Let’s feast! Modern takes on rare recipes

Pies and pastries laid out on a red McGill tablecloth.Two rare cookbook covers side by side.Two Library staff members wearing McGill24 t-shirts. One of them holding a photocopy of a cookbook cover.Two rare cookbook covers side by side.A Library staff member cutting pastries while wearing a McGill24 t-shirt.Two rare cookbook covers side by side.Stew laid out on red tablecloth.

Today’s Library staff cooking challenge illustrated just one of the myriad creative ways that Library collections can be brought to life!

McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections is home to around 3,000 cookbooks dating from the early 19th through to the late 20th century, and covers a range of culinary traditions. There’s boiled gooseberry pudding from the 1880s, and from the 1980s, there’s Pat’s “famous” Weiner Loaf.

We came together to sample some of these recipes re-created by some of our culinary colleagues. Along the way, we swapped stories about the particularities of using vintage recipes, discussed the challenges they present and the memories they bring to mind. There was an informal panel of judges and prizes for creations deemed tastiest – congrats to Martin and his “nut smack”! Bonus points were awarded for sustainably-minded adaptations and ingredient swaps.

  • Ida cooked from My New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
  • Jason cooked from Scandinavian feasts : celebrating traditions throughout the year
  • Mary cooked from Phelps & Ensign’s Map of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana & Chicago
  • Octavian cooked from Men Cooking
  • Rachel cooked from Reliable Recipes
  • Wendy cooked from We Can Cook Too!
  • Martin cooked from Popular Recipes

While we feasted, it wasn’t lost on us that many of the Library’s collections simply would not be possible without the incredible generosity of donors. So as we raised our soup spoons and forks and glasses, we gave thanks to them!

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