Cooking Up History
Cherished Recipes is a great cookbook for understanding Canadian food history. Reflecting on the year that this cookbook was published -- 1985 -- Canada, and especially Nova Scotia, were undergoing some important economic, social, and cultural shifts, which are demonstrated in the book.
By the 1980s, two-income households were becoming more common in Canada as more women entered the paid labour force. The Second Wave Feminist Movement of the 1960s and 1970s had prompted discussions about women's place in society and had encouraged women to follow their passions beyond the home. Feminists and advocates for women's rights could be found across the nation, including Nova Scotia, where a new feminist newspaper, Pandora, was established in 1985. Such forms of media, "written by women, for women, about women" were important for establishing the importance of women having a life beyond the traditional role of wife and mother. The fact that the Cherished Recipes cookbook was written and compiled by women demonstrates that women did indeed have important roles to play outside the home. By publishing a cookbook, these women were sharing knowledge and impacting the families in their community. Several of the recipes in Cherished Recipes were clearly written with the working woman in mind because they are simple and straight-forward; easy to prepare on a busy weekday.
Throughout Canada (and Nova Scotia was no exception), the 1980s was impacted by a significant economic recession and job losses in several industries. To combat the effects of this recession on the East Coast, the federal government and provincial government of Newfoundland signed the Atlantic Accord, which paved the way for the development of Nova Scotia’s and Newfoundland’s offshore oil and gas reserves, in the hopes of creating jobs and money to support local economies. Jobs meant disposable income, and Cherished Recipes includes recipes that use kitchen technologies found in most middle- and working-class Canadian homes at the time. A notable example is the microwave, which was a highly-coveted consumer technology in the 1980s. The ingredients used throughout Cherished Recipes were common ones in the 1980s, including many packaged and prepared foodstuffs that most families could afford, such as fondants, caramel mixtures, taffies, butterscotch, and frostings.
Nova Scotia was, and still is, known for its abundance of fresh seafood. Throughout Cherished Recipes there are several popular Nova Scotian dishes, but arguably the most popular includes fresh caught scallops. Within Cherished Recipes is a great but simple recipe for how to use scallops. Fishing was an important part of Nova Scotia's economy in the 1980s. Fish and seafood were readily available at local farmers' markets as well as major grocery store chains. Due to efficient supply chains, Nova Scotia fish and seafood could be found across Canada. Despite the popularity of packaged and processed foods in the 1980s, Cherished Recipes indicates that home-grown foodstuffs, like scallops, remained important in Nova Scotia, and the book helped readers to stay connected to their roots by offering traditional recipes that were easy to make with local ingredients.
Overall, when reading through Cherished Recipes, glimpses of life in the 1980s are provided, especially how Canada was in the middle of some important economic, social, and cultural changes. The broader history of Canada provided in this cookbook offers readers more than just knowledge about recipes, ingredients, and cooking techniques.