Recipes for Victory: Great War Food from the Front and Kitchens Back Home in Canada
edited by Elizabeth Baird and Bridget Wranich
215 pages, $24.95
About ten years ago, in a media interview, I was asked, “How did they cook the rats?” I assured the journalist that Great War soldiers did not eat rats. He insisted. I said no, not true, and I asked for a source. Somewhat sheepishly he mumbled, Blackadder. One should not rely too much on British 1980s satirical television shows for one’s history.
However, one can rely on Recipes for Victory. The book is a strong collection of historical essays illustrated with rare images, art, and artifacts. A number of historians, curators, and museologists at Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto contributed to the attractive book, which offers much new insight into Canadian food during the First World War. Consumption, regulation, and rationing are explored on the home front, while overseas soldiers’ meals and drinks are detailed in rich descriptions and eyewitness accounts.
The editors have also included wartime recipes so readers can experience tastes from the home front and the trenches. My favourite was “Canadian Stew” — primarily beans, bacon, onions, mustard, and syrup — recreated from a Canadian soldier’s archival notebook. It went down nicely with a stiff shot of rum, just like in the trenches one hundred years ago.