These cookies are 113 years old.
Okay, let me back up for a minute and explain myself.
When I was 15 years old, I went to our nation’s great capital, Ottawa, with my family. My dad, sister Vicki, and I were walking down Wellington street past the National Library and Archives when Vicki and I asked my dad if we could go in. He told us of a time many years before that he and my mom tried to visit the Archives and they were turned away at the door, told it was private.
Being a lover of all things bound and historical I was disappointed to hear that we couldn’t see what was in the greatest library in the country. My mind was spinning with images of hundreds of librarians scurrying around like mice in a maze of bookshelves storeys tall.
My curiosity got the better of me and I asked my dad if we could try going in anyway. We went up to the front door. It was unlocked. We walked in apprehensively and an unassuming librarian approached us almost as soon as we walked in the door. Before my dad could ask if we were even allowed inside, the man smiled and said “Are you here for the 11 o’clock tour?”
TOUR? We can take a tour? I was so excited.
“Uh. . .sure,” my dad said.
We took the tour, which wasn’t a tour of the collections but of some specific selections that were out on display for the public. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I was happy anyway.
While I don’t remember all the details from it (only historical Canadian comic books come to mind) I do remember telling myself that I would one day come back and look through old documents and images from Canadian history.
So, back to cookies.
In a recent bout of boredom I went to the National Library and Archives website. Okay, there are a tonne of sweet-ass things on that website, by the way— Censuses from Confederation, maps from every part of Canadian history, some open stock illustrations that I want to print and display in my house, and probably the best discovery was Cookbooks.
The online exhibit Bon Appetit, A Celebration of Canadian Cookbooks discusses the history of cooking in Canada from aboriginal times, includes images from cookbooks throughout history, and has archived 2 cookbooks in entirety.
The English cookbook, The New Galt Cookbook, comes from 1898. It’s a collection of recipes provided by women from, primarily, Southwestern Ontario. It has all kinds of recipes from oysters, to catsups, to pickles, to doughnuts. Most recipes have multiple versions from several different women.
After browsing through countless recipes, I settled on making “oat cakes” because I had all the ingredients on hand, I went with this recipe by Miss Maud Terry because they’re (Good).
All the recipes are written out really vaguely. Ingredients are often measured by the “teacupful” or “spoonful”, things like oven temperature and baking time are excluded, and the method described is very unhelpful, especially when you don’t exactly know what the result is supposed to look like. I guess the recipes are written on the assumption that the women reading them have a good grasp on how to make them in the first place.
Once I had the ingredients assembled, I wasn’t exactly sure how to “roll out” the dough. It was a little too moist to roll it flat with a rolling pin, so I decided to just form it into a square log and cut it into 1/2” cakes.
I baked them at 350F until they just started to brown and then let them cool on a cooling rack.
End result: delicious.
These things are heavenly! Do you like shortbread? (I know, you’re thinking What the hell kind of question is that? Everyone likes shortbread!) Well this is basically a shortbread made with oatmeal. Sweet, buttery, and delicious but with the added texture from the oats, these are a great cookie to accompany a hot cup of Earl Grey tea.
I can’t wait to try more recipes from the New Galt Cookbook!
What should I make next? Scotch Haggis? Plum Pudding? Fried Fish? Scalloped Eggs? Crullers?