Since this is Remembrance week, I thought a cookbook from the war era would be a fitting one to review. Let’s take a step back in history and explore the origins of this classic. When I inherited the 1945 edition of the Purity Cookbook, I was intrigued to dig into the history of this resourceful keepsake in many kitchens throughout the years.
The many editions of this book started with the Purity Flour Mills:
In 1905, the Toronto architectural firm of Darling & Pearson collaborated with Winnipeg architect Walter P. Over in the design of a large grain-processing mill for Western Canada Flour Mills, supplementing its existing facilities at Goderich (Ontario) and Brandon. The six-story brick structure, capped by a sixteen-foot cupola, was one of the tallest structures in St. Boniface, located at 440 Archibald Street, on the east side between Kavanagh and Messier streets. Next to it sat a three-story brick warehouse where the processed grain was packed and stored prior to shipment. Initially designed to produce 4,000 barrels of flour per day, it would eventually grow into one of the largest grain-processing facilities in Canada. By 1919, the mill produced 5,000 barrels daily and could store 730,000 bushels of grain. Its three shifts of 170 workers, many of them of Polish or Ukrainian descent, kept the mill operating 24 hours a day.
Later names under which the mill operated were Purity Flour Mills (1950s) and Maple Leaf Mills. It closed in February 1981 and was sold to an Australian grain company. Although much of the infrastructure was present in 2002, most of it had been demolished by 2005, although the six-story portion appears to have survived until 2007. Nothing remains at the site today.
As with the second world war veterans, this mill is now part of history. On the inside back cover of the newest edition, there is an ad promoting Purity Flour and the MLM (Maple Leaf Mills) logo. On the inside front cover, Elizabeth Driver, historian and author provides a look through the many variations of this cookbook: from 1917 (first world war era) and newer editions published in 1932, 1937, 1945, 1950, 1954, 1959, 1961, 1967, 1975, 2001, 2018. To say this cookbook was a mainstay in all kitchens through the generations of home cooks would be an understatement. And with the Forward being written by the iconic Jean Pare (Company’s Coming), this little book is a keepsake!
There are some recipes in the older books that didn’t make it to the newest version. The Maple Syrup Butter Tarts in our Recipe section, is one example…too bad, my family loved them!
Look at this page in the 1945 edition that must have been the precursor to the Canada’s Food Guide.
There is no credit given to the origin of this information. But it appears that it mirrored the 1942 first government issued Canada’s Food Guide:
Canada’s first food guide, the Official Food Rules, was introduced to the public in July 1942. This guide acknowledged wartime food rationing, while endeavoring to prevent nutritional deficiencies and to improve the health of Canadians. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canada-food-guide/about/history-food-guide.html
Both the cookbook and government addressed the scarcity of some foods during the war as well as nutritional deficiencies. Think of something as simple as an orange. During the war eras, an orange was considered a rare treat. These days, we can walk into a grocery store and choose from many varieties at any time of the year. We’ve come a long way Canada! The newest iteration of the cookbook shows more current ingredients and cooking methods.
If you would like to win the newest Purity Cookbook, go to our Giveaway section. Have a historian foodie on your gift list? Purchase a copy for them at https://www.whitecap.ca/Detail/1552851834
Contents and images used with permission by Whitecap/Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited. https://www.whitecap.ca/Detail/1552851834