Second in a series about the BC Sugar records
While continuing to process our BC Sugar fonds, I had the pleasure of finding some cookbooks and they inspired me to try some historical recipes. Read on to see how they turned out.
Cookbooks are a favourite resource for social and cultural historians as well as scholars of gender studies and women’s studies. But the list of academics that use cookbooks as sources does not end there. Studying literature can be enriched by knowing what people were eating and cooking at various times. Other fields such as agricultural studies, economic botany and many branches of biology all have an interest in what people ate and what they grew to cook and eat. The first cookbook published in Canada was La cuisinière bourgeoise, published in Quebec City in 1825 (Driver, 2008). Our BC Sugar fonds includes several cookbooks, many of which were published by BC Sugar for consumers of their products.
I am the highly suggestible type, so I brought ice cream and Rogers Golden Syrup in to work and sampled the combination with a couple of volunteers. We dressed up in our most inspiring knitwear and had a little photo shoot!
Cooking trends come and go and in the time of television celebrity cooks and food blogs this happens rapidly. Creating and selling new food products can involve educating the public as to how to use new products. When BC Sugar first introduced Rogers’ Golden Syrup in the early 20th century, consumers did not know what to do with it. Advertisements and the distribution of recipes remedied this. My Mom still enjoys Rogers’ Golden Syrup on her pancakes (check out the advertisement we featured in our Youtube video blog post). Mandy grew up enjoying it on her ice cream. The day we took this photo it was a pure sweet nostalgia Thursday for Mandy. A new treat for Jill and me!
There are many more creative ideas in the cookbooks published by BC Sugar than the advertisements that suggest using Rogers Golden Syrup on pancakes or ice cream. Looking through the selection of cookbooks and deciding what to make, I was drawn to this cute little book! I made the first recipe in it. I was inspired by the note at the bottom that reads: “Note: These make a tasty addition to any tea table.” In a modern cookbook I can see these being promoted as a healthy energy food; bran does not generally get used in fancy dessert baking anymore. Once I got started baking I realized that the recipe contains no mention of how long to bake these treats. Google results for ‘medium oven’ vary from 350˚ to 375˚. I tried 350˚ for 25 minutes and ended up baking them for 40 minutes. Waiting for them to cool completely meant that I cut them into squares and rolled in icing sugar early Monday morning! I failed to neatly score the square before cutting (the only part of the recipe I failed to follow). My tasters found the powdered sugar to be a little messy. But overall these chewy treats were a hit in the office; they were all gone before the end of the day!
My second recipe choice was drawn from The Great West Cook Book, published in 1908 by BC Sugar. Modern cookbooks have the ingredients listed, attractive photos, detailed instructions, and sometimes helpful Youtube videos. The recipes in old cookbooks are not at all arranged as we are accustomed. In this cookbook, each recipe is presented in paragraph form and the steps that would be obvious to the experienced cook are left out. I suppose they assume filling in these little details would be insulting. There were two key items missing from this recipe; the quantity of peanuts to use and any indicator of what would constitute the candy being ‘done!’ I cooked it to hard crack stage and this may have been too much. Everyone agreed that the candy was delicious but it did stick to ones teeth!
BC Sugar had a relationship with the Daily Province and their Modern Kitchen and Household Service Department. The company contributed to the demonstration kitchen and had recipes featured and published in the newspaper. In addition to the fascinating reports in the BC Sugar fonds about the Daily Province’s Demonstration Kitchen, the Archives has a copy of The Province cook book: tested recipes from the Province modern kitchen published in 1939.
The BC Sugar fonds includes more cookbooks than just the ones they published. This copy of the United Farm Women of Alberta Cook Book is only one example.
The world has changed since 1908, when the following recipe for ginger wine was published in The Great West Cook Book. In 1908, a person could go to the General Store to purchase the required 12 lbs of raisins for this recipe but in 2012, a supplier on the internet might be your best bet for a deal on bulk raisins!
As mentioned in my first post about these records, the BC Sugar Co. Ltd. fonds is a large accession of records that will be made available in stages. Phase one, focusing on the Vancouver-specific business records, is currently being arranged, described and properly housed. Please follow our blog for announcements about the availability of these records.
In the meantime, please let us know if you make any of the recipes shown in this post. We’d love to hear how they turn out!
The City of Vancouver Archives would like to thank Lantic Inc. for its financial support for the archival processing of the BC Sugar fonds, which has made it possible for the Archives to make these records available to the public at this time.