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We’ve Come a Long Way… or Have We?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading cookbooks printed prior to the nineteen sixties.  Part of my interest is finding some vintage recipes that I can prepare for my family.  Hopefully they will enjoy them and these gems can become part of our monthly menus.  However, another part of my interest stems from the history the recipe books actually hold.  In a lot of ways, I find these recipes to be archives of the history of the people who lived at that time.  And we sure do eat a lot differently, for the most part, now than people did back then!  I am sure the Canada food guide influenced the decisions people made when making food choices, as they do now.  

One of the things I noticed is how many women submitted their recipe under their husband’s name, rather than their own.  The St. Louis cookbook out of the USA only had two women identify themselves as Mrs. Jane Smith and then, in parentheses, her husband’s first and last name was listed.  The rest of the recipes were attributed to “Mrs. John Smith” rather than the woman herself.  This period reflects a time when most of the kitchen duties, including cooking, were mainly done by a woman.  But times were changing even then, though I noticed similar practices in place with recipe books published in Canada during this time period as well.      

Life has changed so much since the early 1960s, haven’t they?  Prior to this decade Canada didn’t have things like oral contraceptives for women, Aboriginal people and women couldn’t legally vote and some Aboriginal people even lost status upon returning from fighting in the first and second World Wars.  Are you familiar with the history of Canada during this time?  If not, I encourage you to do research and become knowledgeable with the customs of people in Canada at that time.  Although the internet is knowledgeable, go to your local library to look at the archival resources available to peruse and borrow at your own discretion.  Some recipes are ‘indigenous’ to the community or province it originates from.  For instance, in Saskatchewan we have a butter tart recipe that is attributed to our province, rather than our country.  I imagine it would be along the same lines as the chocolate milk known as “Vico.”  To be honest, I haven’t tasted Vico since the Co-op was located on Central Avenue and the cafeteria served it.  I miss it a lot – less sugar and more chocolate flavour!  Our culture was a lot different back in the 60s as well.

I remember watching a video called Forgotten Warriors (National Film Board of Canada) where thousands of First Nation men and women returned from fighting in the Second World War, even though they couldn’t be conscripted, several of which came from this area of the province.  They, like non-Aboriginal soldiers, were given an amount of land and title to a home upon their return.  Unfortunately, after accepting title to the land and house, First Nations people were visited and asked for their Status card.  Upon submitting it to Canada’s representative, the card was destroyed and their home was taken away as well.  The soldier was now known as a “non-status Indian” and they lost status because it was illegal for them to hold title to land or a house under the Indian Act.  One of the most celebrated Aboriginal soldiers known to the United States or Canada, Tommy Prince, actually died homeless and with addictions as he was never able to recover once he lost the stability that came with being a soldier and also because of the things he’d experienced as he fought in the war.  This is likely now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and support would be needed to help find and maintain mental health upon the return of the soldiers. It doesn’t seem much has been done to help people who’ve left military service and returned to civilian life.  What has become of the soldiers who fought in Desert Storm, Iran and Iraq?  They’ve returned back to Canada but then what, I wonder?  They’re on my mind as November 11th approaches.  And really, my mind is not just on forgotten soldiers, but on anyone who is homeless in our city… in my mind they are warriors too.  It’s nice to see outdoor toilets are available for use under the viaduct on Central Avenue yet, I wonder what will happen once the really cold weather hits.  Where will there be a warm place available for clean clothes, hot food and a shower?  I wish I had the resources to give them a secure place to find these basic necessities most of us take for granted.  Too often I see people sitting on pieces of cardboard in the winter, their clothes barely cover their body as they are worn through and they aren’t nearly thick enough to protect them from the elements and inclement weather.  I don’t know how homeless people survive the environment of winter in the city.

I’m happy women and Indigenous people have been given a voice, if they were able to meet the criteria, to vote.  However, my mind quickly reminds me it wasn’t that terribly long ago people born in the Territories were assigned a number by the federal government – and they were always identified by the number rather than their given family surname bestowed upon them by their family, at birth (see for more information).  It’s a fascinating part of our most recent history and yet, horrific to think about.  The only other time I know of a number being assigned to a person was in residential schools and also during the holocaust.  And while those events are considered ‘ancient’ history, it’s not really.  We’ve witnessed concentration camps during the current presidency of the United States – and, in my opinion, our own Prime Minister gave his approval to the way people were treated by maintaining silence while conducting “business as usual” with the USA.  And many of you may challenge me and say, “What else was he supposed to do?  Our economy is at risk.”  I simply shake my head in disgust and try to live off the land even more than I already do.  My stomach is sick with the way people will set aside emotions in favour of the “stability” of what is essentially, in my opinion, blood money.  Some people take pride in wearing diamonds harvested through the deaths of workers who were used as slaves to garner the gems, others take pride in the way their leaders are able to overpower the vulnerable, abusing then abandoning them after the country has been built on the backs of those who immigrated here to build a better life.  

I guess this time of year has me thinking, with retrospect, at how far we’ve actually come.  There used to be a slogan that triumphed, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”  And I’m looking at the information being recorded in our history and my Canadian cultural conscience is kicking in and I’m wondering… have we come a long way?  Or do we just read the history according to those who have recorded it and believe the fiction along with the facts?  Like Garth Brooks, I think I wish there was just one race… the human race.  And we all got a long, supporting each other and helping one another, no matter our class, gender, nationality, skin colour or wealth.  That would be amazing!  As we draw closer to the season of giving and the new year, I encourage you to find ways to contribute to the overall wellbeing of someone you don’t know.  Help them to have a more positive outlook of our community, and the culture of our city, through random acts of kindness that we may employ as the cold weather continues to wreak havoc with people who live outdoors.  It will improve the quality of life we all claim to enjoy since, as we give, we also receive.  And that’s a great feeling!

Until next week, take care everyone.  

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