031: Sifting through LAC’s Cookbook Collection
September 8, 2016
Listen Now [39.7 MB, length: 42:50]
In this episode, we sit down with Erika Reinhardt, archivist at Library and Archives Canada, to discuss LAC’s cookbook collection. We discuss how culture and technology have shaped these books and recipes over time, and the impact they have had on our relationship with food and cooking throughout our history.
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Sifting through LAC’s Cookbook Collection
Geneviève Morin: Welcome to “Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.” I'm your host, Geneviève Morin. Join us as we showcase treasures from our vaults; guide you through our many services; and introduce you to the people who acquire, safeguard and make known Canada's documentary heritage.
“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, and the wisdom of cookbook writers.” - A quote by writer Laurie Colwin.
In this episode, we sit down with Erika Reinhardt, archivist at Library and Archives Canada, to discuss LAC's cookbook collection. We discuss how culture and technology have shaped these books and recipes over time, and the impact they have had on our relationship with food and cooking throughout our history.
While you are listening, you can consult our
Flickr album to see images associated with this episode. Visit
Hi Erika. Welcome to the podcast.
Erika Reinhardt: Hi Geneviève. Very glad to be here.
GM: I understand that Library and Archives Canada has a fairly extensive collection of cookbooks. How many titles do we have?
ER: In our published heritage collection, we have over 2600 titles of cookbooks or books related to cooking and cuisine in Canada. Now these are published cookbooks that are available to the public through the National Library collection and the oldest one we have in our collection was published in 1760. And we actually continue, every year, to acquire new cookbooks, like newly published cookbooks in Canada or cookbooks by Canadian authors as they're being created. So, every year the collection gets bigger.
GM: Wow. So, do we have any cooking related records or documents in the LAC collection that predate publishing or that are unpublished, maybe material that comes from archival fonds or even government records?
ER: So, in addition to our published heritage collection, we have two key archival collections. We have a collection of government records and these are records that are transferred to Library and Archives Canada from government departments. And we also have a collection of private archives, which are records that families, key individuals and organizations have donated. And in both of these records, we can find extensive information about how food systems developed in Canada. And what this means is looking at how Canadians' relationship with food has changed and that includes how food has been prepared in the past, how we've marketed food, how we've consumed it and also other key areas of the relationship. So how we produced food, how new foods have been introduced through trade and growing infrastructure and technology. It can also tell us about the culture around food including health and diets and customs and menus. We also have in our government collections like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which tells us a lot about the regulation of food and health and the promotion of healthy food to Canadians, National Farm Products Council and even the Department of Health, which has a lot of records that relate to food and diets, food and nutrition, but also food related diseases like diabetes, obesity, even tuberculosis and E. coli.
Now, in our private collection, this is very interesting because what we're actually seeing are individuals, average Canadian families and how they've used food. So while we do have many published recipes, we also have a lot of family collections that have their own personal family recipes and a lot of these show up in diaries and in handwritten notebooks. And they come from many early settlers who either carried family recipes with them when they came to Canada and passed them along over several generations. Once they got to Canada, they would adapt the recipes based on wherever they were settling, what food was available. So part of the collections that contain these family recipes are, for instance, the Hélène Gougeon fonds, the Martha Field/Fanny Simpson fonds. But there's also the Hallen family fonds, the Conger fonds, which actually contains notebooks of not just recipes but also how to make household products like furniture polish, bug spray, herbal remedies and medicines based on local plant life and local herbs that would have been available in the area. They also include instructions on how to set up a garden or a root cellar. It's a very interesting resource because we can see recipes that were being used on a day-to-day basis and we can tell which recipes were being passed from family member to family member or were being collected from neighbours. A lot of them have notes in the margins that can tell us how they used it, how they adapted it, if they thought it was an excellent recipe.
And in addition to looking at just recipes, we also have the collections of some well-known food journalists and cookbook authors. There was Walter Patrick Davisson, who was a journalist for the Canadian Cooperative Wheat Producers. He also wrote a lot about world hunger and global food industries. We have the records of Roy Hacking, who was an advocate for increased food production and food conservation. We have the records of Irene Spry who represented rural women and nutrition. She also spoke out a lot about food production and issues, and she was affiliated with the Associated Country Women of the World. So, we have the records of Jehane Benoit who was a chef and restaurateur, so we have just some photos of her.
GM: That's a pretty wide array of ...
GM: ... of material that people can get their hands on and study for Canadian food history. That's fantastic. I do remember seeing some photos from our photo collection of camp cooks for the RCMP and cooks in the military as well and their ship galleys. It's really a wonderful portion of the LAC collection, isn't it?
ER: Yes, and there's so many different uses, it's a very interdisciplinary topic because food studies is a growing academic field in Canada and it's a very new field that really didn't develop until the late 1990s. And so these sources, they have research value for anthropologists and sociologists, for food scientists; it can tell us a lot about trade and economics; they show us about agricultural business, culture. They can show researchers a lot about health and nutrition within society, culture and ethnicity around certain foods and diets. There's a lot of information on food sciences and engineering and technology. The marketing of food. The practical uses of the resources that we have at LAC are just endless. And it's nice to be able to promote these records to the Canadian public.
GM: So let's bring it back to food; because we love to eat.
GM: Over the centuries, we've seen the evolution of our cooking tools. We've gone from cooking over an open hearth to these newfangled electric appliances in the kitchen. How's the technology in the kitchen reflected in the cookbooks, and in our cooking skills?
ER: It's very interesting when you look at the cookbooks, because they do tell us a lot about how cooking patterns and cooking techniques have changed over time including just the number of ingredients and the tools available to us. And just on more of a personal note, I started off working in a museum that had a working heritage kitchen, and in this museum we would portray the era of the United Empire Loyalists and up to the War of 1812. So we were working with open-hearth kitchens, which meant cooking over an open fire. There were no cooking stoves; so, when you use a lot of these recipes, you don't have, because they pre-dated weights and measurements, so units of measurements like a cup and a pound, they also predated electric stoves and ovens, so a lot of these recipes don't tell us, they don't have the instructions “preheat oven to 350 degrees,” because there was no oven to preheat. They don't tell us to use one cup of this and half a cup of that; because a cup in the 1700s wasn't quite the same as what we would think of as a cup today. So the development of standardized units of weights and measurements, that came out in the 1820s, was a huge revolution in cooking and cookbook publishing because, suddenly, you could almost universalize and standardize recipes. Because every person would be using a cup of flour for each individual was going to be the same across the board, rather than each household having little variations because a cup was just whatever mug or glass they had handy. And then in the twentieth century, with the invention of the electric stove and other cooking appliances, even the microwave. We also see the invention of blenders, crockpots. The late XX and the early XXI century, there's been quite this wave of niche cooking appliances. Now we have breakfast sandwich makers that you can buy at department stores. But when these appliances came out, they were still fairly strange and unusual for a lot of people. So a lot of companies, such as General Electric, would produce cookbooks to basically encourage ... that were specific recipes adapted to the use of these new stoves, these new microwaves, these new crockpots as a way of trying to get people to use them. And even today, if you ever buy a blender, it will usually have a little booklet in the instructions that include how to make a smoothie.
GM: So it was really clever marketing?
ER: It was very, very clever to get these products on the line and that's why a lot of the companies that did it are still around today.
GM: I have to say that some of those microwave cookbook recipes are not very seductive for me but it might have been for the housewife in the 1980s.
ER: Oh absolutely. That was the era when you had it all, you had the job and you had the house and the kids. And you could have a job and, thanks to this lovely new microwave, cooking was going to be easier and faster than ever.
GM: The Sunday lunch roast was quickly done.
ER: Yes and we see in the XX century a lot of changes in people's diets as a result of food manufacturing and food production and all of these attempts to make food simpler and easier to make. For example, you see a lot of packaged foods. So things like a Jell-O mix; you just open the bag, pour the powder into a bowl, add some lukewarm water, cover, refrigerate, enjoy. Just very simplistic, easy steps. And even today, how many recipes and online blogs have these “The 15 Minute” cookbooks?
ER: You can cook an entire well-balanced meal in 15 minutes. It's all about trying to make everyone's lives simpler to speed up the cooking process. And processed food, prepackaged pastas where you just boil. Even frozen dinners became sort of a way and they were marketed to women as “you don't have time to cook tonight? No problem, toss in a frozen dinner, it's already prepared for you, all you have to do is set the timer and in the meantime, sit down, read a magazine, do your hair, take time for yourself.” And that's how a lot of these companies sort of branded these processed and prepackaged foods. It was the era of convenience. When, really, these are companies that are compiling cookbooks as a means of marketing certain food products. Five Roses had a very famous cookbook that they put out, too, where it was just normal cookbooks but every time it asked for flour, it would specify Five Roses flour.
GM: It's funny because sometimes I still have that reflex at the grocery store, I look at the one brand of flour and I look at Five Roses “oop that was the one my mother bought.” Because she had the Five Roses cookbook.
ER: Because she had the Five Roses cookbook. My grandmother had the Five Roses cookbook.
GM: It's very powerful, very powerful marketing.
We asked Erika how else cookbooks have changed over time.
ER: In addition to just cooking over the fire and having things slow roasted, a lot of these older recipes also use different types of flavours. So in the modern era, whenever you're making something like ... whenever you're baking a cake or cookies, usually one of the most popular flavourings we have today is vanilla and chocolate, I believe those are the two most popular. In the XVIII century, neither one of those was really readily available. In fact, vanilla didn't really emerge as sort of a common ingredient until well in the XIX century. So a lot of these older recipes they were using alcohol, a brandy or a fortified wine, sherry as forms of flavouring. Rosewater was incredibly popular. Raisins, currants, these are all ingredients that were being put into recipes to kind of add flavour and then, later on, several decades later, more in the 1830s, 1840s that actually gets replaced with more citrusy flavours, so oranges and lemons. So again, we can kind of see how trade is expending, how the market is growing as infrastructures develop in Canada with the construction of railways and canals. It made it a lot easier for certain foods to go from the ports in Halifax all the way out to the western Prairies.
GM: It's interesting you mention that, because the LAC has a wonderful collection of posters from the Empire Marketing Board where they keep promoting “buying raisins from Australia” and just staying within the Commonwealth, and we're seeing Irish bacon and we're seeing oranges from South Africa. It matches what you're telling us about the evolution of flavours in cooking. The trade routes open up, more agreements and marketing arrangements are made and, all of a sudden, Canada's getting all this new flavour punch.
ER: And that is interesting about the Empire Board because it also tells us a lot about just growing nationalism and pride in the Commonwealth and being part of this British Empire but also by promoting the idea of Canada's role in the Empire, as it has Pacific salmon. I believe that was one of the ones that Canada was sort of associated with. You're also creating kind of a national food identity for Canadians, so for Canada it's maple syrup and it's salmon and it's tourtière and poutine.
GM: [laughs] Was poutine that early, really?
ER: No. So the idea of national identity and national foods really emerges strongly in Canada in 1967 and the years after that. And this was during the time, it was Canada's centennial. There was a lot of national celebrations, a lot of questions on what it means to be Canadian and what is Canada? And almost like an invention of Canadian symbolism. And included in this were a lot of cookbooks that were published in the late 1960s and early 1970s that really tried to come up with a distinct Canadian diet, Canadian cuisine. And even breaking it down a little bit into regional, so traditional French Canadian cuisine, traditional Atlantic Canada cuisine. Even breaking it down as immigration grew, as well during this period more ethnical cookbooks started to come out like Mennonite cooking and Italian cooking. And we have in our collection a lot of these cookbooks from this era. And even small towns would do, in order to celebrate the centenary, would do a commemorative cookbook of favorite recipes from families and households and the town would each contribute to these little cookbooks. So we have a lot of, in addition to these big publication cookbooks, we also have a lot of just cookbooks from small towns, from church groups, like very small kind of grassroots-level recipes and compilations. They're very nice.
GM: That's usually where all the gems are too, like those really good cookies that get passed on from generation to generation in those parish cookbooks that you'll find them.
ER: Oh, exactly. Because one of the dangers of, well one of the things we need to be aware of, if you're going to use a cookbook as, I guess, a historical resource, is, well, they can tell us, cookbooks can tell us a lot about what foods were available at a certain time and place in history. What we don't necessarily know is how the average person, which recipes the average person actually used. There's a lot of cookbooks that I have where I've ... I'm always interested in the recipe but I've never actually tried it and probably never will. But then at the same time, there'll be maybe four or five in that same cookbook that I've used repeatedly and adapted because they are my favourites. And a lot of these little small town cookbooks, that's what they are, they're the favorite recipes, they're the tried-and-true recipes, they're the ones that you pass on to your children or your grandchildren. Or when they leave and go to college or move out on their own, they'll ask their mom “oh can I have your recipe for this chocolate cake that you make or for this broccoli salad?” With my mom, it's broccoli salad. [laughs]
GM: With me, it's the cheese ball.
ER: The cheese ball.
GM: Erika tells us about the challenges of recreating recipes from older cookbooks, for today's cooks and kitchens.
ER: Well, I think if you're trying to authentically recreate a recipe, you should really try and do the tools and the ingredients because part of it, too, is looking at how have taste changed over time. In one of the cookbooks, the author mentions “never put onions in a recipe unless you're absolutely certain that everyone at the table enjoys onions.” And yet, onions are a very common ingredient that we have today. I guess looking at some of the older cookbooks, you'll see a bit how the language has changed. One cookbook will ask for sack as an ingredient but a lot of people don't necessarily know what that means because today we consider it, we call it something else, we call it sherry or fortified wine. Another example is we talk about loaf sugar and again, we don't really use the term loaf sugar anymore, now it's granulated white sugar. So there is a little bit of research involved sometimes if you don't know what a certain ingredient is. So towards the end of the XVIII century, around 1780s, a lot of cookbooks start adding an ingredient called pearl ash to recipes. And what pearl ash is, it's basically a precursor to baking powders or baking sodas. It was added to recipes as a means of allowing cakes and batters to kind of rise and get a little bit fluffier. But again, you can't necessarily go to a grocery store today and find pearl ash. And, when I was researching it, I found that it was actually just very, very finely ground ashes from your campfire or from your stove that you could actually sprinkle in the recipe and it would actually have the same kind of levelling effect in making recipes rise. Now I have recipes that predate the 1780s, where, if you want to make a cake and you want it to be kind of fluffier, you had to add eggs and a lot of these recipes had lots of eggs. They would ask for ten eggs, a dozen eggs where you had to whisk the whites into a very, very stiff foam and it was that, that was going to add a bit of fluff to the batter. And even then, if you were to eat a cake following one of those recipes today, most people would consider it to be a very dense cake; it doesn't have that light, fluffy, moist... If you were to go to a grocery store today and buy a prepackage cake mix, it's a lot lighter, a lot fluffier, whereas this would be very, very dense. You've tried it before actually.
ER: I brought one in a couple of months ago ...
GM: It's very good and I kept thinking this would be great with a cup of tea.
GM: You just need the tea to sort of soften it just ...
GM: ... a little bit. I also found when I did taste it, it was a Portuguese cake you made when we tried it.
ER: Yes, it was a Portuguese cake, which was a very popular cake in the late ... around the turn of the XIX century.
GM: It was fascinating to taste because it was ... it felt it was dense but it was also very mild. It wasn't something that went “pow” in your mouth, it was just a nice, mild piece of enjoyable cake ...
GM: ... not too sweet. The thing that came to mind when I tasted it was that our taste buds are so spoiled today because we have these over sweetened foods in our diet ...
GM: ... we have salted foods in our diet. Because my palate is so used to industrial factory food with the high sugar and salt content that I found it lacking but it wasn't the cake's recipe, it was because my taste buds are spoiled.
ER: Yes, exactly. Our contemporary palates are so conditioned to deal with the very sweet dessert products, very rich products. Even today, I find that a lot of the frosting on cake is just way, way too sweet. Or if I order a cake, I love the rich chocolatey flavour of it but it is very strong and it hits you and it has an impact on it. Whereas these recipes, they're simpler, they were sort of little luncheon cakes, dessert cakes. And as you mentioned before, there's no added salt to the recipes, there's a little bit of sugar but it's not the main ingredient. You might have a little bit of sugar added to a recipe but you are not going to have half of your dry ingredients be the sugar. The flavour and the taste is going to come from other elements that are added to the recipe like, as I said, alcohol or flavoured waters and juices. A lot of those were ways of adding flavour to sauces and to cakes and batters.
GM: So, what can you tell us about the oldest cookbook in the Library and Archives Canada collection?
ER: So, the oldest cookbook that we have in our collection was a cookbook by Hannah Glasse and it's called
The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy. It was originally published in 1747. Now, the edition that we have in our collection is the seventh edition of this book; it was published in 1760. And the fact that, in just 14 years, there were seven editions of this book shows you what kind of a bestseller this was. This cookbook was the most widely distributed cookbook in the English-speaking world in the mid XVIII century and it continued to be published regularly up until the early XIX century. It was intended to be used by domestic servants in these grand households or middle-class households. And one of the innovations that Hannah Glasse had done through this cookbook is, she took very extravagant French recipes that were generally only being used by professional chefs or by these elite cooking schools in the European continent, and she converted these recipes into a usable cookbook that could be used by the average person in their household. And that included taking very technical culinary terminology and using common language instead. And she also substituted a lot of expensive exotic ingredients for those that would be more accessible to her common readers. So, in many ways, this cookbook is seen as one of the earliest examples of a cookbook for the average reader as an instruction on how to cook various recipes.
GM: And not for millionaires who liked to have Chantilly cream with dinner every night.
ER: It's one of the earliest examples of what we would consider a contemporary cookbook.
GM: It's not unlike today when we watch these food channels where a lot of shows focus on quick, easy and inexpensive meals where you try to focus on the cheaper cut of meat. It's often a spin on a classic French recipe but we'll use a cheaper cut and we'll roast it a little longer or we'll braise it instead of roasting it just so people can stretch their dollars a little more. So we haven't changed that much in terms of wanting to make our food budget go a little further.
ER: And, as you say, a lot of these cookbooks are all about how to simplify and make, perhaps, less scary the art of cooking.
GM: Now, I'm really excited about this. You have adapted a recipe for our users to try. We'll be putting it up on Flickr. Can you tell us more about what you've chosen?
ER: So, we were talking a little bit earlier about the Portugal cake, so I thought I would bring that recipe in for our users. So, what I actually have are three different variations, historical variations of this recipe. So, the first one I have, it's the original recipe, it's the recipe from the Hannah Glasse cookbook that we had talked about before. As I mentioned this is from the 1760 edition of her cookbook because it's actually a different recipe from the original first edition. And part of what I want to show is just how the same recipe is always being adapted and how it evolves over time. So in the 1760 recipe, the instructions are “To make Portugal cakes. MIX into a pound of fine flour, a pound of loaf sugar beat and sifted, then rub it into a pound of pure sweet butter, till it is thick like graded white bread, then put to it two spoonfuls of rosewater, two of sack, ten eggs, whip them very well with a whisk, then mix it into eight ounces of currants, mix'd all well together; butter the tin pans, fill them but half full, and bake them; if made without currants they'll keep half a year; you may also add a pound of almonds blanched, and beat with rosewater, as above, and leave out the flour. These are another sort and better.” So she's actually giving two variations of the recipe here. One of the things that we notice with this recipe is you're not really getting specific measurements, you're getting weights, so you're getting a pound of flour, a pound of loaf sugar. You're also being told to bake the ingredients but we don't know for how long, we don't necessarily know at what temperature.
GM: This kind of tells us something about the cook from back then. She was expected to have a certain amount of skill when she was starting those recipes because someone who has knowledge in cooking knows that if you keep watching your cake as it bakes, you can tell when it's done by putting a toothpick in or by checking the springiness of it. But if you're a beginner cook, like a lot of people are today, you would need more instructions. So this is kind of interesting as sort of an anthropological study.
ER: Yes and it's almost a more advanced recipe because everybody cooked. This was before the days when you could really go into town and buy a precooked meal or a prepackaged meal. So many people grew up in their mother's kitchens watching them cook, helping them cook. So there is a lot of assumption that you already have the basic skills and the basic knowledge. And lot of these recipes, I wouldn't recommend for beginners because they rely heavily on your ability to cook, it's what I call “cooking by feel”. Some recipes don't give you specific instructions like, I mean this one's actually very detailed and that it tells you a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter. Some recipes will give you just butter, sugar, flour and it's up to you to know the consistency and the amount. And usually, when you're making a batter or if you see, ok it's really, really liquidy, I'll add more flour to it. So you have to have that level of instinct and feel to really follow a recipe like this. And also, even with the bake time, you need to really understand how long certain batters need to cook for, at what temperature, how long to leave it for, how often to check on it.
So I actually have another variation of this recipe and this is from, it's an 1831 cookbook called
The Cook Not Mad. And in this version, it's actually called a wedding cake, they don't refer to it as a Portugal cake but it is. When you read the ingredients, you'll see it's very, very similar with a few alterations and adjustments. So in this recipe, it's 18 pounds of flour, 12 of butter ...
GM: Holy moly!
ER: [laughs] ... 12 of sugar, 6 of raisins, 6 of currants, 3 of citron, 12 dozen eggs, half a pound of cloves, one quart of brandy and as much other spice as you like. And that is the recipe. It doesn't tell you to mix them together, doesn't even tell you to bake it because all of that is assumed knowledge. It just tells you the ingredients that should be going into this cake. And a lot of the ingredients are very, very similar to the Portugal cake recipe that we looked at, it has flour, it has butter, sugar, raisins and currants. But this recipe has actually gone ahead and added citron flavours and cloves.
GM: That's a lot of cloves!
ER: Half a pound of cloves.
ER: Because your flavour isn't coming from the sugar, remember. And yes, a lot of cakes are very, they're very high in spices, so nutmeg and cinnamon and cloves. But again, this is a very and even more simplified version but it's overly complicated because there's so many gaps in the instructions that you have to fill in yourself.
GM: So did you have a third one?
ER: Yes, so the third version of this recipe, I actually took it, it comes from our archival collection, so this is not a published version; it didn't come out of a cookbook. But again, when we look at the ingredients and the instructions, it's very, very similar to the Hannah Glasse recipe and
The Cook Not Mad recipe. So this recipe comes from ... it's a handwritten cookbook that is in the Martha Field and Fanny Simpson fonds at Library and Archives Canada. The cookbook was inherited by Fanny Simpson from her childless sister Martha Field, and we know—based on dates that were added into the cookbook—that it was probably compiled around 1842 to 1858. So Martha Field, she was an English housewife born around 1814 and died around 1880. And her sister Fanny ended up marrying the reverend Maltwood Simpson and they immigrated to Hamilton, Ontario. And when they came to Canada, they brought this cookbook full of recipes with them. And it's been passed on from generation to generation and we actually have, up until the 1930s and 1950s, the granddaughter and great-granddaughter had been adding recipes to it. They had been making, they had been adapting recipes from it, adding sort of modernizing it a little bit.
ER: Yes. So the cookbook shows signs of considerable use and it has both normal and exotic recipes. So in this one, now this is their recipe for currant cake and it was also used as a wedding cake. So there's a little introduction to the cookbook and I actually had to transcribe this because it was written by hand. In the introduction it reads: the whole of this recipe was made at Fanny's wedding on August 19, 1845. It makes one large and two tolerable size luncheon cakes. And this recipe goes “to five pounds of well dried flour, add three pounds and a half of fresh butter well washed, three pounds of currants well washed and dried, half a pound of raisins chopped fine, some candied peel cut small, half a pound of blanched almonds with a little rosewater, some minced spice and the yokes of”... And this is where transcription becomes tricky because I couldn't tell if it was 13 eggs, 20 eggs or 30 eggs.
ER: So this is part of the difficulties with working with these old, old recipes is sometimes you have to guess if the original manuscript is smudged or difficult to read. So the recipe continues “with the whites each beaten separately, beat the butter with the hand until it becomes a cream, then add the sugar and eggs gradually, then the rest of the ingredients and last of all, two wine glasses of brandy. Beat all well together for an hour and put it into a buttered cake pan lined with buttered paper. Bake it four hours in a well-heated oven and when done, let it cool gradually”. And there's a little note at the bottom that says “this is an excellent recipe”. So this one gives a little bit more details. We're starting to see again, kind of a combination of ingredients from the Hannah Glasse recipe and also ingredients from the 1831 wedding cake recipe. And we're getting a bit more, like we're finding out about how to prepare the cake pan, you have a buttered cake pan but they would also layer it with paper that's also been buttered. Possibly as a way of preventing it from sticking to the bottom of the pan, which is something that we didn't see in the earlier recipes. We have a bake time of four hours. When I first read that, I thought no, no, no, no, I must've misread this. Like four hours! But it was actually very, very clear in the instructions. But you don't think of anything cooking that long, particularly a cake. And again, if you're baking it for four hours, what is the temperature you're baking at? There's so much trial and error in trying to recreate these recipes.
GM: If not, you'll have a pretty dry cake.
ER: What's very interesting with this version of the recipe is we know that this isn't just a recipe in a cookbook, we know that this was a recipe that somebody used and that they passed on to their grandchildren. And we also know, we know when it was used, we know the history behind this recipe, the cultural context. You know, this was a recipe that was used at a wedding but that it also can be used to make tolerable size luncheon cakes, so there are various uses and when it would have been appropriate to serve this cake.
GM: It's a party cake anyway.
ER: It is a party cake, yes.
GM: If people would like to come and consult some of Library and Archives Canada's cookbooks, how do they go about it?
ER: As we had kind of mentioned earlier, we have sort of three very distinct collections. So if you're looking for a published cookbook, you can go onto our Library and Archives Canada's website and use the AMICUS database. This is the database that allows our users to search the National Library collection. So they can just go and use that database and do a keyword search. They can search “cookbooks;” they can search “cuisine;” “cooking.” If they want to find older recipes, they can use the term called “cookery.” And I do encourage people to look up keywords in both English and French, because you'll find you might get different results. And for records in our Archival collections, you can do keyword searches as well, you can search under “recipe,” “nutrition,” “cooking,” “health,” “cookbooks,” the word “recettes” so r-e-c-e-t-t-e-s is an older word for recipes or even the word “receipt,” as in a cash receipt, was an older word for recipe as well, that we see in a lot of the older English cookbooks.
GM: Don't we have an online resource as well about Canadian cookbooks on our website?
ER: We do. Several years ago, there was an online exhibition called
Bon appétit! A Celebration of Canadian Cookbooks and that is still available on our website. And this is a virtual exhibit that was produced by Library and Archives Canada and it was compiled from a lot of our published holdings. So the exhibit is divided into four thematic sections. The first section looks at “Canada's First Cooks” and focuses on traditional Aboriginal cooking. The second section is “The Pioneer Kitchen.” The third section is “Revolutions in the Kitchen,” which talks about key innovations in food preparation. And then the last section looks at “The Culture of Cooking,” which explores regional and multicultural cooking in selected ... using selected recipes.
GM: Well, that's going to be a really good place to get started for people to do some research on cookbooks.
ER: Yes. And with legal deposit, we have an extensive collection of XX century cookbooks from all regions of Canada that are just waiting for eager researchers to come and access.
GM: To learn more about Library and Archives Canada's cookbooks collection, please visit us online at
Thank you for being with us. I'm Geneviève Morin, your host. You've been listening to “Discover Library and Archives Canada—where Canadian history, literature and culture await you”. A special thanks to our guest today, Erika Reinhardt.
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