By Chad Ingram
June 29 2017
Two local women are celebrating Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary with a cookbook of 150 recipes many of them dating back to the time the country was founded.
Barbara Gregory and Sharon Lawrence are quickly running out of copies of Canadian Culinary Treasures 1867-2017: To Celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday .
“Sharon kept saying ‘We have to do something for Canada 150’” Gregory explains. “One morning I was looking through old cookbooks.”
Then came the thought lightbulb: A cookbook that would pay homage to the country’s diverse heritage.
That was back at the end of February and the two friends had the book complete with 150 recipes compiled within a month.
“We started researching” Gregory says. “A lot of old cookbooks old family recipes. Some of them date to the 1700s.”
“We started with the fiddleheads the leeks rhubarb and asparagus” Lawrence says. “The old recipes our grandparents and great grandparents used. I’m sure a lot of people will recognize their family recipes in there.”
From fiddlehead soup to lamb’s quarters to honey candy and railroad cake many of the recipes are ones that would have been cooked up by pioneers of the 19th century including those in Haliburton County. Most of the foods would have been cooked in large pots over the fire or on the top of a cookstove.
A recipe for pie plant pie is in fact a recipe for rhubarb pie.
“They called it pie plant” Gregory says.
“In a lot of cases it was the only thing around they could really use to make a pie” says Lawrence.
Another item that was plentiful and easy to find? Dandelions. The book contains recipes for dandelion soup dandelion salad and dandelion wine.
The recipes pay tribute to the wide-ranging country that is Canada. Both women were born in the Maritimes and Gregory grew up there.
“A lot of the recipes I put in have the Maritime influence” she says. “I’m Acadian so I have the Acadian influence.”
There are also recipes for bison salmon and wild rice soup that come from First Nations communities and ones that would have come to Canada with European immigrants such as the Scottish English French and Germans.
Some recipes are from certain historic periods.
“War cake” for example was popular after the First World War when eggs were scarce and is a cake without eggs.
The book is rich with desserts including but not limited to Aunt Vera’s honey cake Duke of Devonshire cake strawberry shortcake raisin pie blueberry grunt mocha shortbread bars and Loyalist oatmeal cookies.
“In our family one of the favourites was a baked custard pie” Lawrence says pointing out the simple recipe required only milk eggs sugar and some spices. “It’s something anybody could have made.”
Cooking and family memories go hand in hand for both Gregory and Lawrence who have been working on their memoirs.
“Food was involved” says Lawrence recalling childhood memories of decorating Halloween cookies the dough made and rolled out by her mother.
Indeed the cookbook’s introduction demonstrates the deep connection between family and many of the recipes contained therein. It reads:
“Heirloom recipes are the treasures of the kitchen. If you have your grandmother’s recipe box full of stained cards and anecdotes consider yourself lucky. Recipe cards instructions on scraps of paper and old cookbooks with notes in the margin are more than just recipes they are a link to our past and our connection to special people and events.”
Interestingly the recipes in the book are grouped by season since during the time periods that most of them are from people could only cook with what was available seasonally.
Many of the recipes are also pretty liberal with substitutions. The one for rabbit stew for instance calls on the cook to “add spices to taste and any vegetables you have on hand.”
While Gregory and Lawrence have collectively cooked or eaten just about every recipe in the book there is one neither of them has tried: roast porcupine.
As Lawrence points out the slow-moving creatures would have been one of the easiest animals to catch and their herbivore diets means they likely would have tasted at least somewhat like livestock.
In case you were wondering the book notes that porcupine is at its best towards the end of fall.
“It may be roasted and is occasionally preboiled to remove the woody taste” the recipe reads.
Lawrence and Gregory had the book published and printed by a company out of Winnipeg. While they had 150 copies printed they are selling like hotcakes at $12 apiece. They are available at Pine Reflections in Carnarvon Abbey Gardens in West Guilford and Wintergreen Maple Syrup and Pancake Barn in Gelert.
Lawrence also has a story published in a new Chicken Soup for the Soul book. That book is also in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday and is entitled Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of Canada. Lawrence’s story was one of 101 stories chosen from more than 1000 submissions.