Recipe collection offers insight into 18th century life in the Maritimes

FREDERICTON — You’re not going to find the latest recipe for avocado toast, but a new collection of recipes is offering an insight into early colonial life in the Maritimes, including advice for making your own medicine, desserts, and even how to catch a rat.

“People had to figure out how to live — not just what to eat, but how to stay dry, get well, grow food and build and maintain houses. Recipes helped with all of that,” said Edith Snook, an English professor at the University of New Brunswick.

Snook and Lyn Bennett, an associate professor of English at Dalhousie University and a team of research assistants have spent the last three years digging through archives to find recipes written in the Maritimes before 1800.

“In the settler society of the 18th century Maritimes, recipes were used for all kinds of things, including food and drinks, but also medicines, household items like shoe polish and construction and agricultural products,” she said.

The team found over 500 recipes in newspapers and hand-written documents.

Snook said in many cases the recipes were included in letters sent to other people, or kept with other important papers.

“The biggest category is medicine for human cures for all kinds of 18th century diseases like gout or whatever, and things that we have now like cancer. There are things for the skin, for pimples, veterinary medicine, or things for cleaning your teeth,” she said.

“Basically everything that you might want to use to cure yourself or clean yourself, there’s a recipe to make it.”

Snook said, in a settler colony, people couldn’t just go to the corner store to get everything they needed, so they often had to make things themselves.

She said she was surprised at the global influence on the recipes, which included knowledge from places as far away as India, China and central Russia.

There are instructions for how to make fertilizer, how to grow things, even how to set a rat trap.

As for food recipes, Snook and her colleagues tested a recipe they found for gingerbread, but the results were not very appetizing.

“It was very, very hard,” she said in dismay.

“One issue is that a lot of the recipes do not have very detailed instructions. They kind of assume you already know how to make bread or pudding. It may have some general gesture towards things, but it’s nowhere near the level of detail about temperature and measurements or stirring techniques that we have today,” Snook said.

Asked if she found anything fun, Snook said they found a recipe for rum jellies, which are much like Jell-O shooters.

“That seems like kind of fun. It seemed strangely modern in a way,” she said.

The collection is called Early Modern Maritime Recipes and a searchable database can be found at

Just Posted

Hometown Hockey comes to Red Deer next weekend

Red Deer will host Rogers Hometown Hockey next weekend. Ron MacLean and… Continue reading

City spending $10M on overpass that won’t be need for a decade

An impassioned Red Deer city councillor failed to sway his colleagues from… Continue reading

Red Deer Airport looks to buy new administration building

Airport has asked to borrow $240,000 from Red Deer County for office purchase

Red Deer ranked 10th most dangerous place in Canada

Red Deer is the 10th most dangerous place in Canada, rankings by… Continue reading

Grain shippers worried about strike as feds urge CN and union to continue talks

MONTREAL — Grain shippers are concerned about the impact of a strike… Continue reading

Central Albertans help families during holidays with Christmas Wish Breakfast

It takes a community to help a community. And Sunday morning at… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Nov. 19 The Mountview Sunnybrook Community Association will hold its AGM at… Continue reading

Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt reprise `90s hit `Mad About You’

LOS ANGELES — Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt thought long and hard… Continue reading

Federal Court orders Canada’s ISPs to block TV piracy website for first time

TORONTO — A Federal Court is ordering Canada’s internet service providers to… Continue reading

University of Calgary to slash payroll after post-secondary funding cuts

The government is also cutting all funding for the Infrastructure Maintenance Program

Opinion: Climbing cost of drinking water a drain on low-income earners

Environmentalists and water economists have long argued Canadian households have not conserved… Continue reading

U.S. support for Israeli settlements is no surprise

As British newspaper magnate Viscount Northcliffe said: “When a dog bites a… Continue reading

Opinion: The buck stops with Red Deer city council

Red Deer city council has taken measures to distance itself from decisions… Continue reading

Denis Shapovalov, Vasek Pospisil give Canada Davis Cup win over favoured Italy

MADRID — Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil kept rolling on Monday, notching… Continue reading

Most Read