Containing over 500 “receipts” for the “farmer and the housewife,” this cookbook is more about history than it is about ingredients and beautiful images of perfect dishes. Cindy Deachman takes a look inside The Canadian Receipt Book
MORE THAN 150 YEARS AGO, DIY was not trendy but, rather, assumed. Doing everything yourself, making everything yourself, was a necessity — especially on a farm. Forget Uber Eats. Back then, if you’d never had instruction from your elders, you could find a recipe in The Canadian Receipt Book, published in 1867 to celebrate the new Dominion of Canada. By chance, a copy was recently found in the Archival and Special Collections at the University of Guelph.
This year, the recipe book was reissued. And while it’s billed as a cookbook, it contains only about four pages of cake recipes (or receipts, the term at the time); compare that with nine pages of beekeeping tips. In fact, only a small portion of receipts refer to food: a third of the book is given over to veterinarian tips.
Ads particular to Ottawa are sprinkled throughout. Opposite advice on distemper in horses is the Ottawa Drug Warehouse ad, where one can buy medicine for horses — and cocaine for oneself. Others reflect Ottawa’s history, including Chalmers & Co., dealers in chandeliers and chimneys. (The address, 62 Sparks St., now houses the restaurant Riviera.)
Speaking of which, the book gives a macaroni recipe: Boil the pasta in “milk, or weak veal broth, pretty well flavored with salt. When tender, put it into a dish without the liquor, and among it put some bits of butter and grated cheese, and over the top grate more, and a little more butter. Set the dish into a Dutch oven a quarter of an hour, but do let the top become hard.” Coincidentally, Riviera now serves pig head macaroni with an egg.
In 1867, mushrooms were not cultivated nor were they foraged by a specialist such as Christophe Marineau of Le Coprin. You found your own and hoped you had identified the fungi properly. As The Canadian Receipt Book says, “The cook should be perfectly acquainted with the different sort of things called by this name by ignorant people, as the death of many persons has been occasioned by carelessly using the poisonous kinds.”
Before the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act of 1929, cocoaine, as it was once called, was used widely for such maladies as scalp irritations, toothaches, and as a local anaesthetic. The Canadian Receipt Book is published by Rock’s Mills Press and available for $25 through Amazon.
Opposite advice on distemper in horses is the Ottawa Drug Warehouse ad, where one can buy medicine for horses — and cocaine for oneself.