|Food Wars and Culinary Pluralism in a Cold War City: Toronto, 1940s-1960s|
|The academic study of food, from different disciplinary perspectives, has grown enormously over the past decade or two. In various national settings, historical studies of food habits, customs, and patterns have generated an expanded and fascinating perspective on world history. Recent publications offer such engaging titles as: Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World; Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors; The Migrant's Table: Meals and Memories in Bengali-American Households. Canadian historians have just begun to contribute to the rapidly expanding field of food history, largely through studies of missionary campaigns, native-settler interactions, women's magazines, immigrant & refugee experiences, consumer practices, and cookbooks. My proposal seeks to continue this emerging dialogue between Canadian and international food historians through the lens of migration history that is especially attentive to gender, class, and cultural realities.
My paper will consider the complex gender and cultural politics of food through the lens of gatekeeper-newcomer relations in postwar, Cold War Toronto. I will consider both the campaigns of various nutritionists and food fashion-makers to reshape the food customs of European immigrant and refugee mothers and their families and the responses of the mothers who negotiated (through a mix of resistance, compromise, and accommodation) a complex culinary terrain on which Canadian experts, husbands, and children applied often conflicting pressures to adapt or resist “Canadian” food ways. I will also highlight the broader impact that the massive influx of Canada’s post-1945 European newcomers had on the culinary landscape of the city - Toronto -- that accepted by far the largest numbers of them. To do so, I shall explore a number of developments, including the rise of what I call culinary pluralism “from the bottom up,” (the result of experimentation in households of various types), spread of ethnic markets and shops, and, finally, restaurants that transformed a city that, while home to pre-1945 waves of immigrants, had retained a primarily WASP cultural character until very recently.