Christmas wished from Calgary Milling Co. Limited. 191?
Postcards from the Past, PC 814
(Flour companies often published cookbooks)
I love my old cookbooks. Not that I cook that much, but having a collection of cookbooks from my family members is like having those family members with me. I still use my mom’s Purity cookbook to make the foods I remember from my childhood like banana bread and dream squares (and a horrible concoction of caramel syrup and dough gobs that my sister christened “death balls”). I look upon cookbooks as historical documents that not only tell us what our ancestors were eating, but how they conducted their lives. I mean, do we still have Bridge Teas? Doesn’t the very fact of a bridge tea speak to a different way of life?
The Local History room at the Central Library has an interesting collection of cookbooks, all with a relevance to the history of Calgary. It was in the Royal Purple Lodge No. 7 cookbook that I found the suggested menu for a Bridge Tea, complete with ribbon sandwiches and American Beauty salad. What really caught my eye, though, was the suggested menu for Christmas dinner in the Blue Bird Cook Book by the Domestic Science Department of the American Women’s Club of Calgary. The Christmas menu contains nothing, besides the turkey, that I recognize (or would eat, really). The starter is Oyster Cocktails and Salted Wafers. The soup course is consommé with toasted bread rings (made with day old bread and a doughnut cutter). The turkey was stuffed with a mixture of milk and cracker crumbs and served with cranberry mold, potato baskets and Christmas salad (grapefruit and orange sections laid out in a wreath shape with red pepper and garnished with a pickled cherry). Dessert was a choice of pineapple sherbet or Christmas cake, with a holly garnish made from candied peel and cinnamon candies. Yummy.
This would all be served on a table laid out as below. Note that this was for a family dinner, without the service of a maid. One hopes the maid would be given the day off to be with her family. This suggested setting comes from the Blue Ribbon Cook Book, 17th edition. The book also gives advice about serving protocol and admonishes against the use of intoxicating liquors. (The recipes in the book substitute fruit juice for booze and, in the case of brandy for the fruit cake, two tablespoons of molasses are said to be an excellent substitute).
How to set a table, from the Blue Ribbon Cook Book, ca 1930s?