Food History Project to Get Rolling

By Botelho-Urbanski, Jessica | Winnipeg Free Press, May 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

Food History Project to Get Rolling


Botelho-Urbanski, Jessica, Winnipeg Free Press


If you’re cooking, they’re coming.

Researchers at the University of Winnipeg are hitting the road this summer in a new food truck, inviting Manitobans to hop on board, cook family recipes and be interviewed about the process.

“We have people coming aboard the food truck to cook a dish that has meaning to them, and to interview them about their life stories. And we’re also going off the food truck and interviewing business owners and workers of long-standing food production facilities and food businesses,” said Sarah Story, an archivist involved with the Manitoba Food History Project.

Principal investigator Janis Thiessen, who’s an associate professor of history at U of W and associate director of the school’s Oral History Centre, emphasized the recipes don’t need to be Michelin-worthy.

“It doesn’t have to be a good recipe. We’re not asking for your tastiest. We want one that’s memorable. And one that’s memorable may not taste good and we’re good with that. What we want is food as a trigger for memories and people’s life stories,” Thiessen said.

The food history project comes on the heels of Thiessen’s book, Snacks: A Canadian Food History, published in 2017. There, she delved into the makings of iconic grub like Old Dutch Potato Chips, Hawkins Cheezies and Ganong chocolate, and asked why Canadians are loyal to their favourite junk food brands.

A deep-dive into Manitoba’s token foods — perogies, Greek chili burgers and grainy goods among them — was a natural next step, she said.

Thiessen hopes the project will appeal to folks who aren’t normally gung-ho when it comes to learning about history. The group’s website will feature digital storyboards and links to podcast interviews they’ve done, among other research that’s hopefully not stale.

“We wanted to reach those folks and have them accidentally ingest some history and discover that it’s more nuanced than perhaps they’ve been led to believe, and more interesting and more complicated,” Thiessen said.

“Food is really the hook. We certainly are interested in food — don’t get me wrong. But even learning about the history of the food, you can also learn about immigration history, government policy, ethnic identity and so many other aspects of history. …

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