Book Review – The Biscuit: The History of a Very British Indulgence

The Biscuit: The History of a Very British Indulgence
Lizzie Collingham

Tea and a biccie? The biscuit is ubiquitous in British culture (see what I did there?), but here in North America, there’s been a distortion of usage over the years. What we know in North America as a biscuit — a light, flaky, risen cake — is known as a scone in England. Crackers — a  plain or savoury, dry, flat unleavened bread, cut into equal sized shapes — are biscuits, but biscuits can also be sweet, although they’re usually still plain. And what we call a cookie isn’t really a biscuit either, cookies being thicker, softer in the centre and containing other ingredients such as chocolate or fruit. The exception to this might be the shortbread and its ilk which can be both. Confused yet? Author Lizzie Collingham will enlighten you. Continue reading “Book Review – The Biscuit: The History of a Very British Indulgence”

Book Review – What’s to Eat: Entrees in Canadian Food History

What’s to Eat? Entrees in Canadian Food History
edited by Nathalie Cooke
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009, 310 pages

I appear to have gotten seriously distracted from “book review week” but this is the last of the lot. I saved it for last because it’s actually my least favourite (which might explain the long delay in writing the review).

I’m not saying that What’s to Eat? is bad, it’s just very, very dry. While it runs the gamut of topics from First Nations cuisine to the introduction of chocolate in Canada to the demographics of cookbook usage in Quebec, this collection of essays about Canadian food is, at its base, a collection of essays, in food studies, that are approached from a predominantly clinical, statistical point of view.

So while the topics themselves are interesting; the rise and fall of red fife wheat; the debate on whether there is a “Canadian” cuisine, and what it consists of; the history of the tourtiere in Quebec, there’s not a lot of excitement in the writing itself. And I can’t help feeling that there should be.

Continue reading “Book Review – What’s to Eat: Entrees in Canadian Food History”

Book Review Week – Feasting and Fasting

Feasting and Fasting – Canada’s Heritage Celebrations
Dorothy Duncan
Dundurn Press, 2010, 351 pages

Anybody who has every met Dorothy Duncan can agree on two things – that’s she adorable, and that she knows more about the food history of Canada than all the rest of us put together.

Arranged chronologically through a calendar year, Feasting and Fasting looks at the foods and food-related traditions that go with various holidays celebrated by Canadians. From Robbie Burns Day, Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year to Thanksgiving and Christmas, every holiday includes specific dishes or activities that include (or exclude) food. Duncan also examines some seasonal activities that centre around food, such as the running of the maple syrup in early spring and events like picnics and garden parties in the summer.

Each entry offers a bit of history and explains the evolution of the related feast, particularly as it applies to new immigrants in Canada in colonial times who might not have access to traditional ingredients.

Continue reading “Book Review Week – Feasting and Fasting”