What Canada Ate aims to introduce researchers, students, and the general public to the Canadian Cookbook Collection housed in Archival & Special Collections in McLaughlin Library at the University of Guelph. The site provides free access to digital facsimiles of historic Canadian cookbooks and student curated exhibits. Our Culinary Collection comprises nearly 20,000 cookbooks dating from the 17th century to the present day and is one of the largest such collections in North America. To learn more about our culinary collection, please visit our website here. We are grateful to the many donors who have helped us to build this collection.
The repository (i.e. "Items" section of the site) is composed of digital facsimiles of the cookbooks and descriptive metadata. Viewers can download individual pages or a complete copy of the cookbooks as a PDF (the last file to be displayed in a record). Some cookbooks include only summary scans of their pages. If Canadian copyright law permits, we may be able to provide a complete copy of these cookbooks upon request. High resolution preservation digital files of the cookbooks, stored on a secure Library server, were created according to the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative.
Our objective in digitizing the cookbooks is to make them more accessible to the public. Along with the recipes contained within their pages, cookbooks are history books in and of themselves. From the first cookbook published in Canada in 1825 to the present day, these resources have acted as barometers for the nation’s shifting culinary landscape. Whether the purpose of the cookbook was for fundraising (i.e. a community cookbook), advertising a product, or was produced by a government agency or corporation, historical cookbooks are time capsules of the period during which they were created. They can offer important and often overlooked commentaries on a community or group's values and attitudes, gender dynamics, socio-economic status, nationalism, agriculture, consumerism and consumption practices, and cultural identity.
The cookbooks on the site have been extensively used in experiential learning courses in the Department of History at the University of Guelph. In these courses, which are conducted in partnership with Archival & Special Collections staff, students are introduced to a variety of digital tools that help them learn how to curate virtual exhibits, as well as how to interpret primary sources. These class projects also expose students to a variety of career possibilities, including work in archives, libraries, museums, and the Digital Humanities. This pedagogical approach ensures that traditional modes of learning, such as research and writing, are still utilized, but in more unique and applicable ways. It is hoped that through these enhanced learning experiences, students are better-equipped to enter a competitive job market after graduation.
The exhibits on the site have been created by students in Dr. Rebecca Beausaert’s HIST*3240: Food History class and Dr. Kevin James’ UNIV*1200: First Year Seminar.
What Canada Ate is dedicated to the memory of distinguished Canadian cookbook author, culinary historian, and food activist, Anita Stewart (1947-2020). Anita was also the founder of Food Day Canada and the first Food Laureate at the University of Guelph. The Anita Stewart Alumni Food Laboratory, funded through a $1.33-million gift by University of Guelph alumnus, Michel Eric Fournelle, will be constructed in the University’s Macdonald Institute. In keeping with her mission "to collectively celebrate the foods of Canada," What Canada Ate provides free access to nearly 300 historic Canadian cookbooks from the holdings of Archival & Special Collections. The repository includes cookbooks from Anita’s own working library and archives which she donated to the University of Guelph in 2015. To learn more about the Anita Stewart fonds click here.
Credit for the image on the banner: Pig illustration from Wild Raspberries by Andy Warhol and Suzie Frankfurt. Boston: Little Brown, 1997.
What Canada Ate is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0) with the exception of individual works whose copyright status has been otherwise noted.