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Highlights from the Canadian Community Cookbook Collection

The Canadian Community Cookbook Collection contains over 250 community cookbooks, culinary textbooks, and company publications related to food products dating from 1888 to the early 2000s. It was donated to Special Collections in 2021 by Dr. Ian Mosby, a faculty member from TMU’s Department of History.

We are featuring an assortment of cookbooks in this blog, as well as in the display case on the 4th floor of the Libraries, to highlight the wide range of genres within culinary publications. We hope that these windows into Canadian culinary history, and especially the festive recipes, will inspire you to try making a new dish, or watch the Great Canadian Baking Show during the winter break! 

A large portion of the collection is made of community cookbooks. These were created by women’s associations, church groups, hospitals, and community groups for fundraising purposes. They compile and publish recipes from community members and include the contributor’s name in the cookbook. These are simple publications, and would often offset printing costs by including advertisements for local businesses.

  • Green book cover
  • Recipes and local advertisements
  • Book cover with two young children eating spaghetti
  • Chanukah Potato Latkes recipe

Another genre is advertising cookbooks. These were published by food companies, such as gelatin, flour and corn starch producers. They often include detailed photographs or illustrations of dishes that can be made using their products. Since these were used for marketing purposes, they can help us understand trends in culinary styles and kitchen technologies.

  • Book cover with a red Jell-O dish with strawberries
  • Jell-O snow recipes
  • Orange Jell-O salad illustration with recipe
  • Book cover with red, blue and white text over a brown cover

The collection has several educational cookbooks, which provide culinary instructions for people wanting to sharpen their culinary skills. There are also government sponsored cookbooks, which outline recommendations for food preparations, dietary guidelines, and often highlight agricultural products from the region.  

Although these cookbooks reflect the time in which they were published (Jell-O salads!), the recipes are still incredibly fun to make, and turns out they can be quite delicious! To celebrate this new collection, the TMU Libraries staff who catalogued and processed the cookbooks recreated a dish from the collection to share with others (pictured below!) To view more cookbooks from this collection, stop by the Libraries’ 4th floor exhibition case by Archives & Special Collections, or explore the titles through our online finding aid.