52 Ancestors: Week 44 – Cooking with The Nova Scotia Archives

The Week 44 prompt for 52 Ancestors is \”Trick or Treat\”. If you\’re like me, the word treat makes me think of the special desserts you only get to eat during special family get-togethers. So, for this post I decided to highlight a recent edition to the Nova Scotia Archives digital holdings.

The new online database What\’s Cooking? Food, Drink and the Pleasures of Eating in Old-Time Nova Scotia is sure to be a hit with foodies and non foodies alike.


The Archives have put together an impressive collection of recipes and food history in the province. They\’ve not only looked through their own holdings, but those of other institutions. They\’ve even included a handy guide to help you interpret what some of the old ingredients and measurements mean in today\’s terms. You can zoom in and out on each image if you having trouble reading them. There is no way to download the recipes to your computer, unfortunately. However, you can try taking a screen shot and saving the image that way. A Google search can gives you several different programs that can do this. They\’ve broken the collection down into several sections:

Short History
This section gives some background on the diet and cooking methods of Nova Scotians. They start with the very first French settlers that came with Samuel de Champlain, and discuss Acadians, Planters, and up to the twentieth century. As the section title suggests, it is not in depth, but it\’s a good read none the less.

Collected Recipes
The Archives has found and digitized 1096 recipes. The ones I looked at were all handwritten. They cover all kinds of cooking. I saw recipes for meat, for preserving, and for desserts. Some are instantly recognizable, such as Cornish Pasties. Other have exotic sounding names such as Mangaroo Pudding, which turns out to be a kind of sponge cake dessert. All the recipes are over 100 years old. You can see many of the cultural influences in them. It is a reflection of the early French, UK, and Prussian immigrants that settled the province. Here\’s a sampling of a few I found:

Uniacke Family Recipes
This collection is further sub divided:

  • Handwritten Recipe Book with the Initials R.J. – The initials are believed to belong to Rosina Jane Uniacke (1808-1858). Rosina was the wife of the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Attorney General of Nova Scotia, James Boyle Uniacke.
  • A Collection of Recipes – Various recipes found among the Uniacke material in the Nova Scotia Museum
  • A Collection of Recipes – Handwritten recipes from Dr. Carlin\’s  Last Receipte Book and Household Physician
  • Numbered Recipes from the Uniacke Family – among the traditional recipes are also household remedies. I found ones for toothache and making soap
  • A Collection of Recipes – This subset are attached to Geraldine Uniacke
Digitized Cookbooks
The Archives have digitized 17 cookbooks that were published between 1820 and 1950. Just click on a particular cookbook. You can then look at each one page by page. The titles are:

  • The Nova-Scotia Almanack (1820)
  • Cape Breton hand-book and tourist\’s guide compiled by E. Lockett, North Sydney and Sydney (1890)
  • Church of England Institute receipt book by Mrs. William (Mary) Lawson and Miss Alice Jones (1888)
  • Elementary text-book of cookery by Helen N. Bell (1898)
  • Farmers\’ Milk Facts for Halifax by Farmers\’ Limited, Halifax 
  • Kent Vinegars Recipe Book and Household Hints (c.1950)
  • Kitchen army nutrition and receipt book by Sydney Nutrition Committee (c. 1943)
  • The LaHave Cook Book by The Managers\’ Auxiliary of St. John\’s Church, Bridgewater, N.S. (1912)
  • One Hundred Recipes from Domestic Science School, Halifax, N.S. (1906)
  • The First Bite: Tasty Recipes from Holsum Bread by Ben\’s Bakery 
  • The Art of Cooking Made Easy by Hattie & Mylius, Limited, Wholesale Druggist, Halifax
  • The Bedford Recipe Book by The Ladies of All Saints Church Guild (1910)
  • The modern cook book for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
  • Tried and true: A handbook of choice cooking recipes by S.J. Sims and B.E. Hills (1902)
  • Grand-Pre Cook Book by Ladies\’ Aid of the Grand Pre United Church (1939)
  • Grand Pre cook book by Ladies Aid of the Grand Pre United Church (1940)
  • Favorite Recipes (1940)
Along with meal recipes, you can also find household tips.
Newspaper Supplements
This section has 4 booklets that were added as supplements to newspapers:

  • Wartime Economy Book of Recipes for 1945 (Supplement to the 10 April 1945 Halifax Herald and Halifax Mail) – This contains the winners from a contest of over 8000 submissions
  • In \”Letters to the Editor\”, Dorothy Sparling, Sydney, gave a number of African American recipes (February 1973 edition of Grasp) – The first page is a letter to the editor from Dorothy Sparling, highlighting recipes of African Nova Scotians
  • Cooking in Nova Scotia No. 1 (Supplement to the 20 February 1975 of the 4th Estate) – Reader submissions of recipes
  • An Indian Cookbook by The Native Communications Society of Nova Scotia (supplement to the February 1977 Micmac News) – Recipes and remedies from the Native Community
Like the cookbook section, just click on a particular supplement and you can browse page by page
Virtual Exhibit
This section has an eclectic collection of visual images from around the province. There are 113 items in total. There are posters, diagrams, and photos. Some of the more interesting items I found among the collection are:
Moirs Limited
This landmark company started out as a bakery in 1830, and through the generations expanded into making chocolate and candy. Those iconic Pot of Gold chocolate boxes were just one of their creations. This collection has 122 recipes from the candy and chocolate side of the business. The Achives does warn that these recipes are for mass production. Some of them even include the Piece work rates for the workers in the factory. Among the recipes:
  • Fresh made Creams
  • XXX Gingerale
  • Molasses Taffy
  • Fresh made Vanilla Caramels
Lobster Labels
You can\’t think of Nova Scotia without thinking of lobsters. Perhaps it\’s because the province has been shipping lobsters around the world since the 1800\’s. According to the Archives, the first commercial cannery opened in Yarmouth in 1830. This section has a selection of the various labels that have been used by the commercial canneries through the years. Most even have recipes included. You can find recipes for salads, stews, appetizers, and even a lobster curry.

Modern Method
In this section the Archives team have converted 6 recipes using modern methods and conversions. They were kitchen and taste tasted. Just click on the digital image of the recipe you want to try. You\’ll get a modern translation of the recipe. The recipes are:

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