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Cooking History

Catharine Parr Traill's The Female Emigrant's Guide

Cooking with a Canadian Classic

edited by Nathalie Cooke & Fiona Lucas

by (author) Catherine Parr Traill

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2017
History, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2017
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2017
    List Price

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What did you eat for dinner today? Did you make your own cheese? Butcher your own pig? Collect your own eggs? Drink your own home-brewed beer? Shanty bread leavened with hops-yeast, venison and wild rice stew, gingerbread cake with maple sauce, and dandelion coffee – this was an ordinary backwoods meal in Victorian-era Canada. Originally published in 1855, Catharine Parr Traill’s classic The Female Emigrant’s Guide, with its admirable recipes, candid advice, and astute observations about local food sourcing, offers an intimate glimpse into the daily domestic and seasonal routines of settler life. This toolkit for historical cookery, redesigned and annotated in an edition for use in contemporary kitchens, provides readers with the resources to actively use and experiment with recipes from the original Guide. Containing modernized recipes, a measurement conversion chart, and an extensive glossary, this volume also includes discussions of cooking conventions, terms, techniques, and ingredients that contextualize the social attitudes, expectations, and challenges of Traill’s world and the emigrant experience. In a distinctive and witty voice expressing her can-do attitude, Catharine Parr Traill’s The Female Emigrant’s Guide unlocks a wealth of information on historical foodways and culinary exploration.

About the authors

Nathalie Cooke is associate dean of the McGill Library, professor of English at McGill University, and the editor of What’s to Eat?: Entrées in Canadian Food History.

Nathalie Cooke's profile page

FIONA LUCAS is co-founder of the Culinary Historians of Ontario, and has a particular interest in the history of Canada's foods, servants, kitchens, and domestic material culture. She is Program Officer, Foodways, for Spadina Museum: Historic House and Gardens, one of the sites operated by Museum Services of the City of Toronto. Previously she worked as Senior Domestic Historical Interpreter at Historic Fort York in Toronto.

Fiona Lucas' profile page

Catherine Parr Traill's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"This book contains so much lovely, evocative detail. It gives the reader a glimpse into the sensory world of the nineteenth-century kitchen while also highlighting the seemingly unending labour that went into feeding one’s family. It is an impressive, unique, and essential work of Canadian culinary history." Ian Mosby, author of Food Will Win the War: The Politics, Culture, and Science of Food on Canada's Home Front

"The Female Emigrant's Guide is a blueprint for survival in the backwoods of 19th-century Upper Canada. But most of all, it's a cookbook...[Cooke and Lucas's] study of Traill's world provides the context and resources necessary to unlock the Guide and other historical cookbooks." The National Post

“Much more than a simple reprinting of Traill’s guide, [Catharine Parr Traill’s The Female Emigrant’s Guide: Cooking with a Canadian Classic] it is a glimpse into nineteenth-century culinary history in Canada. As such, after the original guide, the authors added a 250-page “Guide to Traill’s World,” in which they explore what Traill typically fed her family, what three sample families of different financial means would normally eat, and the history of cooking measurements. They also modernized certain recipes (mostly breads, biscuits, and puddings), listed modern ingredients readers can use, and explained how to convert the other recipes. A fascinating read for anybody interested in Canadian domestic history and cooking.” Montreal Review of Books

Other titles by Nathalie Cooke

Other titles by Fiona Lucas

Other titles by Catherine Parr Traill