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Digestible Bits and Bites

The monthly newsletter of the
Culinary Historians of Canada
Number 111, July 2022
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Mya Sangster concocted a citrussy shrub from a historic recipe as her contribution to our June summer sippers challenge. Read more about it below.

Happy Canada Day!


Index

  1. CHC News and Upcoming Events

  2. News and Opportunities

  3. Destinations

  4. Food for Thought (book reviews)

  5. Events of Interest

  6. International Conferences


1. CHC News and Upcoming Events

 

Time to Join or Renew!


There's no better time to join the Culinary Historians of Canada than Canada Day; not only because it's a good day to look back over this country's past, but also because it's the day every year when we extend the membership expiry date.

Normally, memberships expire on the date of our Annual General Meeting (October 1 this year). However, new or revived memberships that start between July 1 and October 1 will run all the way to our AGM of 2023. Also, they will be available at the current price of $30 per year. As of 2023, the rate will rise to $35. 

To renew, simply visit the membership page on our website. If you are not certain whether your membership is still up to date, check in with our membership chair, Judy, at membership@culinaryhistorians.ca.
 

Annual General Meeting Notice


The 2022 CHC AGM falls on Sunday, October 1, 2022. All members in good standing are invited to attend. We will wait for further notice about COVID before firmly scheduling an in-person gathering. If the meeting is not entirely virtual, we are looking into the best way to offer a hybrid experience to make it as easy as possible for everyone to attend who wishes to.

We are actively seeking new board members, and hoping to fill the positions of president, vice president, secretary and co-chair of communications. If you think you could commit about three or four hours per month and might like to help organize events, manage our social media accounts, bake historic refreshments or handle administrative details, please consider joining us, no matter what part of the country you live in. Find out more at information@culinaryhistorians.ca.
 

Ceramics for the Canadian Table Event Report

By Sylvia Lovegren

On Tuesday, June 28, CHC presented its first in-person event since the spring of 2020. Attendees gathered at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto to hear chief curator Sequoia Miller talk about a collection of ceramic tableware currently on view at the museum. The pieces depict idealized scenes of 19th-century Canadian life. Dr. Miller explained that these decorative yet utilitarian objects, manufactured in England, shed light on the colonialism, industrialism and cultural goals of the period.

Dr. Miller demonstrated the change in techniques and expense of middle-class table ceramics, from an expensive hand-painted enamel portrait of General James Wolfe on a 1760 porcelain pitcher to an inexpensive earthenware jug decorated with transferware, based on the same image of Wolfe but mass-produced in England in the 1830s. The death of General Wolfe was also the subject of a whole series of dishes made for the Canadian trade, bringing up the interesting question of whether people actually ate off plates showing the dying general.

Perhaps most interesting were the idealized scenes of Canadian life, such as a platter with an image of Inuit on the ice with Perry’s ships in the background, surrounded by a decorative border featuring lions, tigers and gazelles, all images reflecting the power and the breadth of the British Empire. After a lively question-and-answer period, Dr. Miller led us up to the exhibit floor, where we were able to view many of the discussed objects in person.
 

Annunziata Corsetti shared this evocative photo of her family members foraging for strawberries
 

Just A Bite Report #4: Backyard Kitchen Gardens

By Jennifer Meyer

Just a Bite: Summer Food Memories from Ontario Seniors was a questionnaire widely distributed during summer 2021 among seniors' cultural groups, associations, clubs and service organizations. CHC asked questions that invited the sharing of youthful memories. This column is the fourth in a series to summarize the memories contained in the 68 booklets returned.

The participants vividly recalled their families growing a kaleidoscope of produce; rhubarb, cucumbers, strawberries, lettuce, peaches, tomatoes, apples, carrots, cherries and potatoes were all popular growing choices. Not as common were endive, corn, callaloo, kohlrabi and quince. Their descriptions were vivid recollections of summers gone by spent with family growing a cornucopia of ingredients that were enjoyed for many months. 

Growing your own produce was and continues to be a popular activity across the province of Ontario. The up (and sometimes down) side of growing your own food was the family that came to "share" in the hard work. Joseph W. Gray of Caledon recalled “We even had an Uncle Joe from Toronto come out for a visit and raided our garden every now and again. It used to make me mad because he was never around to help weed our garden!” 

Anyone who has grown produce in Ontario knows it requires planning to be successful. Diana Dundas of Bradford referred to deferring to the Farmer’s Almanac and Ministry of Agriculture booklets. Rose Murray of Cambridge astutely recalled "[We] had to plant early in the season, but after the Spring Frost," while Vicky Poulos of Toronto, Eleanor Aldus of Peterborough and Brenda Stanbury of Utterson, who all came from tomato-growing families, wrote of planting their tomato seeds long before the growing season.

Poulos recounted her parents starting "soon after Christmas." Aldus reminisced about transplanting tomato seedlings started in recycled tin cans, and Stanbury wrote that “the growing season in Muskoka is short, so I start tomato seeds indoors in March or April." Stanbury also recalled liking garlic "as it is planted in October and it is the first crop to peek through the earth in the spring. No fuss, no muss with garlic." 

Many who grew lettuce wrote about planting it in batches throughout the growing months. Barbara Cook of Caledon shared a lighthearted memory of lettuce gardening with her grandfather. "When he was older, he was in the garden when he sneezed and lost his false teeth somewhere in the lettuce patch. We all helped to look for them because he said that the finder would get 25 cents." 

Sometimes major world events altered what was grown. For example, Mary F. Williamson of Toronto wrote that "in our backyard garden, during the War, we grew lettuce and carrots. We children all wanted to grow radishes, but mother said No! because they were easy to find in the stores." Barbara Rank of Cheltenham recalled that “during the War, my father raised rabbits for food.”


Mary Williamson supplied this image of raspberry picking in Burlington, Ontario, during WWII. Here, Mary and Peter Williamson are shown in 1945 on the farm of their uncle Frank Williamson. Photo by John D. Williamson.

When recalling their childhood years, several participants reminisced about being pressed into service to help their home gardens and allotments be fruitful. Lorraine Green of Kitchener wrote that "my grandfather did all the gardening and enlisted my sister, brother and me to help." Annunziata Corsetti of Toronto used to water the garden early in the morning before school and later in the evening.

Holly Diaczuk of Thunder Bay evoked digging huge fields of potatoes that her family always had. "It was done after school (until dark) and by hand." Joseph W. Gray of Caledon thoughtfully recalled how "the garden and farm chores helped our parents to keep us busy and out of mischief most of the time. Never a dull moment, and it did not hurt us at all. We gained good work ethic. I used the same method with our four children; they all had a routine and chose what to do when they got home from school. I usually paid them once a year in December and recommended that they purchase GICs, which they did and used that money to further their education."

Whether participants wrote of growing fruit trees, vegetable patches, berries or the odd rabbit or chicken, the intention was always the same: to sustain the family. As we find ourselves in a time of growing food insecurity, there are many lessons to be learned in these accounts of the past. 


Ted Meyer sent us this photo of his mother, Annie Meyer, picking her summer crops in the 1960s.
 


Tandoori chicken on a charcoal grill outside Chandni Chowk Restaurant at the annual street festival in Toronto's Gerrard India Bazaar. Photo by Sarah Hood.
 

July Cooking Challenge:
BBQs, Picnics & Campfires!

We Canadians may be grateful for a glowing hearth in February, but in July it's too hot to cook indoors! This month's challenge invites you to share your favourite outdoor foods, whether that's loaded platters on a gingham-draped picnic table, meat straight from the barbeque or a fresh-caught lake trout sizzling in a cast-iron skillet over an open fire. Bonus points if there's a traditional or historic connection. Bring on the s'mores!

You might enjoy having a look at 
Canadian Cookbooks Online on our website for inspiration. There you'll find links to scores of Canadian cookbooks of the past. If you post pictures and comments with the hashtag #outdoors to our Facebook page before midnight on Friday, July 22, we’ll feature at least one of your entries in our August newsletter.

Photo hints: To get the best results with your photos on Facebook and in this newsletter, follow these tips:
  • Make sure your image is big (at least 1MB in file size, or at least 1,000 pixels wide).
  • Make your image wide rather than tall. If you're taking a picture of something round, like a cake, include lots of blank space on either side of it.
  • Keep the camera still; balance it on a chair back or a stack of books if necessary.
  • Use as much light as possible. Outdoor light is great, especially on a cloudy day when there are no sharp shadows. Unless your room is very well lit, place the food near a window, turn on all your lights, and even point extra light sources (ring lights, flashlights) at it from a few different angles.
  • Put your food on a tea towel, a wooden counter or a similar neutral background rather than the stovetop.
  • Decorations are nice, like a flower in a vase, a charming salt and pepper set, an antique spoon or a decorative plate. But don't go overboard: remember, it's the food we want to see!
 

Summer Sippers Challenge Report

For June, we asked you to share your favourite summer sippers, especially those with local ingredients or historical influence.

Sherry Murphy recalled making a "beautiful flavoured punch" at Fort York National Historic Site in 2019, based on a recipe by African-American author Robert Roberts, from his House Servant's Directory of 1837. Her images are posted on our Facebook page, where further details are posted about all the participating entries.

Mya Sangster (whose ingredients are pictured at the very top of the page, and whose finished product appears directly above) writes that she "found this shrub receipt in the Receipt Book of Rebecca Tallamy (Wellcome Collection MS.4759, fo. 173v.): To a Gallon of good Rum put a Quart of Juce fresh squees’d & strain’d, two pounds of good Loaf sugar, take half the Lemon rinds & six of the Oranges & steep them one night in the Juce & rum, then strain it through a Coarse Cloth or Bag into a vessel or Bottle, Shake it three or four Times a day for Fourteen Days.

Incidentally, the Receipt Book is a fascinating document, completely handwritten in the mid-1730s in the margins and blank pages of a printed copy of John French's Art of Distillation of 1651.


Lyle Beaugard whipped up some "freshly blended and strained watermelon juice—good for so many cocktails or refreshing by itself." He also posted images of his mojitos, strawberry rhubarb cocktail and hibiscus iced tea, which, he writes, is also called Agua de Jamaica in Mexico "because it's called Jamaica Flower there. Delicious with tequila or on its own. Lots of healthy properties, too, despite the fact that it tastes like Cherry Kool-Aid."


Beverly Kouhi Soloway prepared "a light summer breakfast on the patio with Mango-Peach Mimosas", and wrote that "there's a cocktail or summer beverage for every hour of the day!"

Robbie Wayne (below, left) shared his delicious-looking T's Frangelico iced coffee with Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream. Robbie also enjoyed a proper pint of local Henderson's Best and single malt.

Alice Mac (below, right) offered up her gin and tonic. She writes: "when the weather gets summery it is time for cold drinks! Tonic water goes well with gin or is lovely on its own with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. The tonic syrup that you make and then mix with sparkling water will be much tastier than commercial products, with the same malaria-fighting properties."
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




Taste Canada Short List & Gala News 
Taste Canada has announced its short list of cookbooks. Of the 87 cookbooks submitted from nine provinces, 45 entries from six provinces have been short-listed. Congratulations to all the authors! The short list is posted here.

Save the Date!
The 25th anniversary Taste Canada Awards Gala will be held on Monday, November 7. Attendees will find out who takes home the Gold and Silver awards in each English- and French-language book category. The winners of the 2022 Cooks the Books presented by Canada Beef and of course the Taste Canada Hall of Fame presented by CHC will also be revealed!
 

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 cadmus@interlog.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!)



Samantha George, curator at Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, Ontario, and her team of volunteers recreated food writer Marie Holmes's suggestions for a strawberry social for a wartime-themed fundraiser in June. The offerings (pictured above and below) included strawberry floating island, strawberry fizz, strawberry chiffon pie, strawberry marshmallow pudding and strawberry refrigerator ice cream . Of the ice cream, Samantha writes: "first time making for me, and will definitely do it again!"



CHC member Jan Feduck has just published a book called Dining Out With History at Atlantic Canada's Historic Sites. It contains chapters about 20 historic sites across Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. Each one describes the site and its history and includes a culinary short story and a recipe or two from the site.

Mrs Dalgairns’s Kitchen: Rediscovering “The Practice of Cookery”, edited by by CHC life member Mary F. Williamson, has been short-listed for the Taste Canada Awards, in the Culinary Narratives category. Another CHC life member, Elizabeth Baird, contributed modern versions of several of the historic recipes. See our review, below.

Historian and CHC board member Susan Peters has created an exhibit for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee commemorating Queen Elizabeth's visit to open the St Lawrence Seaway on June 27, 1959. She writes that "of course, being a Tea Sommelier, I will have some tea-centric commemoratives on hand." She will present it at the re-enactment of the War of 1812 Battle of Crysler's Farm on Saturday and Sunday, July 16 and 17, at Upper Canada Village and at the Iroquois Flying Club's 54th annual Fly-In Breakfast on Sunday, July 10 from 8 to 11:30 a.m.

3. Destinations

Jane Black's Destinations feature will return.

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 Sarah Hood at sarah@culinaryhistorians.ca.

   

Mrs Dalgairns’s Kitchen: Rediscovering "The Practice of Cookery" edited by Mary F. Williamson with modernized recipes by Elizabeth Baird (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2021). Reviewed by Julia Armstrong (pictured above). Short-listed for the 2022 Taste Canada Awards in the Culinary Narratives category.

You’ve no doubt heard of Mrs. Beeton. But have you heard of Mrs. Dalgairns? In Mrs Dalgairns’s Kitchen, culinary historian and CHC honorary member Mary F. Williamson introduces us to the remarkable 19th-century author, whose Practice of Cookery, Adapted to the Business of Everyday Life (first published in 1829) was a top seller for 30 years before the appearance of Mrs. Beeton’s tome.

Born Catherine Emily Callbeck in 1788, she lived on Prince Edward Island (then St. John’s Island) for her first 22 years. After marrying Peter Dalgairns she moved to England and then Scotland, which is where her book was published. 

Are you surprised that P.E.I. boasts ties to such a renowned early cookbook author? I was, and it was delightful to delve into Catherine’s story and Mary Williamson’s fascinating two-decade research journey through genealogical, archival and rare-book sources. In her introduction, Williamson reveals how the cookbook came to be published, describes its various editions (including an American one), and provides context about the 19th-century kitchen.

Catherine Dalgairns’s reprinted recipes—totalling 1,482—follow the introduction. As Williamson notes, they contain influences of the author’s native British North America as well as the United States (her mother was from Boston), England, Scotland, France and India, where her brothers-in-law lived (she includes a chapter on curries). Dalgairns organized the content into 25 chapters—from soups and sauces to puddings and preserves—often providing multiple versions of the same dish (e.g., there are four ways to make a Fricandeau of Veal and four ways to make Orange Jelly).

She concludes with chapters on animal husbandry, brewing and beekeeping, also reprinted here. A contemporary reviewer praised the book’s practical approach and its “just and proper regard to economy.... The great object of the author has been to make her book extensively useful; and we think she has completely succeeded.” 

Adding to the pleasure and practicality of Mrs Dalgairns’s Kitchen is the contribution of food writer, historic cook and CHC honorary member Elizabeth Baird, whom Williamson invited to contribute modernized versions of a selection of recipes. The 41 that she chose range from Caveach Salmon and Beef à la Braise to Summer Salad and Plum Cake. Each appears in its original paragraph format, followed by the modernized ingredient list and detailed instructions. She provides historic notes and, in many cases, reasons for modifications or substitutes.

During a CHC Zoom presentation with Williamson last year, Baird demonstrated how to make Mrs. Dalgairns’s Mushroom Catsup (it’s like a rich Worcestershire sauce). She also assembled the trifle-like dessert called Whim Wham—“a light-as-air combination of whipped cream, white wine, ladyfingers, and redcurrant jelly”—which is as suitable for special occasions today as it was two centuries ago. Thanks to Mary Williamson, those who enjoy both scholarly and hands-on experiences in culinary history will relish this treasury and its Canadian connection.

   
The Double Happiness Cookbook: 88 Feel-Good Recipes and Food Stories by Trevor Lui (Figure 1, 2021). Reviewed by Ivy Lerner-Frank (pictured above). Short-listed for the 2022 Taste Canada Awards in the Regional/Cultural Cookbook category.

Trevor Lui is, by his own admission, obsessed with ink (tattoos), beats (hip hop—and high-end sneakers), and libations. The Toronto born-and-bred chef and entrepreneur (Kanpai, Superfresh Market, JoyBird Fried Chicken are but a few of his endeavours) makes no apologies for his style, or for his drive in promoting Asian food and businesses. 

Lui is a traditional kind of guy, though. He credits his parents and grandparents with having taught him how to cook—and prides himself on doing things his own way. The book’s aesthetic is equally outspoken, juxtaposing images of Lui in his home environment (my favourite is him standing in front of King’s Noodles in Toronto’s Spadina Chinatown) with brightly lit, oversaturated food photographs and bold fonts. (The book took first place at the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada.)

Lui first started to cook at the Highbell, his family’s Chinese-Canadian restaurant. He highlights their interpretations of Western food (the Highbell Banquet Burger, combining Angus beef, turkey and chicken on a bun) alongside Hong Kong-style chaa can teng dishes and cocktails, interweaving the recipes with a narrative of growing up as a Chinese immigrant kid in Canada and his path to entrepreneurship.

Lui loves food trucks and mashing up cultures and ingredients: trips to Los Angeles and Spain, Taiwan and Korea inspired street snacks such as Corn and Chorizo Sopas (a riff on chicken and sweet corn soup), Bulgogi Beef Tostadas and Chinese Sausage Croquetas, which he cooked for Ferran Adrià of El Bulli fame. His interpretation of Canadian beef and barley, featuring a chimichurri and beet garnish (with a sous-vide preparation option), is an ode to his mother’s initial Canadian home in Calgary. 

The resource pages are some of the strongest in the book: the pantry essentials section covers everything from adobo chipotle to togarashi and explains the differences between chili oil, chili paste and sweet chili sauce. Ditto for the garnish section, where Lui describes toppings to add acid, heat, richness and crunch to dishes. I also loved the noodle chapter; anyone who ever wanted to know the difference between lo mein, ho fun and Shanghai noodles will appreciate Lui’s clarity, the photographs, and the recipes. 

Some of the dishes in the book are, admittedly, over the top: The Last Samurai, bringing together the “culinary trinity of my favourite things: ramen, burgers, and fried chicken” left me wondering how to eat this mile-high sandwich with a deep-fried ramen bun. I did, however, love the Grilled Cheese Rebooted, with ketchup, gochujang, kimchi and Asian pear.

The Double Happiness Cookbook is ultimately Lui’s ode to comfort food, family, and tradition. Readers interested in Chinese-Canadian food history will find it a very contemporary complement (with recipes) to Ann Hui’s Chop Suey Nation and Cheuk Kwan’s Have You Eaten Yet?

   
My Ackee Tree – A Chef’s Memoir of Finding Home in the Kitchen by Suzanne Barr with Suzanne Hancock (Penguin Random House, 2022). Reviewed by Luisa Giacometti (pictured above).

Suzanne Barr has been in the kitchen since she was a child, learning the traditions of her ancestors and loving the task of cleaning ackee fruit. Her roots—African, Jamaican, Indigenous, naturalized American and Canadian—and her experiences as a photographer, stylist, activist, MTV producer, private chef, cooking-show judge, student, and mentor, make for a lively memoir that does not disappoint. 

The ackee tree of the book title is not in Jamaica, but in Florida, where Barr lived for many years. Although it rarely bore fruit, “it was still like a Jamaican flag in front of our house,” she says. Studying art and working for MTV disconnected Barr from the touchstone of her mother’s kitchen; cooking with intention in a Catskill ashram kitchen led her to rediscover her foundation. At the ashram, Barr started to “think about every ingredient, knowing your place, being humble and open, understanding that you are part of the chain that grew this food, that needs this food.” 

In 2017, Barr became the inaugural Chef-in-Residence at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, and it’s there that she found her voice and reaffirmed her cultural roots. Asking the fundamental question of why she cooks, Barr says, “I cook because I want to make my beautiful mother better. I believe food is healing. I want to feel how food connects me to my past.” 

A creator and an artist with pots and pans, textures, colours and ingredients that bring together a symphony of tastes and aromas, Barr ends her book with some sumptuous recipes. I found them easy to prepare and even better to eat. 

This book made me reflect on the role that my mother had in shaping my love of food and how she influenced my food journey. I and many others who love the food experience may not be chefs, but we enjoy cooking and experimenting while adding our cultural twist to what we prepare. It makes one think of the richness of our food adventures and how our ancestors have infused our culinary skills with the desire to gather people together and share our feasts.

   
Eat, Habibi, Eat! Fresh Recipes for Modern Egyptian Cooking by Shahir Massoud (Appetite by Random House, 2021). Reviewed by Ivy Lerner-Frank (pictured above). Short-listed for the 2022 Taste Canada Awards in the Regional/Cultural Cookbook category.

I’m not much of a daytime TV watcher, so I had little idea who Shahir Massoud was when he hosted the English portion of the Taste Canada Awards last year. A little bit of research later and I discovered he was a warm and enthusiastic presence on numerous shows, and even an ambassador for Butterball turkeys! When I found his Eat, Habibi, Eat! Fresh Recipes for Modern Egyptian Cooking at my local library, I was delighted and started cooking from it. And then I bought the book, now on the short list for this year’s Taste Canada Awards in the category of Regional/ Cultural cookbooks. 

Starting with the title—Habibi, meaning darling—the reader senses Massoud’s familiar, generous tone. Family life and Egyptian traditions, both as a child and now with his own young family, are at the heart of Massoud’s cooking and the headnotes for each recipe. He paints an ofttimes hilarious portrait of boisterous family parties: adults talking animatedly, kids running around grabbing snacks (see his Sweet and Spiced Nut Medley and Mom’s Cheese Squares), lovingly recalling his father exhorting friends to bring back Turmeric Fayesh, a cornmeal-baked rusk, from trips to Egypt. 

The recipes are terrific. Massoud brings his Egyptian heritage to each dish, along with the influences of his training in French and Italian cooking. The results are earthy, brightly-flavoured plates with a range of complexity of execution and types of protein. Meats like lamb, rabbit, calf liver and bison are included in the book (for example, Teta Aida’s Kofta and Spinach and Kale Mulukhiyah with Crisp and Spiced Rabbit Legs) along with numerous vegan (Koshary with Red Lentil Ragù) and vegetarian (Triple Sesame Carrots with Goat Cheese) dishes. 

Where the book really shines is the last chapter, Essentials. Here Massoud lays out Egyptian staple sauces, breads, stocks and spice mixes, including homemade harissa, labneh with garlic confit (utterly delicious), “Not Too Sweet, Not Too Spicy Halva”—to use as a garnish—and a deep-flavoured Egyptian chicken stock with cardamom, cumin, coriander, allspice, thyme and mastic that is now part of my own stock production rotation. 

Finally, the book design is beautiful: Emma Dolan’s use of a warm colour palette and beautiful Egyptian fabrics and vintage tableware and Kyla Zanardi’s photos make this a truly handsome volume.

Those who gravitate toward Sami Tamimi’s Falastin and Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem will find adjacent, rich flavours in this book. My favourite recipe so far is Massoud’s Manakeesh with Lamb and Yogurt, a flatbread topped with lamb, cinnamon, onions, yogurt, and mint. It’s definitely a day’s work, but oh, so worth it, habibi!

   
Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World : A History by William Alexander (Grand Central Publishing, 2022). Reviewed by Ania Young (pictured above).

Let me be the first to admit: I am not the number-one fan of tomatoes. I grew up patiently waiting for them to ripen on my grandmother’s windowsill. In my adult years, I find that they taste more like cardboard than food. Sometimes I’ll still buy grocery-store vine-ripened tomatoes, hoping to recreate the sweet juicy taste from my youth, but it’s never been the same. Perhaps that is why I wanted to review this book. I am nostalgically hopeful that the measly modern-day tomato will redeem itself somehow.

In Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World, William Alexander takes us on a historical journey of the tomato. When you learn what a hard time tomatoes have had in history, you almost feel for them. The first documented evidence of the tomato arriving in Italy dates to 1548, yet Alexander informs us that it was not eaten until almost 300 years later. We learn that the tomato was considered an “odious and repelling-smelling berry.” From there, we discover how the tomato went from such a dismal opinion to the “most popular vegetable.”

Ten Tomatoes reads smoothly and somehow managed to draw me into a topic I initially didn’t care much about. Alexander weaves storytelling with humour and wraps it all within a well-researched book. I loved learning that tomatoes were once used in “cure-all” pills and that in the 1800s, when both tomatoes and pasta were eaten widely throughout the Italian Peninsula, no one had yet combined the two. It turns out that tomato sauce didn’t become the standard topping for pasta until the 1880s, which is "not even 150 years ago"!

My favourite part of this book was Chapter 8, “Who Killed the Tomato,” where we learn it was Florida that first provided supermarkets with bins of cheap tomatoes year-round. I learned I’m not the only one out there who now hates grocery-store tomatoes. After many chapters exploring how tomatoes became so popular, I loved that Alexander devoted an entire chapter to “solving the crime” of who destroyed them again. I highly encourage picking up this book to join Alexander in this historical journey and learn some brilliant facts about tomatoes.

Review Contributors
  • Ivy Lerner-Frank (CHC book review editor, Montreal)
  • Julia Armstrong (Toronto)
  • Luisa Giacometti (Toronto)
  • Gary Gillman (Toronto)
  • Sher Hackwell (Vancouver)
  • Sarah Hood (Toronto)
  • Frances Latham (Montreal)
  • Maya Love (London, Ontario)
  • Fiona Lucas (Toronto)
  • Jan Main (Toronto)
  • Bennett McCardle (Toronto)
  • Elka Weinstein (Toronto)
  • Ania Young (Nanoose Bay, B.C.)

5. Events of Interest

  • Monday, July 18, 7 p.m. CT: Chinese Cultural Revolution Cookbook (online from Shanghai). Graham Earnshaw, publisher of the Cultural Revolution Cookbook, will discuss the story of China’s chaotic Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) through its cuisine. Admission: Free. Email Culinary.Historians@gmail.com to receive a Zoom link.
  • Wednesday, July 20, 7 p.m. CT: The Invisible 6,000 Year History of Sourdough (online). Culinary Historians of Chicago host Eric Pallant, author of Sourdough Culture: The History of Bread Making from Ancient to Modern Bakers, who will discuss Pliny the Elder’s Picenum Bread, Sourdough Boston Brown Bread and related topics. Admission: Free. Email Culinary.Historians@gmail.com to receive a Zoom link.

6. International Conferences

Compiled by Kesia Kvill

2022

July 8 to 10 and July 15 to 31 (Oxford, UK, and online)
OXFORD FOOD SYMPOSIUM
Theme: Portable Food: Food Away from the Table
Host: St. Catherine's College, Oxford

August 20 to 21 (London, UK, and online)
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FOOD STUDIES
Theme: Culinary Evolutions
Host: London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research
CFP Deadline: June 15, 2022

September 7 to 10 (Rome, Italy)
ICREFH - INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR RESEARCH INTO EUROPEAN FOOD HISTORY 
Theme: Eating on the Move (19th–20th Centuries)
Host: Rome Tre University

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.

2023

September 5 to 8 (Ekaterinburg, Russia) To be confirmed
ICREFH - INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR RESEARCH INTO EUROPEAN FOOD HISTORY
Theme: Food and Memory in European History of the 19th–21st Centuries
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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