In 2012, I successfully completed a challenge to cook every day from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. Afterwards people asked me “What will you do next?” and my usual answer was “Have a life!” However, I missed the challenge and so I’ve decided to complete the same sort of project with another local historic cook book — The New Galt Cook Book. I selected it for a number of reasons. It will be interesting to compare two community cookbooks from the same county published just eight years apart. It is also an opportunity to pay tribute to the community of Galt that, at least officially, ceased to exist forty-one years ago when it was amalgamated along with Preston, Hespeler, and Blair to form the city of Cambridge Ontario. Come here and you’ll still see signs showing where each of these communities is located and each has a distinct identity. In two years, the community of Galt will be two hundred years old! It was in 1816 that Shades Mills was established and later renamed Galt.
Galt was a thriving manufacturing community when one thousand copies of The Galt Cook Book were printed. The cook book was so popular a revised edition was published in 1898. The New Galt Cook Book compiled and edited by Margaret Taylor and Frances McNaught with contributions from women (and a few men) from Galt Ontario and surrounding areas was published in Toronto by McLeod & Allen. Unlike The Berlin Cook Book, it is far easier to find The New Galt Cook Book. In 1974 Coles Books republished it as The Early Canadian Galt Cook Book and it is even available online. Although I would love to use the first edition for this blog, I own the 1898 revised edition. According to it’s editors they eliminated duplicate recipes, corrected and improved others and added some “plain, practical, common-sense recipes”.
This blog is all about actually using The New Galt Cook Book and putting it in context within the community. Who were the women and men who contributed recipes? What was their world like in 1898? What can be discovered about the editors and publishers? Is it possible to find all the necessary ingredients to use this as a cook book again? Are the recipes as “easily understood by any person at all acquainted with housekeeping” as the editors promise?
I’m already somewhat familiar with this cook book. I’ve worked in museums and living history sites in Ontario for over twenty-five years and developed an interest in culinary history. Eventually I learned to prepare meals using wood fired cook stoves, open hearths, and bake ovens. I’ve prepared several of the recipes in The New Galt Cook Book in an historic environment so I’ll try to recapture that atmosphere for readers as I cook in my modern kitchen. I’ll be using an electric stove but all other equipment will be similar to what could be found in an 1898 kitchen.
So, like the editors Margaret Taylor and Frances McNaught say in their introduction to this edition, I “launch [this blog] . . . upon the literary waters, hoping for the continued appreciation of a discerning public.”
Carolyn Blackstock — January 1, 2014