At last, Northern Cookbook has arrived on my doorstep. Written by Eleanor Ellis in 1967, this cookbook – or at least my copy of it – is currently sunning it considerably south of 60 in Marseille, whose inhabitants keep lemon, fig, and palm trees on their balconies. There is something slightly boastful about owning a lemon tree that STAYS OUTSIDE in the “winter” but I will not belabour the subject. It smacks of sour grapes.
Suffice it to say that the many country food recipes in this book – Seal on a Bun, Jellied Moose Nose – cannot easily be made in my current kitchen. I do have ready access to citrus. I therefore chose two recipes more suited to a southern clime: Carrots with Orange Sauce and Prairie Chicken in Cream.
Oranges, carrots, butter, cream, chicken. Each of these food items may have a place in Canada’s Food Guide (conveniently located within this cookbook’s prefatory materials) but they are costly, and sometimes simply not available, to the northern cook. This makes for an expensive and well-travelled meal, though the text contains pages of cost-saving tips and meal planning suggestions.
This book, published by the Department of Northern Affairs and Resources, does indeed read like a government initiative. In her article, “Eskimo Ice Cream and Kraft Dinner Goulash,” Julia Christensen points out the Northern Cookbook’s stated objectives:
to “record facts about some of the wild game, game birds, fish, fruit and vegetables available in Canada’s North . . . and to suggest methods by which these foods may be prepared or served.”
Christensen also proposes a few of its unstated objectives:
To function as a cooking guide to recently transferred federal employees and to “instruct northern people (particularly Indigenous people) on nutrition and home economics, as a complement to other government initiatives aimed at ‘educating’ northern people on matters of public health and domesticity.”
Christensen’s reading of this cookbook highlights the disconnect between Ottawa food policy and territorial food practice.
Read it and then follow up with Krista Walters’ “Nutrition Canada and Aboriginal Bodies 1964-1975.”
And then make these dishes. Because they are very good. Glazed carrots are divine. And chicken in cream sauce makes your kitchen smell like . . . well, chicken in cream sauce.
Carrots in Orange Sauce
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup boiling water
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 6 medium carrots cooked and sliced or
- 1 tin of carrots, drained
- Mix sugar and flour in saucepan.
- Add boiling water and cook until clear, stirring constantly.
- Cook and stir for 1 minute longer.
- Add orange juice, rind, and fat to sugar mixture.
- Add carrots and heat until carrots are hot.
Prairie Chicken in Cream
- 1 prairie chicken
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 1 cup heavy rich cream
- Skin and draw prairie chicken, wash thoroughly and cut into serving portions.
- Dredge pieces with salt, pepper and flour by shaking in a paper bag.
- Melt the butter in a deep fry pan and brown chicken on all sides.
- Sprinkle the thyme over the chicken.
- Add 1 cup of heavy cream and sufficient water to cover.
- Place lid on pan and simmer chicken until tender.
Further Reading and references:
Christensen, Julia. “Eskimo Ice Cream and Kraft Dinner Goulash: The Cultural Geographies of Food in Three Cookbooks from the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada,” CuiZine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures / Revue des Cultures Culinaires au Canada. 4.2: 2013.
Ellis, Eleanor. Northern Cookbook. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1979.
Walters, Krista. “Nutrition Canada and Aboriginal Bodies 1964-1975.” Edible Histories, Cultural Politics: Towards a Canadian Food History. Eds, Franca Iacovetta, Valerie J. Korinek, Marlene Epp. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.
Photo Credit: Alexia Moyer