Canada's Cold War Cuisine: Recipes from the PM's Office (Part 1)
When you think of food in the Cold War era, you might think of creative cocktails and uh… intriguing? Jell-o salads. It was the era of convenience foods, when new processed dishes were all the rage. They were new, they were quick, they were easy, and they were fast. They were oh, so modern!
Now when we think of a pile of liverwurst in the shape of a pineapple we tend to cringe and wonder what our parents and grandparents were thinking, and just how much had all those cigarettes and martinis dulled their sense of taste.
Today we’re not talking about convenience foods, but historic dishes from the lives of our political leaders past. We’re running down the favourite foods of our Cold War era prime ministers! Starting with William Lyon MacKenzie King, and ending with Brian Mulroney, we’ve hunted down some interesting foods for you to try out at home. With many thanks to Parks Canada and their fantastic heritage recipes!
William Lyon MacKenzie King
In office: 1935-1948
With his term in office just kissing the beginning of the Cold War, King is one of Canada’s oddest Prime Ministers. While he hated Nazism, he viewed Hitler as an operatic hero struggling with the forces of good and evil within himself, and was shockingly convinced that Hitler would see the light and become a hero on the level of Joan of Arc.
He was… very incredibly wrong.
King also infamously held deeply spiritual beliefs. By which I mean he was into spiritualism and loved him some ghost chats. Some have suggested it was not King, but his dead mother, channeled through mediums, who actually ran Canada during his time in office.
Opinions on King are varied and confusing. Kind of like opinions on fruitcake. Personally I find King to be a bit of a troubling fruitcake, and the fruitcake itself to be delightful.
Louis St. Laurent
In office: 1948-1957
Although closely tied to King, St. Laurent took a markedly different approach in international politics and oversaw Canada’s growth into a global nation. With an economic boom post-war, St. Laurent repaid debts, expanded infrastructure, and grew Canada’s famous social welfare systems. Also staunchly anti-communist, St. Laurent was a true Cold War politician. He helped develop NATO, and established the United Nations Emergency Force, the international peacekeepers. The international activities of St. Laurent and his minister, Lester B. Pearson, are credited with avoiding nuclear war, and earned the PM a Nobel Peace Prize.
And after all that, I think PM St Laurent earned himself a piece of his sister Lora’s cake! If you don’t like fruitcake, you might enjoy this walnut cake with chocolate glaze.
John G. Diefenbaker
In office: 1957-1963
The man, the myth, the legend, the guy who gave us the bunkers: Dief the Chief! Canada’s first Conservative PM since the 1930s, and only Conservative PM until 1979! A contentious figure in Canadian history, reviled as a nincompoop and admired as a reformer. Dief appointed the first female cabinet member in Canadian history, and the first indigenous Canadian senator. His party passed the Canadian Bill of Rights, and finally gave the vote to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. He took a strong stance against apartheid.
Then he built a bunch of bunkers, opposed the new flag project, and scrapped the Avro Arrow, Canada’s triumphantly fast fighter jet. The Avro Arrow thing is what he’s remembered most for today, and boy howdy do Canadians hate what he did there.
Maybe they’ll like his mom’s recipe for green beans, though.
(Btw have you tried our Dief the Chief Snapchat lens yet? Cause it’s fun!)
And rounding it out for this week we have:
Lester B. Pearson
In office: 1963-1968
You know him, you’ve flown into Toronto, you saw the Heritage Minute about John Matheson. Pearson’s the guy who said “Hey, should Canada maybe have our own flag now?”
For a Cold War era PM, he introduced so many wonderful things to Canada: our national pension plan, and universal healthcare. He gave us national student loans – great, but also the worst. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism – a step in the right direction, but kind of racist.
He kept Canada from entering the Vietnam War, and we can all be grateful for that. Pearson played a major role in expanding Canada’s role as international peacekeepers, and was one of the Canadians credited with keeping the Cold War from exploding into nuclear aggression. He is widely considered one of the most influential Canadians of the 20th century, and one fo the best Prime Ministers Canada’s had to date.
Not bad for just over 4 years in office! Have yourself some soup.
That does it for this week’s roundup of Cold War cuisine – next time we’ll cover our four remaining Cold War PMs and their favourite dishes – assuming we can find any. Who am I kidding, if we can’t we’ll just get some good puns in there.
Which is your favourite dish? Let us know on facebook!
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