Something’s cooking in the Archivist’s kitchen

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.

“Great dessert ideas…try Rogers on ice cream!” Reference code: AM1592-S7-F1-: 2011-092.1557

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.

2012 recreation of the above ad. Thank you Jill and Mandy! Photo by Jeffery Chong.

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!

Recreation in progress. Photo by Heather Gordon.

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!

The Rogers Golden Syrup cookbook in the palm of my hand. Photo by Jeffery Chong. Reference code : AM1592-S14. 845-A-4, folder 15.

Golden Chews recipe. p. 3.

Getting the ingredients out for making Golden Chews. For the ½ cup chopped nuts I used walnuts. Photo by Cindy McLellan.

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!

Golden Chews on the shelf waiting to be taste tested by Archives staff. Photo by Cindy McLellan.

(Click to enlarge) Two pages from The Great West Cook Book (1908). The Archivist made Peanut Candy. Reference code : pending. pp. 10-11.

Ingredients on the boil waiting for the candy to be ‘done’ so it can be poured over the peanuts. Photo by Cindy McLellan.

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! 

Peanut Candy ready to be sampled! Photo by Cindy McLellan.

(Click to enlarge) The BC Sugar fonds includes several marketing reports from the Daily Province for BC Sugar. These date from the mid to late-1930s. The above is a sample page from one such report. Reference code: pending. (1935).

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.

(Click to enlarge) The United Farm Women of Alberta Cook Book includes an advertisement for BC Sugar. Reference code : pending. pp. 18-19.

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!

(Click to enlarge) Excerpt from The Great West Cook Book (1908). Reference code : pending. pp. 30-31.

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.

Lantic corporate logo



10 responses to “Something’s cooking in the Archivist’s kitchen

  1. What fun! One of my passions is vintage cookbooks, so this post was right up my alley. I really like the cookbooks published by product or appliance companies, they usually contain the best (weirdest) recipes. Good for you for trying to make some of the recipes…. I haven’t been so brave.

  2. Heather Gordon

    Thanks for the feedback. Cindy had fun writing the post!

  3. rosemary mosby

    I have a Nanaimo Bar recipe pasted into my little recipe book, taken from the side of a bag of BC Sugar, probably in the 1970’s. It is my favorite and different from any other I’ve come across. The ingredients are the same, or very similar, but amounts are different and hence the depth of the layers. I haven’t come across it anywhere on Google so think maybe it’s quite special. Perhaps you have it in your archives. I also enjoy old cookbooks, particularly the little regional ones put out by church ladies groups back on the farm and so on. I’ve adopted many of these recipes over the years and find it quite comforting to participate in some way in the lives of these women, reflected in the ingredients, some in short supply etc because of the war and creative alternatives used. Thanks for your article. Most interesting.

  4. Mairghread

    A couple of decades ago, I was rummaging in a Salvation Army store and found an old binder with a thick set of the original BC Electric recipe booklets from WWII. I have used many of the recipes and they work just fine. 🙂

  5. Kelly Hake

    Since my father worked at BC Sugar, often we would get Syrup on bread for breakfast…wonder what the teachers would think these days if we sent kids off to school full of sugar….lol

  6. Desperately trying to find Mrs. Flaherty’s Blueberry Loaf recipe that was on the back of the rogers golden syrup bottle years ago. Have you heard of it?

  7. Heather Gordon

    There are some BC Sugar recipe books in the Cookbooks series AM1592-S14 ( It might be in there, but you would need to come in to the reading room to review.

  8. Looking for a recipe published in the Vancouver sun Nov. 29, 1972
    Rogers Raisin Loaf

  9. October 14, 2017– Just reading your blog on b c sugar and rogers syrup. I sure do remember Rogers syrup on bread or toast and a nice cup of hot chocolate. But the reason I was looking up the BC sugar company was that I was recently going through some old cookbooks of my mothers and came across a cook book called
    “Recipes for Young Adults” that was : “Published through the courtesy of the B.C. Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. P.O. Box 2150 Vancouver 3 B.C.”
    and was wondering if there was any way you could tell me when it was published. It looks to be pretty old and cannot find any publishing information in the book

  10. Kim Olthof

    Hi I’m looking for a copy of a vintage cookbook named – BRITISH COLUMBIA FISHERMAN’S Guild cookbook. Any ideas?

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