Tried, Tested, and True: A Retrospective of Canadian Cookery

Tried, Tested, and True is an experiential learning exhibit curated by students in Rebecca Beausaert’s Food History class (HIST*3240) at the University of Guelph. 

With support from Archival and Special Collections (ASC) staff, the students of HIST*3240 were involved in all aspects of the creation of an exhibit that explores cooking in Canada from Confederation to the First World War. The aim of the exhibit is to use cookbooks and domestic manuals as a glimpse inside Canadian society at the time. 

The cases and online exhibit focus on eight themes:

  • Domestic Housewife Manuals
  • Cooking in Agriculture & Rural Life
  • Cooking in Guelph and the Surrounding Area
  • Community Cookbooks
  • Advertising Cookbooks
  • Cooking in the First World War
  • Economical Cooking
  • Nutrition and Health 

The materials on display are drawn from ASC’s distinguished Culinary Arts Collection in the McLaughlin Library. 

Some highlights of this exhibit include the feature of a copy of very rare cookbook—only two copies are known to exist in the world—published in Ottawa in 1867, the year of Canadian Confederation. This rare book is The Canadian Receipt Book; containing over 500 valuable receipts for the farmer and the house wife. Another rare book in the exhibit, The Housewife Library, is a domestic manual, which was published in Guelph in 1883. 

The exhibit cases on the first floor of the McLaughlin Library are curated by students in HIST*3240. “Tried, Tested, & True” is accompanied by an online exhibit, which was curated by independent study students supervised by Special Collections Librarian, Melissa McAfee: Stephanie Reynolds-Badder (student, history), and Kristyn Pacione (student, anthropology). 

The ASC’s Culinary Arts Collection is one of the largest in North America. Its holdings include approximately 18,000 books and archival materials, dating from the 17th Century to present day. The scope of the collection is international—with strengths in Canadian, American, and British cookbooks, domestic manuals, and foodways publications.  

The Culinary Arts Collection began with the donation of the library of Canadian food writer, Una Abrahamson, and has grown to include the archives of distinguished Canadian cookbook authors, including: Elizabeth Baird, Helen Gage, Marie Nightingale, Jean Pare, Edna Staebler, and Anita Stewart. The Collection is also the repository of books nominated for the Taste Canada Awards. 

For more information about this exhibit, please contact:

Melissa McAfee, Special Collections Librarian:

(519) 824-4120 x 58927

mamcafee@uoguelph.ca