Category Archives: King & Queens

Canadian Cuisine Timeline 1497-1793

Canadian Food Graphic

A lot of the food and dishes that are “Canadian,” are in fact a result of the early years’ immigrations.  As such, before I go on to the Canadian food inventions and innovations, I think it’s important to list a broad stroke of our timeline.  Because of the length, I am breaking up the timeline into three posts.

1497: Giovanni Caboto (better known as John Cabot) sailed from Bristol, England, in search of a trade route to the Orient. Three months later, he returned home to tell of finding a whole New World of tall trees and waters so thick with fish that could be hauled aboard in buckets. This secured him a five-ship voyage to return. It was disastrous for him as he died on the voyage, but his ships returned and corroborated his fishy tales.

1534: Jacques Cartier sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Chaleur Bay, where he met a group of Iroquois. He was invited to a feast of seal, cod and sturgeon, maple sugar-glazed moose loin, corn soup and cakes.

1580: New varieties of food were discovered on a regular basis: avocados, chili peppers, corn, peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, just to name a few.

1606: Samuel de Champlain, cartographer and explorer, established Port Royal. He created the Order of Good Cheer (L’Ordre de Bon Temps). Prominent members of the settlement took turns hosting special meals. The benefits were a healthy competition within the group, better nutrition and, it made it easier to wait for the spring. You can view my earlier post about this at

1670: England’s King Charles II granted the lands to the Hudson’s Bay Company. They, in turn, built trading posts and kept them supplied with trade goods and food. Every post was well stocked with butter, tea, biscuits, coffee, cane sugar, salt beef, and other necessities from home.

1755: The deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and New England began. Many were transported back to France but most dispersed to southern areas such as Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns. Years later, almost half the Acadians returned to Canada, bringing not only their old Acadian cuisine but also their new Cajun style of cooking.

1759: Immigration to Canada increased. Consequently, ships were loaded with settlers arriving almost daily, and the Canadian food experience switched from a pork, fish, wine and sauce-based cuisine to one built upon mutton, beef, peas and beer. Taverns became popular with beer and roast beef with mushy peas.

1769: The Experienced English Housekeeper, written by Elizabeth Raffald, was published in London, England, and became essential reading for those headed for Canada.

1775: The American Revolution began. Staples such as salt, molasses, spices, citrus, tea and coffee become unavailable.

Because of losing the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763), France ceded Canada to Britain, which precipitated a mass migration, especially from Ireland and northern Scotland. Britain offered emigrants free passage along with some provisions – such as tools, salt, food rations, and armaments. Big meat ruled, but it was all tough as nails. Luckily, the English had learned the trick of tenderizing meat from the Romans, and after a few weeks of hanging and a bit of mould scraping, there was your Sunday dinner. It was a bit ripe, but a good long roasting fixed that, and from this habit of culinary utilitarianism came the British reputation for overcooking food.

Late 1700s, potatoes became as ever-present as corn and apples. Potatoes did very well in the Maritimes because the soil was suited to growing them. In addition, just like grain and apples, the excess could be easily distilled into alcohol.

1783: United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution arrived in all parts of Upper Canada and the Maritimes. They brought both their cuisine and their slaves, with each having an impact on the evolution of Canadian cuisine – roast duck laced with cayenne pepper was a culinary eye-opener for Canadian settlers.

1786: John Molson bought a small brewery in Montreal and began creating a financial, nation-expanding empire that would include banks, lumber, steamships, a railway and larger breweries. Called the nation’s greatest entrepreneur, John Molson and his business endeavours created a demand for timber and grains.

1790: A salt boiling operation was established at Twelve Mile Creek (now St. Catharines, Ontario) by William Merritt, an immigrant from Liverpool, England, a city with a long history of salt production. The British government in Upper Canada discontinued the practice of supplying each settler family with a barrel of imported salt.

1793: Slavery was abolished in what is now Ontario. Therefore, villages opened inns and taverns whose kitchens offered employment to displaced cooks, escaped U.S. slaves and returning Acadians. Some of them were famous for their dinners that were usually Southern-inspired dishes like slow-baked Virginia-style ham and biscuits, crayfish pie, fried fish, frog legs, cornbread, yams, tomato salad, corn on the cob and syrupy dessert pies, along with traditional roasts of beef, mutton, and wild game. A treat for travellers, Southern-style foods found approval in home kitchens, a fact that led to the design of Canadian cooking stoves with tops that facilitated iron frypans and boiling pans.

Some of my earlier related posts:

Tomorrow’s post will cover the years of 1816 to 1890.


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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Cpl. Nathan Frank Cirillo

Cpl. Nathan Frank Cirillo, image source Facebook

Canadians felt anger and sadness when Cpl. Nathan Frank Cirillo ( a reservist member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) was fatally shot while taking a turn as part of the Ceremonial Guard watching over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at 9:50 a.m. on October 22, 2014.

If there is a silver lining here, it is because of Kevin Michael Vickers, Canada’s Sergeant-at-Arms. Kevin Vickers came out of his office carrying a pistol, and shot the gunman.

Kevin Vickars, Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons
Image source:

But what of the National War Memorial (also known as The Response)?

It stands in Confederation Square, Ottawa, and serves as the federal war memorial for Canada.

National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada)

H.M. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth unveiling the National War Memorial, Ottawa, Canada, May 21, 1939.

It commemorates the First World War, and was rededicated to include the Second World War and the Korean War. It symbolizes the sacrifice made by every Canadian who has died or may yet die for their country.



The contract for the construction of the arch was awarded in December 1937 and the entire cenotaph was completed on 19 October 1938, after which the landscaping surrounding the memorial was laid out and installed by Toronto contractors. On May 15, 1939, the Post Office Department issued a stamp called National Memorial.

On May 21, the memorial was officially unveiled by George VI, King of Canada, in the presence of an estimated 100,000 people, months before the Second World War began.

The memorial serves as the focal point of Remembrance Day (November 11) ceremonies in Ottawa.

A national scandal arose following Canada Day (July 1) in 2006, when a group of young men were photographed urinating on the memorial at night, after celebrating the national holiday. This incident prompted the establishment of a Guard of Honour at the site, though the soldiers of the Ceremonial Guard are only present between 9 am and 5 pm from June through August. The navy and the air force also do rotations here in the summer months.

Yesterday, a Canadian Forces soldier on ceremonial duty at the memorial was shot and killed by an armed man. The gunman then crossed the street and entered the Centre Block building of the nearby Canadian Parliament complex, where a firefight ensued between the shooter and members of building security. A security guard was wounded and the suspect was killed. The slain soldier was Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, from Hamilton, Ontario.

Whenever the monarch or another member of the Royal Family is in Ottawa, they will, regardless of the date, lay a wreath at the monument. Other prominent dignitaries who have laid wreaths at the memorial include President of the United States John F. Kennedy in 1961 and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990.

Let us never forget.


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Who Joined the Party?

We are approaching Canada Day, on July 1st.  As we celebrate, I thought it would be interesting to note when the provinces and territories joined our great country.

  • 1867 – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec (July 1)
  • 1870 – Manitoba and Northwest Territories (July 15)
  • 1871 – British Columbia (July 20)
  • 1873 – Prince Edward Island (July 1)
  • 1898 – Yukon (June 13)
  • 1905 – Alberta, and Saskatchewan (September 1)
  • 1949 – Newfoundland (March 31)
  • 1999 – Nunavut (April 1)

When Canada was first seen by the Europeans, they were governed by their Kings and Queens.  Both French and English have had a significant influence on our country’s development.  So here is a list of these royals.  First, the French:   crown

  • 1515 – 1547  Francis I
  • 1547 – 1559  Henry II
  • 1559 -1560   Francis II
  • 1560 -1574   Charles IX
  • 1574 – 1589  Henry III
  • 1589 – 1610  Henry IV
  • 1610 – 1643  Louis XIII
  • 1643 – 1715  Louis XIV
  • 1715 -1774   Louis XV

Second, the English:

  • 1760 – 1820       George III
  • 1820 – 1830       George IV
  • 1830 – 1837       William IV
  • 1837 – 1901       Victoria
  • 1901 – 1910       Edward VII
  • 1910 – 1936       George V
  • 1936                 Edward VIII
  • 1936 – 1952       George VI
  • 1952 – present   Elizabeth II

Just a little bit of trivia for the day!



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May Two-Four?

Tomorrow, May 19, is Victoria Day, acknowledging Queen Victoria’s birthday. So for today’s post, allow me to introduce you to Alexandrina Victoria.

Queen Victoria

Photo of Queen Victoria; Photo de la reine Victoria. Date: 18 August 2007, Ottawa, by abdallahh. Source:

She was born on May 24, 1819 (Kensington Palace, London), and died on January 22, 1901 (Osborne House, Isle of Wight) at the age of 81.

The official name for this annual celebration is Victoria Day, and in French it’s called Fête de la Reine. Some also call it May Long Weekend, May Long, May Two-Four, or May Run. It is also informally considered as the beginning of the summer season in Canada.  It is celebrated every year on the Monday preceding May 25.  This year, it falls on May 19th.

Canada started celebrating the Queen’s birthday on May 24, 1845, when the legislation first passed by the parliament of the Province of Canada.

One year, however, the celebrations were marred by tragedy.  In 1881, a passenger ferry named Victoria overturned in the Thames River, near London, Ontario. The boat departed in the evening with 600 to 800 people on board—three times the allowable passenger capacity—and capsized part way across the river, drowning some 182 individuals, including a large number of children who had been with their families for Victoria Day picnics at Springbank Park. The event came to be known as the Victoria Day disaster.

The holiday is colloquially known as May Two-Four in parts of Canada.  It’s a double entendre that refers both to the date around which the holiday falls (May 24) and the Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (a “two-four”), a drink popular during the long weekend.

When  Alexandrina was but a year old, her father died.  Consequently, she was brought up by her mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.  She later described her childhood as “rather melancholy.”  Her mother was extremely protective.  Alexandrina was raised largely isolated from other children. She lived by an elaborate set of rules and protocols.  Her mother hired an ambitious and domineering comptroller, Sir John Conroy, for her.  Together they prevented the princess from meeting people whom her mother and Conroy deemed undesirable, which included most of her father’s family.  She shared a bedroom with her mother every night, studied with private tutors on a rigid timetable, and spent her play hours with her dolls and her dog, Dash.

In October 1835,  Alexandrina contracted a severe fever, which Conroy dismissed as a childish pretence.  While she was ill, Conroy and her mother unsuccessfully badgered her to make Conroy her private secretary.  As a teenager,  Alexandrina resisted persistent attempts by her mother and Conroy to appoint him to her staff.  Once queen, she banned him from her presence, but he remained in her mother’s household.

Her mother’s brother, Leopold, had been King since 1831.  Leopold arranged for  Alexandrina’s mother to invite her relatives to visit her in May 1836.  It was at this time that she first met Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Prince Alexander of the Netherlands, as possible suitors.

According to her diary, she enjoyed Albert’s company from the beginning. After the visit she wrote, “[Albert] is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful.”  Alexander, on the other hand, was “very plain”.

Victoria turned 18 on May 24, 1837.  On June 20 that year, William IV died at the age of 71, and Victoria became Queen.

In her diary she wrote, “I was awoke at 6 o’clock by Mamma, who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen.”

Official documents prepared on the first day of her reign named her as Alexandrina Victoria, but the first name was withdrawn at her own wish and never used again.

She inherited the revenues of the duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, and was granted a civil list of £385,000 per year. Financially prudent, she paid off her father’s debts.

At the start of her reign Victoria was popular, but her reputation suffered in 1839 because of an incident involving one of her mother’s ladies-in-waiting, Lady Flora Hastings.  She developed an abdominal growth that was widely rumoured to be an out-of-wedlock pregnancy by Sir John Conroy.  Victoria believed the rumours.   At first, Lady Flora refused to submit to a naked medical examination, until in mid-February she eventually agreed, and was found to be a virgin.  Conroy organised a press campaign implicating the Queen in the spreading of false rumours about Lady Flora.  When Lady Flora died in July, the post-mortem revealed a large tumour on her liver that had distended her abdomen.  At public appearances, Victoria was hissed and jeered.

Though queen, as an unmarried young woman Victoria was required by social convention to live with her mother, despite their differences, and exasperated with her mother’s continued reliance on Conroy.  Her mother was consigned to a remote apartment in Buckingham Palace, and Victoria often refused to even meet with her. Victoria complained of her mother’s close proximity,  expecting “torment for many years”.  It was proposed that could be avoided by marriage.  She thought of Albert’s education for the future role he would have to play as her husband, but she resisted attempts to rush her into wedlock.

Victoria continued to praise Albert following his second visit in October 1839. Albert and Victoria felt mutual affection and the Queen proposed to him on October 15, 1839, just five days after he had arrived at Windsor.  They were married on February 10, 1840.  Victoria was besotted. She spent the evening after their wedding lying down with a headache, but wrote ecstatically in her diary:

“I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!”

Albert became an important political adviser as well as the Queen’s companion. Through Albert’s mediation, relations between mother and daughter slowly improved.

Edward Oxford shooting at Queen Victoria, June 10, 1840

Edward Oxford shooting at Queen Victoria, June 10, 1840.  (19 April 1822 – 23 April 1900) He was the first of eight people who tried to assassinate Queen Victoria.

During Victoria’s first pregnancy in 1840, 18-year-old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate her while she was riding in a carriage with Prince Albert on her way to visit her mother. Oxford fired twice, but either both bullets missed or, as he later claimed, the guns had no shot.  He was tried for high treason and found guilty, but was acquitted on the grounds of insanity.  In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Victoria’s popularity soared again.  Her daughter, also named Victoria, was born on 21 November 1840.

The Queen hated being pregnant.  Nevertheless, over the following seventeen years, she and Albert had a further eight children: Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (b. 1841), Alice (b. 1843), Alfred (b. 1844), Helena (b. 1846), Louise (b. 1848), Arthur (b. 1850), Leopold (b. 1853) and Beatrice (b. 1857).

In 1845, Ireland was hit by a potato blight that became known as the Great Famine.  In the next four years over a million people died.  She personally donated £2,000 to famine relief, more than any other individual donor, and also supported the Maynooth Grant to a Roman Catholic seminary in Ireland, despite Protestant opposition.

In 1853, Victoria gave birth to her eighth child, Leopold, with the aid of the new anaesthetic, chloroform. Victoria was so impressed by the relief it gave from the pain of childbirth that she used it again in 1857 at the birth of her ninth and final child, Beatrice.

In March 1861, Victoria’s mother died, with Victoria at her side. To relieve his wife during her intense and deep grief,  Albert took on most of her duties, despite being ill himself with chronic stomach trouble.

By the beginning of December, Albert was diagnosed with typhoid fever.  He died on December 14, 1861. Victoria was devastated.  She entered a state of mourning and wore black for the remainder of her life. She avoided public appearances.  Through the 1860s, Victoria relied increasingly on a manservant from Scotland, John Brown.  Before long, there were slanderous rumours of a romantic connection.  The story of their relationship was the subject of the 1997 movie Mrs. Brown.

Victoria’s self-imposed isolation from the public diminished the popularity of the monarchy.  On the last day of February 1872, 17-year-old Arthur O’Connor (great-nephew of Irish MP Feargus O’Connor) waved an unloaded pistol at Victoria’s open carriage.  Brown, who was attending the Queen, grabbed him and O’Connor was later sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.  As a result of the incident, Victoria again became popular.

Following a custom she maintained throughout her widowhood, Victoria spent the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Rheumatism in her legs had rendered her lame, after a fall years earlier.  Her eyesight was clouded by cataracts.  Through early January, she felt “weak and unwell”, and by mid-January she was reported to be “drowsy, dazed, and confused“.  She died on Tuesday, January 22, 1901, at half past six in the evening, at the age of 81.  Her son and successor King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, were at her deathbed.  Her favourite pet Pomeranian, Turri, was laid upon her deathbed as her last request.


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Jumbo is a Hero

Today I would like to introduce you to Jumbo, also known as Jumbo the Elephant and Jumbo the Circus Elephant.

Jumbo and his keeper Matthew Scott, Date c. 1882 Source

Jumbo, named because of his size, was an African Bush Elephant born at what is now Mali, in 1861, and died September 15, 1885, at the age of 24.  First he was sent to the Jardin des Plantes zoo in Paris (France); then to a zoo in England; then in March of 1882, he was given to P. T. Barnum, who brought him to Northern America as part of their exhibition; he was purchased for $10,000 dollars ($244 thousand today).

Not everyone agreed with that sale.  For instance, 100,000 school children wrote to Queen Victoria begging her not to sell the elephant.  When he arrived in New York, Barnum exhibited the elephant at Madison Square Garden,  Then, Jumbo, one of Barnum’s 21 elephants, crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to prove that the bridge was safe after 12 people died during a stampede on the bridge a year earlier on Memorial Day, Almost immediately, Barnum earned enough to recoup what he spent to buy the animal.

The story of Jumbo’s death was told by Barnum, but many are skeptical of his version.  Jumbo was hit by a train in St. Thomas, Ontario.  Barnum then explained that a younger elephant, Tom Thumb, was on the railroad tracks. Jumbo pushed him to safety.  This caused the train to derail.  According to newspaper accounts at the time, the freight train hit Jumbo directly, killing him, while the other elephant suffered a broken leg.

James Gordon, a Canadian folk singer, wrote “Jumbo’s Last Ride,” describing Jumbo’s life and death.  It was featured on his 1999 CD Pipe Street Dreams.

Jumbo after death by train

Jumbo after colliding with a locomotive on September 15, 1885 in St. Thomas, Ontario



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Not Cowboys & Indians, Part 2

For the month of April, I’ll be continuing the series of “Indian wars in Canada,” this post will cover the 17th century.  Now, I have to say that there were skirmishes, battles and wars.  I can’t, obviously, cover every one.  So with a broad pen stroke, let’s keep going.

Beaver War Map of colonial settlements.

Map of the location of major tribes involved in the Beaver Wars laid against a period map showing colonial settlements.

In the mid-17th century, the Beaver Wars began. They were also known as the Iroquois Wars or the French and Iroquois Wars. These battles were fought in eastern North America.  Two of them were:

On June 19, 1610 the battle of Sorel began and continued intermittently for almost a century, and ended with the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701. It pitted the nations of the Iroquois confederation, led by the dominant Mohawks, against the Algonquian people of the Great Lakes region.  They were supported by the Kingdom of France.   Actually, the first deliberate battle in 1609 was fought at Champlain’s initiative. William Brandon, in his book, The American Heritage Book of Indians (1984), wrote that Champlain is said to have written, “I had come with no other intention than to make war.”  Unfortunately, this battle created 150-years of mistrust that diminished any chances that French-Iroquois alliances would be durable and long-lived.

Another was the Lachine Massacre (present-day Montreal, Quebec) on the morning of August 5, 1689. 1,500 Mohawk warriors attacked 375 inhabitants.  The event was precipitated by the Iroquois who wanted to avenge the 1,200,000 bushels of corn burned by the French.  But since they were unable to reach the food stores in Montreal, they kidnapped and killed the Lachine crop producers instead. 3 Mohawks and 72 French settlers were killed.  When one survivor reported to a local garrison, 4.8 km (3 miles) away, two hundred soldiers, along with 100 armed civilians and some soldiers from nearby, marched against the Iroquois.  Numerous attacks from both sides followed, but the two groups quickly realized the futility of their attempts to drive the other out.  The Montreal Treaty of 1701, concluded with the Iroquois promising to remain neutral in case of war between the French and English.

Map of King William's War.

Map of King William’s War.

Another major war of the 17th century, besides the Beaver War,  was King William’s War, from 1688 to 1697.  It was also known as the Second Indian War, Father Baudoin’s War, as well as Castin’s War. This war had many battles.  To offer a sense of the war, here is one of many battles in that war.

At Siege of Pemaquid, in 1696, New France and the tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy, led by St. Castine and Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, returned and fought a naval battle in the Bay of Fundy before moving on to raid Pemaquid (Maine). After the siege, d’Iberville led a force of 124 Canadians, Acadians, Mi’kmaq and Abanakis in the Avalon Peninsula Campaign. They destroyed almost every English settlement in Newfoundland, over 100 English were killed, many times that number captured, and almost 500 deported to England or France.

In retaliation, Church (Colonel Benjamin Church is considered to be the father of American ranging. He was the captain of the first Ranger force in America) went on his fourth expedition to Acadia and carried out a retaliatory raid against Acadian communities on the Isthmus of Chignecto and Fort Nashwack (now Fredericton, New Brunswick), which was then the capital of Acadia.  He led his troops personally in killing inhabitants of Chignecto, looting their household goods, burning their houses and slaughtering the livestock.

My next post will cover the 18th century.




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Black History Month Part Nine

Continuing with Black History Month, I would like you to meet Portia White.

Portia White, Canadian Opera Singer

English: Portrait of Canadian contralto opera singer, Portia White. Taken ca. 1945 by Yousuf Karsh.

Portia May White was born on June 24, 1911 in Truro, Nova Scotia, the third of thirteen children!

Her father, the son of former slaves from Virginia, attended Acadia University in Nova Scotia in 1903.  He became the university’s first black graduate.

Portia White embarked on her stellar singing career at six years old, at her father’s Baptist Church in Halifax. Before she began singing professionally, she supported her musical career by teaching in Africville, in black schools in Halifax County.  A decade later, she won a scholarship to pursue her musical training at the Halifax Conservatory, in 1939.  Soon thereafter, she made her professional début in Toronto, and then performed in New York City to rave reviews.

Portia White went on to international success.  She performed more than 100 concerts, including a command performance before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Edward Wodson, at the Toronto Evening Telegram, said White had a “coloured and beautifully shaded contralto all the way. . . . It is a natural voice, a gift from heaven.”

White has left quite the legacy in her home country.  For starters she has been declared “a person of national historic significance” by the Government of Canada.  She was also featured in a special issue of Millennium postage stamps celebrating Canadian achievement.  And, the Nova Scotia Talent Trust was created in her honour, as was the Portia White Prize.

This Canadian Opera, Classical and Gospel singer died on February 13, 1968, at the age of 56, in Toronto, Ontario.

CBC’s Celebrating Portia White is definitely a must-see!


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