Remembrance Day is a day of reflection. A time to think about the sacrifices men and women made for us during times of war. During World War II, while Canadian soldiers were fighting valiantly overseas, many Canadians on the home front were doing their part to support the war effort too. In 1939, Britain called upon Canada--its strongest partner--to provide not only soldiers and war machines but food as well. This might sound like a simple picnic request at first blush, but then imagine being asked to produce the food, preserve it and ship it—unscathed—thousands of miles across the North Atlantic! Without flinching, the unflappable Canadians replied "Sure…what’s a few more folks for dinner, right?"
Across Canada, researchers, farmers, food industry experts and Canadians jumped on board and contributed to the war effort by collaborating to come up with the most efficient and safe ways to deliver all kinds of food, including perishables, to Britain. They discovered new ways to make milk and egg powders and designed just the right packaging to keep the food dry and safe during long cargo shipments. They invented special refrigerated cargo containers, like giant picnic coolers, that could be placed on ordinary shipping vessels to ship meat—particularly Canadian bacon that the British liked so much. Before this, huge, gas-guzzling and very expensive refrigerated vessels were used to transport perishable foods overseas to Britain. The clever Canadian researchers also invented wax and plastic lined cardboard boxes and bags for frozen foods, just like the boxes we see today containing frozen pizza and hungry-man-dinners in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. So the next time you’re snacking on ice cream from a rectangular-shaped ice cream tub, enjoy an extra scoop and give the little tubbie a little salute for leaving a smaller environmental footprint than its round, cylindrical cousin. Yes, these food experts also discovered that when space is at a premium you can pack in more square or rectangular packages than round shaped packages. Remember that the next time you’re reorganizing your kitchen cupboards or sock drawer!
While all this research was going on in Ottawa and across Canada between federal government departments, the food industries and farmers, everyday Canadians were also doing their part. Young women knit, purled and whirled thick wool socks for the Red Cross for the soldiers overseas while the government urged families to grow Victory Gardens in their backyards and neighbourhoods to provide food for themselves. This explains why my Mother can knit socks, mitts and slippers with her eyes closed!
Food rations were introduced by the government in Canada in January 1942. Foods on the ration list were added over time and included butter, sugar, meat, coffee, tea, and chocolate. The food ration system was designed to keep farmers working on their land and to ensure that each person would have the same portion on their dinner plate as their neighbour or the soldier fighting at the front.
Canadians were encouraged to make simple meals using vegetables from their Victory Gardens, stretching their meat rations with entrees like meatloaf and making good use of their leftovers—if there were any at all. In honour of Remembrance Day, may I suggest these simple recipes to mark the day? As we honour the soldiers who fought for our freedom, let’s take a moment to also salute those who shared their knowledge and food expertise to bring us the high-quality food products we enjoy today.
French Canadian Pea Soup
You will need a 6 to 7 quart slow cooker.
1 lb yellow split peas
250 g smoked pork hock, skin removed (ask your butcher if you can’t find one)
3 carrots diced in circles.
1 large potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 stalk celery, very finely chopped
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp basil
¼ tsp oregano
Place peas in bowl and add enough cold water to soak for at least 12 hours. Drain, rinse well and place in slow cooker. Add 7 cups water, and the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours or on high for 6 to 8 hours until soup is hot and bubbling.
With a slotted spoon, remove pork hock, then remove meat from the bone, cut into chunks and return to pot. Remove bay leaf and discard. Serve immediately.
Chickpea Meatloaf (Takes about 1.5 hrs to bake in the oven-NOT the slow Cooker)
I love this recipe. It uses chickpeas and has a lovely nutty flavour! It takes about 1.5 hours to bake.
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
500 g extra-lean ground beef
2 cups cooked chickpeas (on 19 oz tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained will do)
¾ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup chili sauce or ketchup
2 tbsp ancient grain mustard
1 ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot red pepper sauce
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Heat oven to 350F.
In a food processor combine onion and garlic until pureed, or chop well by hand. Add chickpeas and chop finely.
In a big bowl, combine onion mixture, chickpeas, beef, breadcrumbs, egg, chili sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, cumin, salt, pepper and parsley. Knead together lightly by hand.
Transfer mixture to a 9x5 loaf pan and smooth the top. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
Optional toppings may now be added:
Option 1) Combine 2 tbsp chili sauce and 1 tbsp mustard. Spread over loaf.
Option 2) Shred 1 cup mozzarella cheese and spread over loaf
Continue baking loaf, Uncovered, for another 45 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer, internal temperature should be 160 F. Cool for additional 30 minutes before removing from pan and serving.
Baked Parsnips and Carrots
Why not experiment and add slices of rutabagas or white turnips, squash..or anything else from your Victory Garden!
1 tbsp butter or margarine
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Pinch of cumin
1 tbsp water
Peel parsnips and carrots by cutting them in half to make two inch sticks, then cut lengthwise into strips. Place in 9x 13 baking dish and dot with butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cumin and add water. Cover and bake in 375F oven for 50-60 minutes or until tender. Makes 4 servings.
Potato Leek Soup
Slow cooker should be about 5 quarts.
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
3 leeks – just the white parts, trimmed and well-rinsed, then sliced
1 onion chopped
4 potatoes, peeled and chopped into one-inch cubes
6 cups chicken bouillon broth
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
½ tsp black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup half and half table cream
Crumbled cheese such as Stilton, Blue cheese, Gouda or Cheddar.
In a large pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add leeks and onion. Reduce heat to medium low, then cover and sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes. Transfer this to slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients except the Half&Half and the cheese.
Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6. When the vegetables are tender, using a hand blender, puree the soup in the slow cooker. Wear an apron and be careful—it is very hot!
Stir in cream, cover and cook on high for 15-20 minutes until it is heated through. NOTE: I you would like to refrigerate or freeze the soup, do not add the cream. To serve, reheat the soup in the slow-cooker and add 1/ cup of water, then add the cream.
To serve: place crumbles of cheese in the bottom of serving bowls and ladle soup on top.
Use a 3-6 quart slow cooker
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup cold butter cut into small cubes
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
Note: no need to defrost berries if they’re frozen
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp lemon juice
In a bowl, combine flour, nuts and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until well blended and mixture is the size of small peas.
In the slow cooker, combine berries, maple syrup, cornstarch and lemon juice. Toss lightly to coat the berries. Sprinkle flour mixture over the berries. Cover and cook on low for 5-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. It is ready when fruit is tender and juices bubble. Serve with ice cream or frozen yogurt.