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Chapter 3

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SOC 808
Jacqui Gingras

CHAPTER 3 CANADA’S FOOD HISTORY THROUGH COOKBOOKS INTRODUCTION • Food choices – individual decisions about where to get food, what food to choose, and how to prepare that food. • Most would agree that the goal of the home food provider is to serve fare that promotes health and well-being but other time perceptions of how to achieve health and well-being have varied. • For early Canadian settlers, well-being meant a full belly. In 1920s it depended upon milk, the ‘perfect’ food. By 1942, it resulted from a varied, full diet. By 1980, cookbooks were promoting lighter meals than larger ones. • Canadian cookbooks were first published in 1840. OVERVIEW • Foodways – The systems through which food is sourced, prepared, served, and consumed. Foodways are influenced by food choices and entrance and exit by each actor in the food system. Inevitably dynamic, changing with each shift in food choice and the entrance and exit of each actor in the system. • What factors have influenced our eating habits over time in Canada? • Desloges’ framework of 5 periods of culinary practice: 1. 1605 to 1960 French and Amerindian food practices. 2. 1960 to 1790 French style food. 3. 1790 to 1860 exchange between French and British foodways, influx of British in Quebec City. 4. 1860 to 1960 ‘a la canadienne’. 5. 1967 to the present, when Canadian foodways were shaped by international culinary influences. • With a multicultural population formed by successive waves of immigrants from around the world, as well as the land’s First Nations, skepticism about a singular culinary culture is understandable. • Connotation – the implied meaning of a word. Food can connote meaning, in the way that turkey, for example, denotes a type of fowl but also connotes or suggests a celebratory meal in contemporary North America. In this way, food has an inherent ‘narrativity’, such that a meal can tell a nuanced story in the language of food. • Today, we might add a number of distinctively Canadian foods to the list because of their recent ride to iconic status (foods that epitomize or represent particular people, places, or events): bacon, salmon, maple syrup, butter tarts, Nanaimo bards, poutine, deep-fried, yeast-raised beaver tails, Montreal smoked meat, Timmy’s doughnuts. • By the mid 20 century, it seems that many cookbook authors wanted to share distinctive foodways traditions. However, ethnic foodways traditions began to be defined in cookbooks as early as the 1940s. By the 1950s, Canada’s cookbooks reveal a wealth of diverse food traditions through recipes for distinctive ethnic dishes. Certainly by 1970, Canadian cookbooks catering to the divergent palates and inclinations were the norm, and one must assume that Canadian meals featured an extraordinary diversity of food items as well. • After WWII, soldiers who had tasted the culinary fare of other countries returned home, and citizens began to travel for often for leisure, all contributed to a change in food practice. • Symons points to the 1960s as a time when the ‘food industry shifted into a new mode’ and suggests that 1963 marked a significant turning point in culinary traditions. • New cooking technologies were quickly followed by cookbooks to train home food providers and cooking methods for the microwave oven and the food processor. REVIEW OF LITERATURE AND COMMENTARY • Culinary historians – a scholar who identifies key movements of change in food history – for example, the invention of a recipe or food production technique. There is a key distinction between the culinary historian and the cultural or social historian interested in food studies: the latter looks at the meanings and practices associated with food as indictors of cultural and social change more broadly, with food being only one possible lens of approach. • Always present for the researcher is the danger of confusing prescriptive practice – what people are told or advised to do – and descriptive practice – what they actually do. o Advertisements are a good example of prescriptive practice, while candid photographs of every food item consumed by an individual during the day might be an excellent record of descriptive practice. In food studies, examples of prescriptive practice (e.g., cookbooks or instruction manuals) are more readily available than reliable records of descriptive practice; the latter rely largely on self-reporting, and individuals have an understandable tendency to filter the information they provide. THE FORM AND FUNCTION OF COOKBOOKS • Genre – a kind of text; for example, cookbooks and corporate cookbooklets (short pamphlet-like pu
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