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

https://emmr.lib.unb.ca/

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

2 dead, 8 hurt in South Carolina nightclub shooting

Police are searching for two suspects

Ponoka RCMP lay charges following home invasion

33-year-old man who arrived on bicycle is in custody

Piece of Red Deer history up for sale

Willson House was built in 1911 and has been completely restored

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

P.E.I. reports three new COVID-19 cases, including one seniors’ residence employee

CHARLOTETOWN, P.E.I. — Prince Edward Island reported new COVID-19 cases for the… Continue reading

Even pandemic can’t spoil July

July. Finally. It’s seems like the last three weird months have taken… Continue reading

‘You have to show up:’ NDP MP questions virtual attendance of Alberta Tories

NDP MP McPherson says she’s disappointed Tory MPs haven’t been participating in virtual meetings

Flood warning, mandatory evacuation for people in remote Alberta hamlet

A flood warning has been issued for the rain-swollen Smoky River near the Hamlet of Watino

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, Amnesty, sex worker advocates say

‘We need to make sure the existing laws on the books aren’t enforced’

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $25 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25 million jackpot… Continue reading

At Mount Rushmore, Trump digs deeper into nation’s divisions

MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL, S.D. — At the foot of Mount Rushmore… Continue reading

Most Read