Cooking Up History
When Salads All the Year ‘Round was published in 1949, by and large Canadian women were expected to lead their lives according to popular ideas about men's and women's place in society. Mainly, that women should seek to become wives, mothers, homemakers, and caregivers in the home. As part of their domestic duties women, generally, were the primary cooks for their families and, thus, spent considerable time in the kitchen. This cookbook recognizes such idealized roles for women as the recipes provided are meant for female cooks. However, the fact that it was compiled by members of the Women's Institute Branch associated with the Ontario Department of Agriculture demonstrates that women could and did pursue work and hobbies outside of the time at this time.
In the later 1940s, Canadians were also showing more concern around their health. Conversations about health, diets, and eating the right foods had become more common. The establishment of Canada's first set of "food rules" in 1942, and subsequent edits to these recommendations, demonstrates that messages about diet and health were being disseminated to Canadians. Throughout the postwar period, several different versions of Canada's Food Rules/Food Guide were released. They typically sold for $1.00 a copy and they included information about various food items Canadians should be incorporating into their diets. It is impossible to calculate how much Canadians adhered to such advice, but there was definitely more recognition that mental and bodily health was directly related to the types and quantities of foods consumed.
It is also worth mentioning that during the winter of 1948-1949 an influenza epidemic that occurred in Canada that many believed came from poor hygiene practices, resulting in the deaths of many people. Hygiene and sanitation are also addressed in Salads All the Year ‘Round. At the very beginning of the cookbook, the reader is instructed to wash vegetables thoroughly and even before washing them, the mud and dirt should be scrubbed off first. Whether it was food or the family home, Canadians were cognizant of the fact that there was a correlation between cleanliness and good health.
One of the obvious signs that Canadians needed to pay more attention to their health was rising rates of obesity in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1940 a study was conducted in Canada that showed mortality rates for obese people; it determined that 3 in every 10 people died from obesity and/or diabetes. It is not surprising, then, that when Salads All the Year ‘Round was published, several of the recipes included focused on eating fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Salads All the Year ‘Round was available for purchase at several places in order to increase its accessibility -- grocery stores, convenience stores, through the mail, and even from local libraries. Overall, this cookbook demonstrates some common themes and concerns in the postwar era -- mainly, that Canadians wanted to get healthy and reform their diets. As well, women were still largely in charge of feeding their families and the healthy meals they were serving should be prepared in a hygienic way.