Cooking Up History


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While All-in-One Dishes may appear to be just a collection of recipes, the contents found within the cookbook suggest it is a testament to the broader social, economic, and cultural trends of North America at the time. Although the exact date of publication remains unknown several indicators, such as ingredients, dishes, and modernized cooking appliances, suggest that the cookbook was created during the later postwar era. Further examinations suggest it was published somewhere between the years 1960 to 1970. When examining domestic and cultural norms in mid-20th century Canada, this cookbook demonstrates these norms in practice. It also highlights the profound political and economic transformations occuring in the 1960s. The attached image to the left is of the Zion United Church during the period in which the cookbook was likely published.

During the Second World War, many community cookbooks were created by organizations in Saskatchewan's small towns and rural communities. These cookbooks were often compiled by religious groups, such as Ladies' Aids, to raise funds for church improvements or wider community initiatives. Their publication also allowed women to pursue interests beyond the home, engage in group work, dispense moral teachings to a broader audience, and preserve their local cultural heritage for future generations. Moreover, several of these cookbooks were reflective of the importance of agriculture in the Canadian economy. During this period, agriculture was no longer considered a "backward" sector of the economy. The town of Moose Jaw, in particular, became recognized as a wholesale and industrial center for cereal production and manufacturing. The cookbook also demonstrates that the postwar period was one of economic stability. Likely, readers of All-in-One-Dishes would not have struggled to purchase and find the ingredients listed throughout the book. The recipes also include ingredients that reflect common dietary practices among middle-class Canadians at the time. For instance, the large portion sizes show that the ingredients would have been easily attainable and that wartime practises like rationing and limiting consumption of certain foodstuffs had ended. 

By the 1950s, the Canadian industrial food sector was growing, and processed foods were widely available for most Canadian households. This is evident in the cookbook as many of the recipes contain packaged and canned ingredients. Not only does this suggest that these foods were trendy, but also that they were affordable and available to purchase.

The 1950s was also a period when more modernized cooking appliances made their debut. Many of the recipes included within the cookbook indicate in the instructions exact bake times and oven temperatures, rather than the old "tested and true" methods of  "slow oven" or "hot oven." This suggests that by the middle years of the 20th century, many rural and small-town households had more efficient and technologically-advanced electric stoves. 


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Around the time that All-in-One-Dishes was written, Canada's Food Guide was being revised. In 1961, a new version was released that took into account the recent changes in the processing, transportation, and storage methods of food available to Canadians throughout the year. In the title, "Rules" was replaced with "Guide" to recognize different nutritional and dietary consumption patterns. The revised guide also allowed healthy eating to become more flexible within the home. For instance, foods such as eggs, dried beans, and cheese were now recognized as alternatives to meat. These specific items also make an appearance in nearly all of the dishes within All-in-One-Dishes, suggesting that Canadian families' eating habits were changing, possibly due to some of the recent nutritional changes and trends highlighted in the new 1961 Canada's Food Guide. 

The year 1961 was also when milk serving sizes were switched from pints to the more common household measurement system of cups. In several of the recipes in All-in-One-Dishes, the measurements for ingredients are quite precise, whereas recipes published before the 1960s often included vague instructions like "enough milk."

Canada's immigration policies were also changing in the 1960s. Many of the more race-based prohibitions and limitations were lifted and the federal government acknowledged the need of skilled workers who could assist with economic growth. As Canada became more multicultural, Canada's food landscape was evolving, and indicative of changes happening more broadly. All-in-One-Dishes shows that Canadians were interested in incorporating new dishes in their meal plans, including those brought to Canada by immigrants, such as Chop Suey, curry dishes, and Cabbage Rolls.


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