The Sunday Magazine

How cooking World War II recipes can help us understand the pandemic

During the pandemic food has helped to bring people together. Culinary historian Samantha George talks about how the Toronto Star's WWII recipes also helped people through challenging times.

Culinary historian Samantha George discusses the Toronto Star's WWII recipes

A group of volunteers at the Parkwood Estate Museum in Oshawa, Ont., have been cooking their way through the Toronto Star's World War II recipes. (Toronto Star Archives )

In times of strife, food has been a catalyst to bring communities together. 

During the current pandemic, people across the globe have found solace in cooking. Similarly, and in spite of limited resources, food was vital during World War II to getting families through unprecedented times. 

This sense of community is adding a new dimension to a project at the Parkwood Estate Museum in Oshawa, Ont. Volunteers with War In The Kitchen have been cooking their way through recipes published in the Toronto Star from 1939 to 1945 since last year, in an effort to better understand wartime Canada. 

These two recipes were featured in the Toronto Star in 1940, which was then known as the Toronto Daily Star. (Toronto Star Archives)
The recipes published include simple shortbread, as well as date cakes — also known as "dark secrets." These recipes would have been sent to soldiers abroad in 1940. 
The museum's curator and culinary historian Samantha George observes how simple recipes and food parcels created a sense of home even for families divided by global conflict. 

"It's the fact that someone's making them for you. Thinking about you. Packing them up and sending them. So even though you're thousands of miles apart, you're still in someone's heart," she says.  

The Sunday Magazine host Piya Chattopadhyay attempted the WWII era shortbread recipe for herself. (Supplied by Piya Chattopadhyay)

George spoke to The Sunday Magazine's Piya Chattopadhyay about the project and shared some recipes. Chattopadhyay even tried out a recipe at home. 

Interview produced by Sarah-Joyce Battersby


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