Home cooking is an important part of rural life, and the UFA has always understood the importance of easy, economic recipes. The United Farm Women of Alberta (UFWA) compiled favourite recipes of UFWA members from across the province for the first time in 1928, and this cook book was reprinted for sale many times over the years. The recipes that were included offered delicious, popular recipes for farm women that they could make with items they already had in their kitchen. These recipes were especially important during tough times, such as the Great Depression in the 1930s or during the Second World War. They also offered fun menu ideas for entertaining guests, as well as guidelines for what was considered “healthful eating.”
Members of the UFWA did not only send in recipes, they also sent in many household tips and tricks. These included recipes for cleaning solutions, recommendations for decoration, menus to serve for special occasions, and easy ways to reuse leftovers.
The recipes that were contributed also did their best to use up ingredients in the wisest way possible. A cake that used 8 egg yolks would be paired with a cake that used 8 egg whites in order to ensure that no one was stuck with leftovers that they did not know how to use up. Other recipes utilized unusual ingredients that were always on hand and inexpensive to replace, such as in the Tomato Soup Cake. This gave home cooks the option to make filling and tasty baked goods no matter their situation. Recipes like this were especially important in Alberta during the Great Depression in the 1930s, when many farm families were struggling to make ends meet. The Great Depression hit the agriculture-focused prairie provinces particularly hard, since the economic crash was paired with a long drought and bug infestations. Many recipes from this era have notes that point out how inexpensive they are to make, and they often use creative methods and supplies.
Prairie households had to continue to be creative in the kitchen even after the Depression was over due to the start of World War Two. The war brought rationing with it, and much of the produce that farmers generated was sent to Britain and around Europe to feed Canada’s allies and soldiers. Certain foods were declared as “patriotic” and Canadians were encouraged to use ingredients that could be easily grown in Canada. Recipe books reflected that mindset and did their best to utilize certain ingredients in as many different ways as possible.
UFWA recipe books through the 20th century were not just for recipes and household tips. They often included political ads and information as well. Advertisements were added throughout the books, with information about items for sale (such as baking powder or washing machines) or about organizations like the Alberta Wheat Pool and the United Grain Growers Ltd. The cook books were widely distributed across Alberta so they were a great way to circulate beliefs and aims of a variety of organizations. It was also a great way to sell products that could make rural life easier, such as household appliances.
Ads could promote an idea or organization just as often as they promoted items. The first two ads shown here are for the Alberta Wheat Pool, expressing their goals. The last ad is for an oven. They can all be found in the 1946 fifth edition of the cook book.
Throughout the decades, cooking has been an important part of rural life and community cookbooks, such as the ones that the UFWA compiled and sold, were a way for people to learn new tips and tricks, get nutritious and delicious recipes, and find out what was going on in political life at the time.
Written by Katherine Funk, Summer Archives Assistant
References and Further Reading:
Elizabeth Phipps, “Dust and Depression,” Canada’s History, accessed June 22, 2022, https://www.canadashistory.ca/education/lesson-plans/dust-and-depression.
“F.W.U.A. Cook Book,” 1958, UF 2021.007.01. Retrieved from https://archives.ufa.com/permalink/descriptions8480.
Ian Mosby, “Food on the Home Front during the Second World War,” Wartime Canada, accessed June 22, 2022, Elizabeth Phipps, “Dust and Depression,” Canada’s History, accessed June 22, 2022, https://www.canadashistory.ca/education/lesson-plans/dust-and-depression.
United Farm Women of Alberta, “United Farm Women of Alberta Cook Book,” Bruce Peel Special Collections Library Online Exhibits, accessed June 22, 2022, https://omeka.library.ualberta.ca/items/show/1534.
“Recipes contributed by the members of the United Farm Women of Alberta,” 1946, UF 2005.0045.03. Retrieved from https://archives.ufa.com/permalink/descriptions11072.
“U.F.W.A. Cook Book,” 1930, 57-5. Retrieved from https://archives.ufa.com/permalink/descriptions9743.