The Culture of Cooking


How dull life would be if new ingredients, new ideas for cooking, new dishes and new fashions did not inspire cooks and tempt appetites. The introduction of surprising combinations and new ingredients from around the world has always been a part of cooking. Magazines, cooking columns in newspapers, books and television programs are swift to respond to new ideas, and each new decade has had its favourites. In Canada, the art of cooking — as well as the art of dining, exemplified in early 20th-century menus and dinner cards — has inspired a delicious culinary heritage.

Favourite recipes from a decade of the magazine Canadian Living have been selected for this sumptuous volume.

Canada's cooking described in words, recipes and pictures, decade by decade, including examples of the popular cookbooks of the period -- a feast for the eyes and the palate, and a culinary history of the country.

After taking her readers through a simple meal and the intricate stories of each ingredient in Much Depends on Dinner (1986), Margaret Visser goes on in The Rituals of Dinner, to describe in detail why we obey the rules of eating, how table manners are taught, and the importance of etiquette.

An historian, researcher and restorer of heritage homes, Dorothy Duncan developed a special interest in pioneer food and drink as curator of Black Creek Pioneer Village. This small book is her "introduction to our long tradition of food, fellowship, and sharing in Canada" (p. 10). Each chapter extols a favourite Canadian food, outlines its history and includes early recipes.

A good basic book is always needed, and Soeur Berthe's is one of the best. Its clear photographs of cooking techniques make it a valuable guide for beginning cooks.

Food rationing was introduced in Canada on January 24, 1942, as part of the war effort. Its purpose was to limit the use of imported food and to free up supplies for the military and for the allies. First sugar was rationed, then coffee, tea and butter. Everyone was issued a ration book, as well as tokens. Rationing continued, to some degree, until 1947.

During the war years of the 1940s, inexpensive foods became the mainstay of many households. Ground beef was cheap and adaptable, and heart and tongue were common ingredients. Throughout the next two decades, one of Canada's most influential cooks was Kate Aitken. She seemed to be everywhere -- on the radio, in newspapers, directing cooking schools in both Canada and the United States, and advising the government on good nutrition.


"The wonderful sameness of my grandmother's meals -- roast chicken on Sundays, shepherds' pie on Mondays, fish on Fridays, baked beans on Saturdays -- was a reflection of her era" (p. vi). This collection recalls the comfort foods of the 1950s and 1960s, including recipes for favourites such as tuna casserole, banana bread, Scottish shortbread, banana cream pie and Molded Emerald Salad (jellied salads were very popular at the time).

In the 1960s, Graham Kerr's rambunctious CBC television show was the talk of the country.

The 1970s have been described as an era of hedonism. In cooking, this often took the form of a fancy dessert such as Baked Alaska, with specialty coffees finishing off the meal. On the other hand, the lighter "nouvelle cuisine" was also beginning to attract attention.

Towards the end of the century, publishers decided that cooks would appreciate art as well as recipes. The result: the coffee table cookbook. These are beautiful objects, no doubt, but it is difficult to imagine the home cook with sticky, floury hands working from one on the kitchen table!

The 1980s found Canadians developing an interest in hot and spicy international flavours -- charred red peppers, lots of fresh ginger and lime, and hot chillies. Cynthia Wine seems adept at spotting food trends and introducing them to the home cook.

Some of Today's Favourite Cooks


As this publication attests, Madame Benoit's recipes continue to be depended on throughout the country, in both French and English kitchens.

This book by Anita Stewart brings together over 200 healthy, traditional and comforting recipes. These foods from the kitchens of our mothers, grandmothers and good friends will warm hearts and restore spirits.

Since her early books from James Lorimer and Company (Classic Canadian Cooking and Apples, Peaches & Pears), Elizabeth Baird has become the cooking genius at Canadian Living and, with her staff there, has created hundreds of magazine articles, television shows and cookbooks. Few kitchens, whatever cuisine is favoured, are without at least one of her titles.

Daniel Pinard is famous for his newspaper columns and television appearances. He has a great influence over how we eat today.

Ottawa hostess and food columnist Gay Cook's latest book leads beginning cooks through the equipping of a kitchen, including what to consider when choosing knives, pots and ovenware. The recipes take them from the most basic to some of the most exciting new ideas in cooking.

Somehow, in spite of all the cookbooks at her and our disposal, Rose Murray manages to tease the senses with something new for every season.

Bonnie Stern is one of Canada's best-known cooking experts, recognized from her cooking school, her magazine articles, her broadcasts on radio and TV, and her books. This book, published as a fundraiser for Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, includes a section of recipes for children, as well as such specialties as Stern's famous rice pudding.

The Multicultural Kitchen

Canada is often spoken of as a country of immigrants, and we take pride in our multicultural heritage. As each ethnic group settled here, its particular foods and special ways of cooking became a part of the way we cook and eat. Today we are able to enjoy an international cuisine that includes a wide range of styles and flavours: pea soup and tourtières, oatmeal and shortbread, borscht and perogies, kugel and knishes, cabbage soup and cheese dumplings, dim sum, pastas and frittatas, jerk chicken and rotis, lemon grass and peanut dipping sauce, and curries of all kinds. As immigrants continue to arrive from different cultures and regions of the world, new and delicious tastes continue to be added, making all our kitchens multicultural.

"This volume has been written for the purpose of answering the questions of our young Jewish homemakers who, in their desire to observe the Jewish traditions, often find themselves uncertain of the details in carrying out these practices" (p. xi).

"Ukrainian Canadians have brought with them from their native land a wealth of their culture with truly priceless treasures of a tangible character as well as intangible spiritual values.... their enthusiasm for their own native dishes never wanes" (p. 9). In addition to the recipes, the cultural significance of Ukrainian food and ceremonies is described.

Recipe books for and about different cultural groups in Canada vary from the full-colour, expensively produced titles to the simplest, such as this one, which is full of mouth-watering recipes.

Many Canadians were first introduced to the intricacies of Chinese cooking through Stephen Yan's popular television programs.

Umberto Menghi opened the first authentic Italian restaurant in Vancouver in 1972. He became a huge success, and many of his most popular recipes can be found in this book.

Rolls, dumplings, tortes, strudels, dessert slices and tarts fill the pages of this collection of Slovak favourites published in particular for "the children of Slovak descent, as a reminder of their heritage" (p. 1).

The Karelians originally immigrated to Canada from the province of Karelia, then part of Finland. This little book gives readers a rare feeling for their cuisine. As one cook commented when asked for a favourite recipe, "What recipe? We don't use recipes. We just go to the kitchen and make it" (p. [1]).


Prince Edward Island is proud that although its population is small, its inhabitants have come from more than 75 countries. Many of them are represented in this cookbook.

Doug Whiteway's recipes focus on the eight major ethnic groups in Winnipeg (Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Portuguese and Ukrainian). He describes their cultures, their roles in the city, their restaurants and their food stories, and includes a simple recipe for each.

Her childhood in the island nation of Mauritius has inspired many of Marylin Chong's recipes, with their emphasis on avocado, mango, papaya, pineapple and coconut.

Cooking in the Regions

Cooks and cookbook lovers across the country have written and published many small, specialized books. Some of the most interesting are those that concentrate on a single food item that is particularly Canadian. Here are a few of these special cookbooks.

From sweetbreads to brains, cooks of the 1920s wasted nothing in their kitchens. Today, with the exception of liver, North American cooks rarely cook the offal (internal organs) of animals.

A charming collection of local recipes from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, compiled (and handwritten) by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Lunenburg Hospital Society.

"Throughout [Waterloo] County, recipes were generously swapped and invented till a way of cooking developed that is unique and indigenous to this heaven-blessed area that rejoices in its cultivation, preparation and tranquil digestion of irresistibly good-schmecking (tasting) food" (p. 3).

This is one of Quebec's most popular cookbooks. Written by media star Janette Bertrand, it is said to have financed a whole generation of Quebec novels for publisher Jacques Hébert. The recipes, collected over the years by Janette are, in her words, not those available in most books but her own favourites.

"In a northern country like Canada, with a short but intense growing season, the splendour and variety of our summer fruit are all the more appreciated" (p. 5).

"Properly cooked mushrooms have a variety of unique textures: sliced, whole or quartered, they're all different... They give depth and character to quite simple and ordinary dishes," says James Barber (p. 6), popular television personality.

"As a young girl growing up on the Arctic Coast, I did not fully appreciate the abundance and variety of wild foods that were available to us. I always took it for granted that the seasons provided wild greens and berries, ducks and geese, muskrats and caribou" (p. iii).


In two volumes of essays and recipes, Bizier gives a short descriptive biography of 16 of Quebec's most famous female chefs, along with a representative sample of their favourite recipes.

A short history of Calgary and recipes from its modern-day chefs make this attractive book an unusual contribution.

"Newfoundland has devised more ways for cooking cod than probably any other place in the world" (p. i).

Northern Bounty provides a tour of regional cooking from across the country, written by the food and cooking experts in each region.

This work provides a short history of the cranberry, as well as this native plant's cultivation and many different uses in recipes.

The cook on the cover is Elizabeth Goudie, whose autobiography, Woman of Labrador, was published in 1973.

"Eating according to the season used to be a traditional necessity. We feasted on the bounty of the warm months and we subsisted on our stored larder in the bleak winter months.... Caring growers are rediscovering the heritage foods of our ancestors, and enlightened shoppers are looking for ways to eat seasonal produce and support the efforts of our local agricultural community" (p. 17).

Cinda Chavich concentrates on the food produced in Alberta and celebrates the local ranchers, growers and producers.


Fast Food, Slow Food

By the 1970s, North Americans were becoming addicted to the ease of cheap, fast food. The continued pull in the opposite direction eventually resulted in an international movement called, with a touch of humour, "Slow Food." Originating in Italy, the movement has spread around the western world. Its aim is to encourage cooks to take the time to prepare meals themselves using fresh, local foods (whenever possible), and to enjoy meals at a leisurely pace in the company of friends and family.

Making use of foods from the countryside, from amaranth and arrowhead to sumac and violets, Garrett's book offers the reader recipes that "can transform an ordinary meal into a memorable feast, with just a taste of the wild" (p. 2).

The open bins pictured here in a health food store of the 1970s would soon require covers; serving tongs would be added, and other protections against impurities would gradually become part of the health food revolution. Harrowsmith, the magazine, was a major influence in the move to a new, healthier diet.

By the 1990s, healthy eating was on everyone's mind -- this in spite (or perhaps because) of the fact that eating fast food on the fly was beginning to be a way of life, and an unhealthy one for many. Anne Lindsay, with a number of titles in both French and English, was a lifesaver -- literally.

A manifesto in which EarthSave Canada aims to educate Canadians about good nutrition and the value of a plant-based diet.

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