In my ongoing exploration of the area’s history, I find myself often comparing how our experience parallels that of those who’ve come before. How are our traditions alike or how are they different? How can we engage in that history, and experience life in similar ways?
In our last blog post our archivist, Tristan Evans, gave us a delicious account of Chilliwack’s long history of produce stands. A particular portion sparked my interest, Mrs. Caroline Christie’s Hot Dog Relish, and the book that carries on the formula, Pioneer Recipes.
Circa 1930, James and Caroline Christie operated multiple local businesses, including the eventual Christie’s Farm Fresh Produce. While the establishment did house a hot dog stand, that portion was only in operation for roughly 10 years from 1940 – 1950. I find it interesting to imagine that 8o years ago locals would be stopping in to Christie’s with their families to pick up some fresh produce and have a hot dog made with Caroline’s homemade relish. Caroline made 350 gallons of this relish annually, which speaks to the demand of her local customers! It is also interesting to note that the hot dogs were ten inches long and cost a dime.
After locating the recipe for the relish, I can now set out to re-create it, and share it with my family. How difficult will it be to prepare? How will it taste? How will the act of preparing the relish give me the opportunity to experience this piece of history?
Comparatively in our temporary exhibit, Mountaineers, there is a reproduction of a diary from 1928 titled “A Trip to Paradise”. The diary is a collaborative account of six young adults and their assent of Liumchen Mountain. While the diary does a beautiful job of recording the natural beauty and camaraderie of the trip, it also provides insight into what the group were eating. Breakfast consisting of pancakes, bacon, and coffee; Lunch of sandwiches, cookies, raisins, and dates; A dinner of ham, bread, and string beans. And for dessert? Chocolate éclairs and rice pudding. This 90 year old meal plan could easily be one we plan for a camping trip today.
Having obtained a copy of Pioneer Recipes, I had secretly hoped to find obscure fantastical early pioneer meals of sweet breads, haggis pie or even a mystical “Lièvre Royale”. Alas, the frightening foods of our past are mostly relegated to post 1960’s entertainment magazines. Although we have changed in many ways, (socially, economically and technologically); gastronomically, we still enjoy our hot dogs, puddings, bacon and eggs, and even perhaps a nice bowl of macaroni and cheese.
A copy of Pioneer Recipes, Published by the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society is available to view at The Chilliwack Museum.