A charity book sale was held this week in the building where I work.  I was eager to stock up on some fiction paperbacks to enhance the library at the cottage so I snuck down around 10a and wandered through the selections for sale.  I never realized how the romance and science fiction genres were so popular!  Lots of great fiction finds and at $1 per paperback I couldn’t resist a whole armful of them.  I thought, too, I should glance at the other selections and, as usual, the Cooking isle drew me in.  Among the many notable books I saw I found a gem:  “The Secrets of Good Cooking” by Sister St Mary Edith, Principal of the Montreal Cooking School Published by The Canadian Printing and Lithographing Company, Limited, Montreal…in 1928!  I figured if nothing else it would be an interesting sneak peek into the culinary past.  The subtitle indicates that the book contains, “the substance of the Courses given at the Montreal Cooking School, (Congregation of Notre-Dame)”, and the introduction suggests, “Like everything else, cooking has undergone a marked evolution”.  So before I thumbed through what remarkable culinary evolutions took place in 1928 I had to look back and see what else happened in 1928:

–         Amelia Earhardt becomes the first women to successful pilot an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean

–         Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin

–         The Winter Olympic Games are held in St Moritz, Switzerland and the Summer Olympic Games are held in Amsterdam

–         Canada’s Prime Minister is William Lyon Mackenzie King and the US President is Calvin Coolidge (though Herbert Hoover was elected late in the year)

–         Shirley Temple is born (THE Shirley Temple not the kiddy drink!), and

–         It would be two more years before my father is born, who passed away this past spring just shy of his 80th birthday

For sure this was a relic, but in relatively good condition.  I had hoped to find the margins scribbled with loads of kitchen wisdom of a generation – plus past, but it was sadly void of any notations.  Interestingly, the entire book is written in Question and Answer format as though one of the nuns dutifully transcribed each student’s question and Sister St. Mary Edith’s response.  For example, “How long should a fowl of any kind be killed before being cooked?”, you might be wondering.  Well, according to the Sister, “Any tame or wild fowl should be cooked either within one hour of killing or after twenty-four hours.  The flesh would be tough if cooked in the intervening time.  It is even better to allow all fowl to ‘hang’ for forty-eight hours.”  Who knew?  Or, “What are squabs?” you ask.  Well, “Squabs are young pigeons generally about a month old.  They may be boned, braised, roasted or stewed.  They are generally served on toast.  They also make excellent pie”.  I think I’ve had enough of this chapter!  Ah but wait!  There is a whole chapter devoted to custards.  By the way, “May one squeeze the jelly bag to get out more juice?”  Heavens no!  ”By no means, if a perfectly clear jelly is wanted!  A second grade jelly may be made after the juice that drips through has been used.”  The things my mother never told me.  The funniest little scrap from the book is at the beginning as Sister Mary Edith laments, “Our country has perhaps ignored more than any other country, this change in culinary and eating habits.  Our diet has remained surprising the same that satisfied our hard working forefathers.  Our meals are ill chosen, poorly balanced and often badly prepared.  And that is why our sedentary generation is plagued with liver, kidney and stomach diseases.”

I wonder what Sister St Mary Edith would have thought of poutine?

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About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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