Cooking Up History

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When the Halton Women's Institute Cook Book was published in 1912, that year marked some important social and cultural events that occurred in the Western world; events, in some cases, that captured the world's attention and continue to provoke attention from historians. 

The RMS Titanic, the largest and most luxurious passenger ship in the world, sank in April 1912, killing 1500 passengers during its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City. In Canada, between 1910 and 1912, a passionate and lengthy debate about language, religion, and education caused friction between Protestants and Catholics and Anglophones and Francophones. At McGill University in 1912, Carrie Derrick (pictured in the attached image) became the first female professor, where she was a Botanist and taught Morphology and Genetics. 

And, two short years later, the most devastating conflict to occur up until that point in time, the First World War, began. As a colony of Britain, Canada committed itself to the Allied war effort; when all was said and done, this conflict resulted in the loss of 61,000 Canadians and upwards of 20,000,000 deaths worldwide. 


The advertisements within the Halton Women's Institute Cook Book offer a neat glimpse into what life was like in a rural or small-town Canadian household in the early part of the 20th century. For instance, there is an advertisement for "Fruit Jar Rings, Pure Spices, Flavouring, and Pickling Requisites" on page 12, signifying that many women used the pickling process to preserve food. There is also an entire section of the cookbook dedicated to the process of pickling. Some of the advertisements showcase local businesses, like the butcher that appears on page 17. The name of the butcher shop is provided, as well as what it sold -- fresh and cured meats. The business's address is also provided should the cookbook's reader decide to seek them out when food shopping. Such advertisements in community cookbooks helped local businesses gain customers. 

This cookbook also demonstrates an important aspect of rural and small-town culture -- the sharing of recipes and culinary knowledge. Since Halton was a rather large county geographically, the Halton Women's Institute Cook Book was a way for women to connect with one other and learn new things. 


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