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For the love of vintage cookbooks
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For the love of vintage cookbooks

Recently, I got my hands on a very old cookbook — four very old cookbooks, actually.

The collection of coil-bound Winnipeg Free Press recipe supplements from the 1930s came by way of a reader who had inherited them from a neighbour. She kindly lent them to me for a few weeks so I could digitize, document and marvel in wonderment at dishes like frankfurter salad, pie crusts for newlyweds and mock duck (made of a lamb shoulder moulded into the shape of a mallard, naturally).

A somewhat horrifying picture of Mrs. Madeline Day’s recipe for mock duck printed in the 1935 Winnipeg Free Press Cookbook. Is that an olive for an eye?

The books were a yearly round-up of recipes from Mrs. Madeline Day’s regular column and her annual cooking school events from 1935 to 1938. You may recall the feature I wrote on Mrs. Day back in January — she was the Free Press’s first cooking columnist and a model housewife, at least on paper.

I had seen the cookbooks referenced several times while researching her story, but no copies existed in our archives. To tell you I was excited when Nancy (the aforementioned reader) sent me an email would be an understatement.

The tabloid-size booklets were published on newsprint and ranged from 44 to 77 pages long with hundreds of recipes, homemaking columns and fascinating vintage advertisements. Milk, butter and lard were popular ingredients of the day and, based on numerous ads for laxatives, it seems constipation was a common ailment. I doubt there’s any correlation there.

A special laxative for a special boy.

Nancy’s collection of cookbooks had been bound together, turning the individual publications into a tome of local domestic history. Save for a few worn edges and some understandably yellowed pages, the nearly 90-year-old artifact has been kept in immaculate condition.

Despite pristine appearances, Nancy told me she has actually used the cookbooks as a recipe reference on occasion. Yes, there are plenty of deeply strange items — the noodle ring with creamed shrimp will live forever in my nightmares — but the bulk of the recipes are really basic and practical. Economical soups, casseroles and preserves are featured prominently, year after year. The occasional inclusion of fancy fare with complicated presentation was likely aspirational.

My favourite part of flipping (very carefully) through the cookbooks was seeing new photos of Mrs. Day. Aside from one very stoic headshot that was used over and over again in print, I’ve been unable to track down many dynamic images of the woman I’ve spent so much time thinking about. I’ve also gotten a better glimpse at the Free Press’s former test kitchen and I have to say, I’m a tad jealous of her set up.

Mrs. Day’s test kitchen in the former Free Press building on Carlton was a model of modernity, with electric appliances big and small.

I’m currently working on a cookbook of my own for the Free Press — more on our Homemade project here — and am drawing endless inspiration from the columnists and reporters who came before me. It’s also been a treat to hear from folks who have clipped recipes, saved multi-volume cookbooks or otherwise connected with our food content over the years.

If you have a piece of Free Press home cooking memorabilia you’d like to share with me, please get in touch. I may not be able to use it for the cookbook, but I can promise I’ll be intrigued. 

Eva Wasney, arts reporter

Tasty tidbits

Bad news for local barbecue fans, as I Heart BBQ on Osborne Street is closing up shop after three years. “[W]e have just made the decision to move on to new adventures. The past 3 years has been a long rough road and I’ve (literally) poured my blood, sweat and tears into making it what it is,” says a post on their Facebook page (the use of the word “literally” here is a bit iffy, I hope). According to the post, the business has been sold and new owners will be opening something soon, although it won’t involve barbecue. I Heart BBQ’s last day is Saturday, March 26, so get thee down to 513 Osborne St.

•••

It appears the German Society of Winnipeg has also said “auf wiedersehen,” at least for the time being, and along with it Schnitzelhaus and RubyRed’s BBQ. According to the society’s website, the office is permanently closed, and the restaurant “is currently closed, we hope to reopen shortly!” Brewer Bernhard Wieland, who had been set up in the basement making beer under his Bernhard Wieland Brewing label (and who Ben had written about back in December), has landed at Brazen Hall, where he’ll be focusing on brewing their beers rather than those under his own name.

Bernhard Wieland behind the counter of his brewing space in the basement of the German Society of Winnipeg. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press files)

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•••

The City of Winnipeg Food Council has launched a small grant program to support community garden initiatives. The group has declared 2022 the “Year of the Garden” and is making grants of up to $2,000 available for urban agriculture initiatives. Priority will be given to projects to BIPOC-led and equity-seeking groups. Application details can be found here

•••

The fourth Brew Box, a partnership between the Free Press and local brewers and producers, launches April 1 at 9 a.m., with the virtual tasting taking place the evening of Wednesday, April 13. This time around the Brew Box features two beers from Barn Hammer Brewing Co., the Le Sneak Belgique witbier and Guavatron Philly sour, a custom beer glass and tasty treats from local producers Melt Chocolate Company and Utoffeea. For details and to snag your Brew Box (on April 1), click here.

Recommended fare

Ben: We recently watched the film Nightmare Alley, the latest film from Guillermo del Toro and which is up for four Oscars this year, including best picture. It almost certainly won’t win, but the film, a remake of the 1947 movie of the same name, is certainly worth a watch. The remake stars Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette and many more, revolving around the story of Stan Carlisle (Cooper), a hard-up drifter (with secrets!) who lands at a carnival and begins swindling all manner of rich folks out of their cash by doing cold readings and convincing people he can communicate with the dead. It bombed at the box office but is worth a stream (it’s on Disney+).

We’ve long been fans of Calabria Market & Fine Wines’ take-home dining options when it comes to pasta — their lasagna, stuffed pastas and more, both meat and veg, are simply divine. It had been a while since I’d had their pizza, though, which I remedied last weekend, and it’s equally stellar. We had the vegetarian pie, but I’d bet anyone missing Casa Grande’s pizza will find a lot to like in the options from Calabria’s Scurfield Boulevard kitchen. Plus you can grab some wine while you’re there — I picked up the well-priced, juicy (and organic) Erredia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which went with the pizza perfectly.

Eva: I grew up on Disney movies and have rewatched my favourites many a time as a nostalgic adult. That’s not to say I’m a fan of the well-worn tropes that exist in the Disney universe (why does everyone’s mom have to be dead? Why does every princess need saving?). The company seems to have turned a more realistic corner with Turning Red, a new release about a 13-year-old girl who turns into a giant red panda thanks to a family curse. It is one of the most genuine, heartwarming, relatable movies I have seen about puberty, female friendships and family expectations. Find it on Disney+ and read my colleague, Jen Zoratti’s, take on the movie.

Mei Lee, after unleashing her inner panda (from right), with friends Priya, Miriam and Abby, gives a voice to the stresses faced by tween girls. (Disney Pixar)

I picked up a few bottles of the Farmhouse Saison from Trans Canada Brewing Co. last weekend. It’s a crisp, funky beer aged in used tequila barrels and is brewed once a year to celebrate the brewery’s opening anniversary in October. As such, there are limited quantities of the 750 ml glass bottles, which can be purchased at the Kenaston Blvd. taproom (if they have any left) and possibly at a handful of beer vendors.

Homemade

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Free Press is making a community cookbook. Submit a recipe by May 20, 2022 and be entered into a draw to win a copy of the cookbook and other prizes. You can also join our Facebook group

This week we have a comforting recipe for Gramma’s Mac & Cheese submitted by Bea Guburt.

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