Digestible Bits and Bites #104, December 2021
Digestible Bits and Bites
CHC member Chantal Véchambre prepared this kedgeree for our November potatoes / rice challenge. "I found the idea in the popular Downton Abbey," she writes. "It looks like they eat this dish for breakfast. For the next few days, my kitchen is embellished with a sweet curry-cardamom-nutmeg flavour in addition to a strong smell of smoked fish. In my humble opinion, this dish is much more than a common “starch” but a rich direct heritage of the British colonial Indian era. It still seems to be a hit in many British dining rooms: rice, blend of spices, caramelized onions, smoked fish, eggs, parsley. Some recipes mention anchovies and capers. Not only colourful; very tasteful too."
CHC News & Upcoming Events
News & Opportunities
Food for Thought (book reviews)
Events of Interest
1. CHC News and Upcoming Events
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 seven Canadians about their favourite holiday traditions, memories and foods from six different provinces. Admission: $19.10 for one event or $32.04 for both (general); $11.34 for one or $18.59 for both (CHC Members). Tickets are available on Eventbrite.
Episode 1 (Sunday, December 5)
Episode 2 (Sunday, December 12)
- 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
- 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
Baking for the Victorian Christmas Table: Now on Video!
CHC has just issued the video version of the fifth edition of our Baking for the Victorian Christmas Table: Plum Pudding & Mincemeat Tarts, a beautiful presentation filmed at Montgomery’s Inn in Etobicoke, Ontario, featuring CHC board member and historic cook Sherry Murphy demonstrating recipes from Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for Private Families.
The video includes a link to an extensive downloadable recipe booklet containing ten historical and traditional recipes (original text and modern interpretations) for Christmas Pudding, Mincemeat Tarts, Raspberry Sauce, Plum Cake, Gingerbread, Queen Cakes and Mackeroons. Admission: $23 (general); $18 (CHC members). No GST/HST applies. It's available for download from our website.
Mark Your Calendar!
CHC is working on a yummy roster of winter events:
- Saturday, January 15, 2022, 1 to 2:30 p.m. EST: Salt-Rising Bread Workshop: An introduction to a unique and now-vanished North American technique. Author and baker Genevieve Bardwell will not only show us how to make salt-rising bread, but also share some of the rich traditions and history around its creation and continued survival. Admission: $19.10 (general); $11.34 (CHC members). Tickets are already available on Eventbrite.
- 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: Last Chance!
This is your last chance to contribute to our ongoing CHC project Just A Bite: Summer Food Memories of Ontario Seniors (or “JaB”, as we call it). Your Just a Bite team, Samantha George, Fiona Lucas, Jennifer Meyer, Sherry Murphy and Carolyn Crawford, has been receiving many fascinating completed questionnaires from individuals across the province. We have received recipes, photos and numerous interesting anecdotes that will form an amazing collection of Ontario summer-food memories for generations of culinary historians to come.
Though the deadline has passed, if they act quickly, seniors 65 and over can still send us their filled-out questionnaire. We encourage all interested parties to take advantage of this one last opportunity to be included in the project. Do it now before it’s too late! Here are the links for the questionnaire:
If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We await your summer food memories; happy summer-food reminiscing!
CHC Call for Papers
Be part of Culinary Chronicles: Occasional Papers of the Culinary Historians of Canada: Forgotten Foods and Flavours. Foods and flavours fill our plates, our senses and our imaginations. An errant whiff of spice transports the memory to a long-gone cozy kitchen. A radio jingle instantly recalls a favourite childhood cereal. A jellied salad at a funeral commemorates a dearly departed aunt. An inherited handwritten recipe card recalls a celebratory occasion of long ago. A grandfather's bitter comment reveals an unknown food scarcity. From such moments come personal insights.
Culinary techniques rejected but now reclaimed. Mysterious ingredients utilized by historical cooks. Cookbooks rescued by republication. Restaurants now the subject of historical plaques. Street foods from distant cities and cultures absorbed into very different multicultural suburbs. From such acts of remembrance emerge scholarly investigations.
CHC seeks papers both personal and scholarly for inclusion in the second issue of Culinary Chronicles: Occasional Papers of the Culinary Historians of Canada. The theme is “Forgotten Foods and Flavours.” Your subject can be familial, local, regional or global; your tone can be nostalgic or critical or investigative—provided you see through a Canadian lens.
You might memorialize a grandmother’s recipe or recall a personal Proustian moment. Perhaps you are involved in a community project reviving some forgotten cooking technique. If you are a PhD candidate, you could summarize your investigation into food trends of an earlier decade or generation.
What are your first memories of encountering pizza, avocado, falafel, jerk, spaghetti, perogy, Yorkshire pudding, dim sum, kiwi, moose mouffle, burfi, teriyaki, tikka masala? Are you embracing foods your Indigenous grandparents were forced to forget? If your ancestors came as settlers to Canada, did they bring their food traditions or neglect them as part of the willing or unwilling assimilation process? Are you reclaiming the foodways heritage of your Punjabi, Jamaican, Bolivian, Kenyan or Ukrainian ancestors?
Final papers can be from 500 to 5,000 words, plus full endnotes instead of a bibliography. Recipes and images are welcome. Student papers are welcome. All communications should be directed to Fiona Lucas at email@example.com.
- Proposals: February 1
- Acceptance by CHC: February 15
- Submission of papers: May 1
- Publication: October 1
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. Join or renew on our website. (If you're not certain of your current membership status, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 and products
- 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
RAWF Heritage Preserving Winners
Each year, CHC sponsors the Heritage Jam and Pickling categories at the Preserving competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Entries must be based on recipes that are at least 50 years old. This year's judges were Judi Kingry and Jon Brown.
Jon says that "to see the 'historic' recipes resurrected from darkened pages on dusty shelves, well worn and loved ingredient cards and dog-eared pages from long-lost magazines was truly uplifting and a marvel to the taste buds. All that was old can be new again with a little encouragement and perhaps a republished cherished family recipe."
Judi writes that "involvement in RAWF preserves contests has been an enduring passion for me for the past couple of decades. The opportunity to see and evaluate remakes of historical favourites was new to me and a great privilege."
Heritage Jam (Amateur)
- Heritage Jam Champion: Calico Peach Pineapple Conserve by Gryphon Ridge Highlands, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (from a handwritten family recipe passed down through at least three generations)
- Heritage Pickle Champion: Icicle Pickles by Craig Steven, St. Thomas, Ontario (from a friend's mother's handwritten recipe in use for over 60 years)
Heritage Jam (Professional)
- Pineapple Jam by Louise Patteson, Cambridge, Ontario
- Raspberry Jam by Sue Hilborn, Woodstock, Ontario (from The Canadian Cookbook)
Heritage Pickle (Amateur)
- Calico Peach Pineapple Conserve by Gryphon Ridge Highlands, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario
- Cranberry and Pear Jam by Henderson Farms, Wolfe Island, Ontario
- Black Currant Jam by Marjorie Paddle, Kingston, Ontario
- Cranberry Fig Jam by Gryphon Ridge Highlands, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario
- Strawberry Rhubarb Pineapple Jam by Marjorie Paddle, Kingston, Ontario
- Elderberry Jam by Joanne Holt, Guelph, Ontario
- Raspberry Jam by Wendy Mahoney, Warkworth, Ontario
- Black Currant Jam by Joanne Holt, Guelph, Ontario
Heritage Pickle (Professional)
- Icicle Pickles by Craig Steven, St. Thomas, Ontario
- Grammy's Beets by Ben Hatcher, Peterborough, Ontario
- Kosher Dill Pickles by Sarah Modesto, Etobicoke, Ontario
- Bread and Butter Pickles by Rodger J. Beatty, St. Catharines, Ontario
- Holiday Mustard Pickles by Ben Hatcher, Peterborough, Ontario
- Bread & Butter Pickles by Wendy Mahoney, Warkworth, Ontario
- Icicle Pickles by Marjorie Paddle, Kingston, Ontario
- Slippery Jacks by Marjorie Paddle, Kingston, Ontario
- Icicle Pickles by Joanne Holt, Guelph, Ontario
The Nimji family attended the Taste Canada awards virtually.
Taste Canada Hall of Fame 2021
The Taste Canada Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Canada. As they have for the past several years, Fiona Lucas and Liz Driver co-presented the Hall of Fame awards at the Taste Canada virtual gala in November. (Fiona is co-founder of the Culinary Historians and Liz Driver was the first inductee in recognition of her extraordinary achievement in 2008 in publishing Culinary Landmarks: A Bibliography of Canadian Cookbooks, 1825–1949.)
The Hall of Fame celebrates the personalities who have shaped Canadian culinary writing and made a lasting contribution to our culture through their influential and inspirational cookbooks. Collectively, these authors’ stellar books or bodies of work have had a durable impact on understanding the evolution of our unique Canadian cuisine.
Although this year’s inductees, Noorbanu Nimji and Bonnie Stern, have very different cultural backgrounds, they share a love for teaching cooks to make flavourful family foods. Taste Canada and CHC are very happy to induct them into the Hall of Fame.
Noorbanu Nimji was born in Kenya in 1934 into an educated, entrepreneurial Ismaili Muslim family originally from Gujarat, India. When she married at 19 she couldn’t cook yet, but she quickly demonstrated talent. In 1974 the Nimji family settled in Calgary.
Noorbanu’s unintentional cooking career began while teaching Ismaili recipes to homesick students. Her four cookbooks, collectively entitled A Spicy Touch, have been called “community connectors.” Volume one was published in 1986, followed by the others in 1992, 2007 and 2015. The last was subtitled Family Favourites from Noorbanu’s Kitchen, and was cowritten with Karen Anderson.
Over 250,000 A Spicy Touch books have been sold. Noorbanu’s cooking embraced her North Indian ancestral roots, her East African upbringing and its British colonial influence, and her life in urban Alberta. Noorbanu died in 2020, but her self-published Canadian cookbooks have preserved the oral culinary culture of the dispersed Gujarati-Kenyan Ismaili people in Canada and beyond.
The Nimji family writes: "Everything our Mother did was out of love for helping others. She was very humble and would have been completely surprised and delighted by this recognition. We are very grateful to Taste Canada and the Culinary Historians of Canada for sharing her legacy of absolutely dependable and delicious Indian recipes with people who might not have otherwise known about A Spicy Touch."
Bonnie Stern needs no introduction to Canadians. Chances are you cook out of at least one of her 12 cookbooks. Her first was 1987’s Bonnie Stern’s Cook Book, and her twelfth was Friday Night Dinners, which highlights her Jewish heritage.
In between were her four famous and best-selling Heart Smart cookbooks and Bonnie Stern’s Essentials of Home Cooking, winner of an International Association of Culinary Professionals award in 2004. In 1971, Bonnie was an early graduate from the George Brown College chef school. She soon launched her career by opening a cooking school, which operated for 37 years, but she also wrote a national newspaper column and hosted three national television cooking shows. In a 2016 TEDx talk, she summarized her life of communicating flavourful everyday cooking by introducing herself as “a home cooking warrior.”
December Cooking Challenge: Holidays!
Our challenge for December comes in the form of a request to peek into your kitchen to see what you're cooking up for the winter holidays to come (or those recently past). Whether it's tourtière or turrón, kutya or kugel, sufganiyot or snickerdoodles, plum pudding or panettone, we want to see what you're dishing up.
For inspiration, you might enjoy having a look at Canadian Cookbooks Online on our website, where you'll find links to scores of Canadian cookbooks of the past. If you post pictures and comments with the hashtag #holidays to our Facebook page before midnight on Sunday, December 19, we’ll feature at least one of your entries in our January newsletter.
Clearly as the weather gets chillier, our thoughts turn to our comforting starchy friends. We asked CHC members and Facebook friends to share favourite potato or rice dishes, and the response was thrillingly eclectic.
Potatoes and Rice Challenge Report
Chantal Véchambre: Bisteu, a.k.a. Tourte Picarde (pictured above). "Trust them, French are very quickly to jump into a harsh debate when it comes to an ancestral recipe, mostly about the ingredients, according to the side of the street or the culinary habits of their grand-grandmother … Anyway, I would say that there are potatoes in all regions of France, but potato pie only in some of them, preferably in the centre and north of France: Limousin, Picardie, Berry, Bourbonnais (which claims to be the mother of all French potato pies). I opted for Picardie (which [has] the noun of Bisteu, after the ancient local language meaning the brown bread made then). So, some existential questions for you: puff pastry, thin dough or brioche dough? Raw or already cooked potatoes before baking? Mashed or sliced potatoes? Thin or large slices? Parsley or chives? Onion or not? Pork belly or ground pork? Even the presence of cream and eggs is not a consensus. Life is not so easy in the kitchen sometimes. 😂
Well, let's taste...."
Beverly Kouhi Soloway: "I came across a 1992 local fundraising cookbook with a recipe for Sleeping Giant Potatoes. As a Thunder Bay resident, I knew I had to try these! They are a play on chateau (turned) potatoes, which do look like little Sleeping Giants (our iconic rock formation). I think Chef Matthews is still with our local college, turning out more delicious dishes! I served my potatoes with sour cream on the side for dipping into, and they were so delicious."
Mya Sangster: "'To scallop potatoes'. I used Charlotte Mason's recipe." (The Lady's Assistant for Regulating and Supplying the Table, originally published in 1775)
Alice Mac: "I make what we call potato 'Haystacks': Grate starchy potatoes, sprinkle with a little salt, and let any excess water drain off. Heat your favourite fat or oil in a pan—I use duck fat—and drop fingerfuls of potatoes into the fat. This is where they resemble haystacks. Fry one side until brown, Turn and fry the other side until brown. Drain off any excess oil and serve. #delicious"
Stephanie Thomas: "Tonight I made Savoury Potato, Mushroom and Leek Pizza. The recipe is from Foodland Ontario."
Jodi Robson: "Pan-fried in the good ol' cast-iron skillet, served with bannock and fried eggs. (Pan fried hotdogs requested by my daughters)."
Miki Uhlyarik: "This, after rough-chop wedged, extra virgin olive oil, salt, oregano, freshly ground pepper and sweet paprika, goes into the 450°F oven for 42 minutes. I catch you with catchup near it, I kill you!"
Elvira Regier Smid: "Persian jewelled rice! Made for me by a friend: partially cooked basmati rice is finished on a bed of sliced potatoes that become crispy in the process and are served around the rice. The topping is barberries, candied orange peel, pistachios, almonds and saffron. Delicious!"
Jennifer Meyer: "Lugaw is a hearty rice Filipino porridge/soup. Like most dishes my mother taught me, a recipe is never used. This is what many generations of Filipino mothers have made for their family when they are feeling under the weather. The seasoning is garlic, onion, ginger, saffron, patis (fish sauce), salt and pepper to taste. Chicken is the main protein, but boiled eggs often garnish the top. Other typical garnishes are fried garlic and green onion; however, like all Filipino dishes, the cook personalizes based on region, personal taste and availability of ingredients."
Cori Horton (a.k.a. Food Gypsy): "One of my favourite classic French potato dishes, Tartiflette! This recipe is so good, it was picked up by the Food Network. It makes the whole house smell like cheese!" ❤️
- Left: Sarah Galvin: "By coincidence I tried a new potato recipe yesterday: Fondant Potatoes. Yummy."
- Right: Corinne Murphy: "Gosh! Just mention the word “potatoes” around here, and Murphys are running from all directions. 😉 One of our faves after mashed with butter, milk, cream, cream cheese and chives? 😍 Well, that would have to be air-fried in our snappy new Ninja 5-in-1 grill. A bit of canola oil, steak spice, and potatoes—roasted to crispy, golden-brown perfection … ah, now that’s a bit of heaven right here on earth. 🥰 A bit of soft crunch on the outside followed by a soft, buttery interior? Slam dunk. 🤗 Sláinte! ☘️ Cheers!"
- Left: Juanita Andrews: "Homage to my Ukrainian mother's potato pancakes. Mine have been updated with the addition of several carrots and a couple of parsnips to the potato mix. Cooked in the oven on parchment paper."
- Right: Sherry Murphy: Potato focaccia bread with rosemary & parmigiana.
- Left: Sherry Murphy: "I made an Italian dish (Potato Gnocchi). It was a favourite dinner with a plain tomato sauce or alfredo sauce, especially during WWI and WWII, when meat was rationed. Now it is still a treat; very filling!"
- Right: Kate Hamilton: English-style roast potatoes are my fave starch. So simple but delicious. The secret is to parboil, then shake them in the pot to beat them up a bit. Meanwhile, heat your oil up in the oven for a few minutes. Carefully place potatoes in hot oil and liberally season (I like Old Bay, which is completely non-traditional). They come out perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy in the centre. I paired with brisket pot roast. They aren’t fancy or IG-worthy, but they are divine."
- Left & right: Nancy L. Foster: Potato/zucchini latkas with sour cream & applesauce and kedgeree ("my first attempt. Too spicy, and shrimp and trout instead of smoked fish. I see smoked oysters next time.")
- Left: Kelley Teahen: "Potatoes and pasta in my mother's periheh—most of you will call them "pierogi". Here's the recipe, which I will make closer to Christmas.
- Right: Stacey Clark-Sproule: "Here's the 'before' photo, when they were a bit more colourful: Russian Blue potatoes we dug up in our garden on the weekend. They were lovely just boiled with butter! (When cooked they are a bit paler, a more uniform lavender colour.)"
CHC Facebook friend Lyle Beaugard really went to town this month, submitting no less than eight photos of rice or potato dishes he'd whipped up! Here they are:
- Top row: Vegetable biryani with cashews & raisins (left) and Jambalaya (right). Lyle writes: "I've been a huge fan of Cajun and Creole food since I bought my first copy of Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen over 35 years ago."
- Second row: Local eggs & sausages on a tattie scone (left)—"possibly the best use for leftover mashed potatoes" and twice-baked, olive-oil rubbed & salted russet potatoes, stuffed with butter, sour cream & pickled garlic scape mash, topped with horseradish cheddar (right)
- Third row: Poutine with fresh-cut fries, duck gravy & local curds (left) and potato rösti, "which I often make for our weekend breakfast"
- Bottom row: Homemade potato gnocchi with bison Bolognese (left) and homemade Yukon Gold potato, old cheddar & caramelized onion perogies (right)
|Join the Culinary Historians of Canada!
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2. News and Opportunities
Taste Canada Winners
On Sunday, November 14, at 7 p.m. EST, the Taste Canada Awards Virtual Ceremony honoured 2020's best cookbooks written by Canadian authors, including 19 gold and silver award winners in English and French, as well as the Taste Canada Hall of Fame inductees, sponsored by CHC (see news item above).
The annual ceremony brought together culinary ambassadors from across the country, writers, publishers, chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, industry, media and cookbook fans to promote a vibrant national conversation about food and the art and culture of culinary writing. The full ceremony is available online.
2021 Taste Canada Award Winners (English)
(Links, where supplied, connect to previous book reviews in Digestible Bits & Bites.)
2021 Taste Canada Award Winners (French)
- Culinary Narratives
- Gold: The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook by CHC member Suzanne Evans, Between the Lines, Toronto
- Silver: Flat Out Delicious: Your Definitive Guide to Saskatchewan’s Food Artisans by Jenn Sharp, TouchWood Editions, Victoria
- General Cookbooks presented by Egg Farmers of Canada
- Gold: Flavorbomb: A Rogue Guide to Making Everything Taste Better by Bob Blumer, Appetite by Random House, Vancouver
- Silver: Hawksworth: The Cookbook by David Hawksworth, Jacob Richler and Stéphanie Nöel, Appetite by Random House, Vancouver
- Regional/Cultural Cookbooks
- Gold: Kiin: Recipes and Stories from Northern Thailand by Nuit Regular, Penguin Canada, Toronto
- Silver: Eating Out Loud: Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day, Every Day by Eden Grinshpan, Penguin Canada, Toronto
- Single-Subject Cookbooks
- Health and Special Diet Cookbooks
- Gold: Eat Good Fat: Nourish Your Body with Over 100 Healthy, Fat-Fuelled Recipes by Lee Capatina, Penguin Canada, Toronto
- Silver: Oh She Glows for Dinner: Nourishing Plant-Based Meals to Keep You Glowing by Angela Liddon, Penguin Canada, Toronto
- Les narrations culinaires
- Gold: Supernaturel: Immersion dans le monde du vin nature by Vincent Sulfite, Les Éditions de l'Homme, Montreal
- Silver: Le cidre au Québec: histoire, cidreries et coups de coeur d'ici by Stéphane Morin, Les Éditions de l'Homme, Montreal
- Livres de cuisine générale
- Gold: Chez Lesley - Mes secrets pour tout réussir en cuisine by Lesley Chesterman, Les Éditions Cardinal, Montreal
- Silver: Les recettes de Mandy: salades gourmandes et autres délices by Mandy Wolfe, Rebecca Wolfe et Meredith Erickson, Les Éditions La Presse, Anjou
- Livres de cuisine régionale et culturelle
- Gold: Mangez local. Recettes et techniques de conservation pour suivre le rythme des saisons by Julie Aubé, Les Éditions de l'Homme, Montreal
- Livres de cuisine sujet unique
- Gold: Ces muffins dont tout le monde parle by Madame Labriski (Mériane Labrie), Les Éditions de l'Homme, Montreal
- Silver: À la plaque by Ricardo Larrivée, Les Éditions La Presse, Anjou
- Livres de cuisine santé et diète particulière
- Gold: La Cantine Végane—Recettes Pour Bons Vivants by Marie-Michelle Chouinard, Groupe Ville-Marie Littérature (VLB éditeur), Montreal
- Silver: Presque Végé by Geneviève O’Gleman, Les Éditions de l'Homme, Montreal
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.
What’s Cooking? (Member News)
CHC MEMBERS: Please let us know what you're up to! We'll publish all suitable news items received at email@example.com by the 25th of each month. (Please write your announcement directly into your email window, with no attachments except a photo. Be sure to include a web link for further information!)
We're thrilled to be able to congratulate CHC member Suzanne Evans, who was awarded Gold at the 2021 Taste Canada Awards (Culinary Narratives) for her book The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook. We review the book below, and you can see Suzanne talking about it, and about cookbooks in general, in a short video posted by Taste Canada. We also congratulate John Ota for being shortlisted with his book, The Kitchen.
Memories from a Historic Ottawa Bakery
Text by Julia Armstrong
Photos by Christina Lamothe (used with permission)
Morrison Lamothe Bakery Ltd. was founded in 1933 by two Ottawa Valley businessmen, Cecil Morrison and Dick Lamothe. The latter is CHC member Christina Lamothe’s great uncle. Christina’s grandfather, Thomas, also worked there as a baker. Morrison Lamothe delivered fresh bread to homes via horse and buggy. As buggies eventually gave way to trucks and routes expanded beyond the city, by the 1960s Morrison Lamothe was the largest bakery in the capital city—and one of its largest employers. Christina’s father, Tom, joined the business, first as a delivery man, and later as a personnel manager. Christina, an entrepreneur who earned her home economics degree at the University of Ottawa, recalls treats like plum pudding, shortbread and butter tarts.
The company’s long history even includes a royal connection. In May 1939, during the royal tour of Canada, Morrison Lamothe catered a large Rideau Hall garden party in honour of King George VI’s birthday; on the menu was the bakery's icing-topped fruitcake. It was Christina’s grandfather who baked the three 300-pound cakes! Christina relates the family story: “My dad’s sister, who was about 20, assisted with serving, and when the cake was cut and the king tasted the first slice, he announced that it was ‘jolly good.’” The company seized the promotional opportunity and its newly christened Royal Fruit Cake became a best-seller. Christina still has the square pans in which the “royal” birthday confection was baked, and last summer she used them to make a wedding cake for friends.
But there is another special fruitcake that features on Christina’s holiday platters. “In 1972 my dad visited a beloved retired employee, Charlie Turnbull, who was in his eighties,” explains Christine. ”Charlie and my grandfather had been friends and fellow bakers. Charlie dictated his Cherry Christmas Cake recipe to my dad.”
The original copy of the recipe, given to Christina’s father in 1972 by former Morrison Lamothe baker Charlie Turnbull.
After grocery stores launched in-house bakeries and business declined, the company sold its bakery operation in 1980, but the Morrison Lamothe name continues as a Toronto-based frozen food manufacturer, run by the third generation of the Morrison family.
Our thanks to Christina, for sharing her updated version of the family favourite.
Charlie Turnbull’s Cherry Christmas Cake
- 3½ lb raisins
- 1 lb butter
- 1 lb icing sugar
- 9 eggs
- 4 cups + 2 oz flour (Charlie insisted it had to be hard wheat/bread flour)
- 1 lb candied (glacé) cherries, each halved
- 8 oz mixed candied peel
- Place the raisins in a bowl and pour in enough hot water to cover. Let soak for 24 hours. Drain and let dry before using.
- Cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- In a separate bowl, combine the halved cherries, candied peel and raisins. Dust the fruit evenly with 2 oz of the flour. Stir the remaining flour into the egg mixture. Fold in the fruit mixture just until combined.
- Spread into 3 greased 9- x 5-inch loaf pans. (Christina notes that you could also use two classic tube pans; she recently made 10 small cakes in mini loaf pans, and for the photos below, she used 8- x 6-inch pans). Bake in a preheated 250°F (130°C) oven until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean, 3 to 3½ hours, depending on your oven (test at 3 hours and bake longer if necessary).
The Arborg & District Multicultural Heritage Village (Manitoba)
Text by Jane Black
Photos by Pat Eyolfson (used with permission)
One hour north from the perimeter of Winnipeg lies Arborg, a community of around 1,200 that boasts the world’s largest curling stone. Arborg is also home to 112.9 acres of restored and recreated 1930s prairie life at The Arborg & District Multicultural Heritage Village. Since the first building was moved onto the land on October 13, 2000, additional buildings reflecting both Indigenous and Settler experiences in Manitoba have been added at the rate of one per year to create a multicultural village that includes Polish, Ukrainian, Icelandic, Cree and Saulteaux installations. (Arborg is still looking for a German building to honour the German immigrants to the region.)
Of particular interest is the outdoor pich (or piche or pyet) oven. At the 2008 grand opening, the pich oven baked 72 loaves of rye bread in four hours! The Romans spread their clay "peel" oven cooking with their Empire. Improvements on the original peel oven by Ukrainians evolved into what by the mid-19th century was a huge clay oven that could take up one-quarter of the one-room Ukrainian home. After plastering and whitewashing, Ukrainians decorated the pich inside their home in bright colours, with regional designs of floral, animal or geometric patterns.
Essential for cooking bread, borscht, and porridges; pichs also served as the main heat source for the Ukrainian home. Foods such as fruit and mushrooms were dried on it to preserve them for the year. Some pich ovens were also used to dry buckwheat or other grains after harvest.
Since it took up so much physical space in the Ukrainian home, it is only natural that the pich had a role in the spiritual lives of Ukrainians. In some areas of the Ukraine, it served as the birth- and death-place for members of the household, and umbilical cords were sometimes buried beneath it. Ashes from the pich could be used for fortune-telling, and superstitions—such as never spitting in the fire, swearing near it, or sleeping on the pich—informed daily habits.
In some regions, the pich was not to be used during the 24 hours from the conclusion of baking the traditional Christmas Eve kutya (a type of sweet pudding made from wheat berries). Naturally, some of these superstitions travelled with Ukrainian immigrants to Canada.
In many areas of Canada, pich ovens were communal. An example of an original pich oven can be found beside the historical Douglas House in Foam Lake, Saskatchewan. The communal pich oven at Arbog is a recreation, but a very faithful one erected by local Stan Zolinski. After gumbo clay was gathered from the nearby swamp, it was dried for a year until it was powder. Water and straw were added to create a concrete mixture. Zolinski used wet willows to form an arch to support the concrete as it dried. A shelter was erected to preserve the oven, but the original pich ovens (and those baking at them) would have not had such cover.
To use the pich, one puts in a small kindling of wood, stokes the fire for an hour-and-a-half, and then removes it: the oven is ready for use. Around 12 to 15 loaves are baked simultaneously, with a cooking time of around ten minutes. As the bread took so little time to bake, meat could be cooked first, and then the bread or buns at the end. At the communal pichs, a woman would cook all the bread for a large family for the week in just a few hours.
The pich oven can also be used to bake bannock. When schoolchildren come, they make their own butter and then eat it with homemade Saskatoon or raspberry jam. Smaller groups of children sometimes roast bannock on sticks at the oven.
While COVID has disrupted much of the historical culinary programming, in the past there have been classes that included making Ukranian perogies, borscht, pannkakor (Icelandic pancakes), and vinartarta (a seven-layer Icelandic cake made for weddings and Christmas). In Iceland, rhubarb was often used for the fruit filling, as it was cheap and readily available, but Canadian settlers had access to prunes and were able to include this sweeter fruit instead. The family recipe used at Arborg tops the cake with an almond icing.
The second building moved to the site was St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Parish Hall, or the Heritage Hall. Seating around 100, it has a working kitchen from which it serves meals to bus tours reflecting the cuisine of the people who once lived in the different buildings on the site. All the kitchens in the other buildings onsite are restored with ovens from the 1930s or earlier, as not everyone in the 1930s had brand-new appliances. Due to insurance costs, however, not all kitchens are used for anything other than display.
The organization is run by volunteers from the Arborg community with summer students hired in the summer through government grants to act as guides. As a fundraiser, the community put together Best Kept Secrets Old & New, an impressive two-inch-thick coil-bound cookbook of 798 recipes from local grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Many of the recipes are accompanied by vignettes outlining the history of the recipe or the person with whom the recipe is associated.
Special events throughout the year have included afternoon teas, a Tractor Trek with accompanying tractor games (such as whose tractor can move a heavy piece of iron the furthest or fastest), and senior fun days where seniors, including those from assisted living and personal-care home in the area, can enjoy programming created especially for them.
A campsite is available on the grounds, with a walking bridge connecting the campground to the historical village. Highlights of several buildings can be found on their website, including the St. Demetrius Ukrainian Catholic Church, which has been recommissioned, allowing the space to hold Ukrainian ceremonies such as weddings, or the Hykaway Grist Mill, built by hand in 1910, which operated until 1943.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Hood at email@example.com.
The Taste of Longing, Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook by Suzanne Evans (Between the Lines, September 2020). Reviewed by Jan Main (pictured above).
CHC member Suzanne Evans has pieced together this intriguing biography of Ethel Mulvany, which has received Gold for non-fiction from the Ottawa Book Award and a Gold medal at Taste Canada for culinary narrative. Evans was working on a research fellowship at the Canadian War Museum when she first discovered the POW cookbook that Mulvany had put together from the recipes of her fellow prisoners in Changi Prison, Singapore.
Next, she met some of Mulvany's nieces, who added to the story. The War Museum described the Changi quilts, another of Ethel’s projects, which opened another door, and little by little, this fascinating story unfolded to reveal a dynamic, creative, energetic and caring woman.
Born Ethel Rogers on Manitoulin Island, she is first introduced to us at age 28, suffering debilitating nausea aboard ship. This led to a shipboard romance followed by a marriage to the British doctor Denis Mulvany. A woman of her time, Ethel gave up her job and followed Denis to India, and later Singapore, where they were living when it was taken by the Japanese in 1942. Men went to one prison or to work on the Thai-Burma railway, and the women and children went the “concrete hell” of Changi prison.
The Japanese had not anticipated having prisoners. They thought they would commit suicide rather than be taken prisoner. As a result, the prison was crammed with both women and children, who existed on bayam soup, a thin soup made from buffalo grass. Mulvany did not waste any time: she requested permission from the Japanese Commander to grocery-shop for the inmates at the nearby market. Finally, after numerous attempts, Mulvany was allowed to shop monthly with an escort.
To alleviate hunger and the endless boredom of prison life, Mulvany asked the women to write down their favourite recipes. Small groups gathered to plan a table setting and a chosen recipe such as Toad-in-the-Hole, Colcannon or Posy Pudding. As it happened, Mulvany had brought her Five Roses Cook Book and used these recipes to flavour the Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook. Each chapter of The Taste of Longing begins with one of these comfort recipes, a reminder of home. This act sustained the women and lessened their gnawing hunger pangs.
Mulvany’s creativity did not end with the cookbook. She devised fashion shows, boxing matches and the famous Changi quilts—anything to distract the women from their miserable routines and raise their spirits. The quilts were cleverly devised to act as a communication device between the men and women prisoners. Each woman was given a white cotton patch that they could decorate, then hide a message to their menfolk inside. Again, the project gave a focus, hope and an escape from tedium.
However, on August 15,1945, these activities came to an end. The Japanese thought that the prisoners had sent the Allies valuable information that helped the war effort, so all activities in the prison were terminated. Food supplies were greatly reduced. A number of prisoners were interrogated, and some died as a result of the torture. Mulvany’s shopping trips were stopped. She was tortured, then put into solitary confinement until the war ended. During this time, there were increasing air raids from the Allied forces, and the prisoners feared for their lives.
Finally, September 4, 1945, the prison was liberated. The Allied forces had learned when freeing the prisoners from German concentration camps that feeding starved prisoners quantities of food could actually kill them. Thus, when 85-pound Mulvany was taken by stretcher to a hospital ship, her first feasts were disappointingly similar to prison foods.
Even after reaching freedom there was a continual craving for food. When Mulvany returned to her Aunt Susie and Uncle Frank’s home in Toronto, she would finish all the food on her plate, then "lick the plate clean like an appreciative dog." She also hoarded food.
Although Mulvany had nothing after the war, she wanted to help hospitalized ex-POWs in England, who were still suffering food shortages. She persuaded a publisher to print The Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook and sold 20,000 at speaking engagements, enough to raise $18,000 (equivalent to $200,000 today). With this money, she arranged to have food, especially tea and oranges, delivered to these POWs.
The Taste of Longing is an unforgettable book about stamina, ingenuity, courage, caring and food—one never forgets hunger!
- 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!
- Roma at Three Rivers in P.E.I.
- Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site in Nova Scotia.
- King's Landing in New Brunswick.
- Some parts of Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ontario.
- The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum in Ottawa.
- Hutchison House Museum in Peterborough, Ontario: The Museum Office and Bookshop are by appointment only, but staff are on-site Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours by appointment Tuesday through Friday.
- Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, Ontario.
- City of Toronto historic properties (Colborne Lodge, Fort York, Gibson House, Mackenzie House, the Market Gallery, Montgomery's Inn, Scarborough Museum, Spadina Museum, Todmorden Mills, and Zion Schoolhouse).
- Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto.
- Dundurn National Historic Site in Hamilton, Ontario.
- Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village in Edmonton.
- Roedde House in Vancouver.
6. International Conferences
Compiled by Kesia Kvill
December 27 to 28 (Vienna, Austria: Online); December 30 to 31 (Paris, France: Online)
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FOOD CULTURE AND HISTORY
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
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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