Book Review — Nova Scotia Cookery, Then and Now: Modern Interpretations of Heritage Recipes

Nova Scotia Cookery, Then and Now: Modern Interpretations of Heritage Recipes
edited by Valerie Mansour
Nimbus, 2017

As long as people have lived in Nova Scotia, there has been a need to cook and thus, a need for recipes. While many cooks of the past needed no written instruction, keeping all the details in their heads, once the popularity of cookbooks grew, plenty of regional recipes were shared through books (both mainstream and community publications), newspapers, and on scraps of paper, either handwritten or typed.

The Nova Scotia Archives has, well, an archive of old recipes, from handwritten notes for a lemon pie to the mass quantity recipes used at the old Moirs’ chocolate factory. Editor Valerie Mansour has compiled a collection of these, dating back nearly 200 years from 1786 to the 1970s and arranged chronologically. For a fun twist, the recipes were passed on to various Nova Scotia chefs who then analyzed the recipe and made their own version.

In some cases they stuck to the original recipe and in others the chefs deviated far off track because the original was just too scary or unworkable. Each entry includes an image of the original recipe in its original form, the revised recipe developed by the chef, and the chef’s comments, as well as a splendid, mouth-warering photo by Len Wagg.

The collection includes expected favourites such as rice pudding, devilled eggs, seafood chowder, rappie pie, and ginger beer, but there’s a Thai peanut soup recipe from 1910, and a Mulligatawny recipe from 1922 that reveals a worldly sophistication not typically ascribed to Nova Scotians of the time.

Recipes range from cocktails and cider to hearty entrees, side dishes, and desserts, and every Nova Scotian will find an old family favourite among the pages.

While some of the chef’s might have taken more artistic license with their dish than was absolutely necessary, this is a fun and interesting collection that offers updated versions of classic dishes that are within the grasp of the majority of home cooks. Some of the best reading in the book is the detailed archival citation of each recipe in a section at the back which cites the sources for each entry, and references community cookbooks, private collections, and publications ranging from promotional corporate cookbooks to community fundraising books.

As an ex-pat Nova Scotian, this book is a delightful taste of home, but it is also a wonderful resource for anybody interested in food history or Nova Scotian cuisine (past and present) in general.

We All Know Where the Rainbow Goes…

I’m eating chocolates and it’s bittersweet. I had been craving “box o’ chocolates” (as opposed to the swank organic, fair-trade, single-origin stuff I usually eat) and grabbed a box of Pot of Gold the other day. They’re getting hard to find.

The Pot of Gold brand was developed in the 1920s by a confectionery company in Halifax, Nova Scotia called Moir’s. Moir’s had started in 1815 as a bakery, but by 1873 was exclusively making candy and chocolates. Moir’s was actually the first company to come up with a mixed assortment box, and the Pot of Gold was an instant hit, becoming and remaining the best-selling boxed chocolate in Canada for decades. In most of the Maritimes, it wasn’t Christmas without at least one box under the tree, although you might also find rival Ganong as well.

Moir’s was sold to Nabisco brands in 1967 and in 1975, moved across the harbour from their location on Argyle Street in Halifax, to a modernized plant in Dartmouth. Hershey acquired the Nabisco confectionery division in 1987 and expanded the Pot of Gold line to a variety of different assortments.

Continue reading “We All Know Where the Rainbow Goes…”