You are what you eat: fascinating food history projects from BC and around the world!

Summer’s the perfect time to learn through your dinner plate. With so many delicious foods in season and a more relaxed schedule, it’s the perfect time to explore where—and when—your food comes from.

Are you curious about how people living in your area sourced and prepared food a hundred years ago? What about ten thousand years ago? It's worth your time to delve into food history: with practices spanning back at least ten millennia or more, British Columbia has a rich history to appreciate, and food is a tangible (and tasty!) way to bring it to life.

You might already pay attention to recipes as a way to connect to your family history; sample flavours from around the world; or as a way to expand your experience of a destination when you travel. Food and recipes are also a way to explore the history and stories of the very place you live. That’s where food history projects come in: they look at how food links to, well, everything!

Take the BC Food History Network. This project uses food history as a springboard to look at a fascinating range of topics, from Indigenous peoples’ foodways and Early Contact Foods of BC; to the history of preserving and canning in BC; to vintage pamphlets (like this one on how to cook for a hundred people).

Inspired to start researching more food histories? Canada has more wonderful projects to learn from. The Manitoba Food History project is currently gathering food histories via their food truck—contributors climb aboard, cook a memorable meal (note: the researchers point out that memorable meals don’t have to necessarily taste good to be memorable) and then sit down to share what they know with the researchers.  Culinary Historians of Canada is full of resources on food histories from across Canada. Closer to home, check out the work of Hua Foundation, who talked to us recently about their work sharing Vancouver’s Chinatown food history.

If reading about food history has your kids fired up to cook some historic recipes, take a look at our round-ups on how to cook your way through history, including your own family history. Since we wrote these posts involving Ancient Roman recipes, we’ve learned about the Pompeii Food and Drink Project, which features numerous recipes to try your hand at, and which is at the heart of this fascinating discussion of how tasting and smelling a food can better help us understand our past.

Have you got a family recipe you’re learning to cook? Or have you tried one of these historic recipes at home? We’d love to hear about it on our Facebook and Instagram feeds!

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