fruit and Vegetables: Illustrations from an Eighteenth-Century Botanical Treasury by Caroline Ball (Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, July 2021). Reviewed by Sarah Hood (pictured above).

Here's a book that offers sheer sensual pleasure while also serving as a useful resource for botanical scholars. Caroline Ball has produced an informative text to accompany this delectable reprint of illustrations from a lavish botanical compendium called Phytanthoza Iconographia, produced in the 1730s by Bavarian apothecary Johann Wilhelm Weinmann.

The quality of the drawings is precise but alluring. They benefit from 18th-century advances in colour printing—in fact, the Phytanthoza Iconographia may have been the first volume ever to use an innovative colour mezzotint printing technique that offers pleasingly soft hues and delicate ombré shading with vivid pops of bright reds and purples where they are required.

These illustrations were the basis for the decoration of the Brülsche Allerlei, an astonishing 2,000-piece dinner service commissioned in the 1740s by Count Heinrich von Brühl from the Meissen porcelain factory.

For the researcher, Weinmann's book is an informative catalogue of edible plants known in Europe at the time, including imports like jackfruit, Buddha's hand citron and pineapple. It's a handy reference that shows, for instance, that the orange carrot had not yet become the standard (instead, purple, white and yellow carrots were eaten). Interestingly, it slightly predates Linnean taxonomy, so each plant is given a long Latin descriptive name instead of the standard genus and species names we have become familiar with.

For most of us, though, this book is simply a (modestly priced) visual treat, suitable for curling up with on a September evening with a hint of the coming cooler weather in the air.

   

Well Seasoned: A Year’s Worth of Delicious Recipes by Mary Berg (Appetite by Random House, October 2021). Reviewed by Elka Weinstein, pictured above.

As a follow-up to Kitchen Party (2019, reviewed in Digestible Bits & Bites by this reviewer), this new cookbook by Mary Berg (MasterChef Canada winner and CTV favourite) definitely makes the grade. Featuring Berg's usual homemade comfort food with a twist—usually a French or European take on a North American favourite, the cookbook’s focus is on cooking in a seasonal-ish way, using local ingredients readily available in grocery stores, at farm markets and at roadside stands.  

The book is organized by season and presents recipes from "breakfast through dinner" and "snacks, sides, sweets and sips." Spring features recipes that are “crisp, light and lively"; Summer is “bright, fresh and classic"; Autumn is the time for “cozy, hearty, and nostalgic"; and Winter’s recipes are “rich, savory, and celebratory.” Although I find this conceit a bit forced for every chapter, the recipes themselves seem quite delicious and, as in Kitchen Party, most are not too difficult for an aspiring home cook. The first chapter on ingredients, equipment and everyday tips will be helpful for those who never learned how to make French pastry, and easily obtainable substitutes for fancy restaurant ingredients are suggested and used in the recipes.  

As with Kitchen Party, Well Seasoned has beautiful food styling and cute pictures of Berg and her husband (Aaron) eating the foods she has prepared. My favourite photo, which accompanies “Baked Meatballs with Pesto and Ricotta,” features Mary and Aaron re-enacting the painting American Gothic. All the dishes are accompanied by a little story about ingredients and how they came to be used in the recipe, and by stories about why Berg chose the recipe, and how it is related to her family’s food history. 

Just as a reminder, Mary Berg is from Pickering, Ontario, and is the first MasterChef Canada winner to host her own cooking show, Mary’s Kitchen Crush. The show premiered on CTV in 2019 and won several Canadian Screen Awards in 2020 and again in 2021. As a bonus for fans of her unique style, Mary Berg will be hosting a new show, Mary Makes It Easy, on CTV’s Life Channel in 2021. 

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

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

2021
 
September 7 to 10 (Rome, Italy)
INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR RESEARCH INTO EUROPEAN FOOD HISTORY
Theme: Eating on the Move (19th–21st Centuries)
Host: Roma Tre University

September 16 (virtual)
ALBERTA MUSEUMS ASSOCIATION 2021 CONFERENCE SERIES
Theme: Reconciliation, Inclusion, Community, and Innovation
Host: Alberta Museums Association

October 28 to 30 (Copenhagen, Denmark)
ELEVENTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FOOD STUDIES
Theme: Making Sense from Taste: Quality, Context, Community
Host: Aarhus University

Note: Blended digital and in-person

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
CPF Deadline: September 15, 2021

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. 
 
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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