Why Food History?

“Food is not just what we eat. It is an expression of who we are, how we live and the world we inhabit” (Kurlansky, 2007). What we eat plays a large part in defining our relationships with others. “Food, to a large extent, is what holds a society together” (Farb &  Amelagos, 1980). It is used to strengthen the bonds between individuals, families and communities. In families certain foods define roles, rules, and traditions. Certain foods are the embodiment of spirituality, beliefs, traditions, customs, norms, practices and celebration. Eating is an agricultural act that compels us to understand the connections between eating and the land (Berry, 1990).

The BC Food History turns ten years old in 2021. The domain name was purchased in 2011, and the first activities appeared shortly thereafter. Dr. Linda Peterat came up with the idea and enlisted Dr. Mary Gale Smith and Dr. Mary Leah de Zwart to be part of the BC Food History Network. The BCFH has continued to research the history of food production and consumption in BC,  Western Canada, and wherever else we find connections to food and history.  Food history blogs on a regular basis began in 2016, and we have written over 150 blogs since then on a wide range of subjects. Check out the most recent blog here!

We have also written and researched other topics, as well as academic papers. Please see the following paper for a rationale about incorporating historical perspectives into food studies by Gale and Mary Leah.

Objectives of BC Food History

We want to communicate and spread reliable and academically sound research and general information on the history of food, focusing on British Columbia and Western Canada, and expanding to other provinces and jurisdictions where applicable. We take a broad view of food history as encompassing historical accounts of all types of food sources, (indigenous, naturalized, and introduced), food production and food transformation, the associated cultural, economic, environmental, and sociological aspects of food, and individuals and groups who have made a significant historical contribution related to food.


We regularly add new blogs on aspects of food history.  We operate informally.  Comments are welcome, as are suggestions for new topics.  We also have a Facebook page.

We welcome  guest blog posts with a strong emphasis on food history.

Blog – What Makes BC Recipes and Food History Unique?

If someone asked you to define genuine British Columbian foods, what would you say?  We could begin with the Indigenous peoples whose key foods have drawn from the bountiful natural resources of the province for over 10,000 years. When Captain Cook visited Nootka Sound in 1778, he took some of his men to visit the local villages, and one commented on the food quality: “We were fond of such excursions, altho’ the labour of them was very great, as, not only this kind of duty, was more agreeable than the humdrum routine on board the Ships, but as it gave us an opportunity of viewing the different people & countries, and as another very principal consideration we were sure of having plenty to eat & drink, which was not always the case on board the Ship on our usual allowance”.

We will be posting one new blog a week starting in July of 2016 on various food history topics! We’ll look at Indigenous foods; imported foods; agricultural crops; community cookbooks; every type of food and foodways that can be considered unique or special to BC. Comments are welcome.

Food History Research

Research papers on a variety of food history topics are welcomed.


The BC Food History acknowledges grants and contributions of individuals and organizations since its establishment in 2011.

THEN/HIER [The History Education Network] and individual contributions enabled the purchase of the first domain name, web hosting and the barebones of the website.


THESA ( BC Teachers of Home Economics Specialist Association) sponsored the Eat Your History student contests by providing prize money and publicity.

CHEF logo

The Canadian Home Economics Foundation has contributed grants from various funds over the years to enable the maintenance and continuous updating of the website

BCHF Certificate for Best Website 2016

British Columbia Historical Federation recognized the website of the BC Food History Network in a 2016 Best Website Award.

Founding Members of BC Food History Network

Linda Peterat
Linda Peterat
Linda Peterat completed a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics at the University of Alberta. Through transcribing oral history audiotapes for the public library, she learned about food history in the community of Spruce Grove, Alberta where she later lived. Food history was a part of the food studies classes she taught in junior and senior high schools, and later in teacher education at the University of British Columbia. She holds a Ph. D. in Curriculum Studies from the University of Alberta. Her current interest is in researching and writing about pioneer and early contact foods.
M. Gale Smith
M. Gale Smith
M. Gale Smith is a retired Home Economics teacher and sessional lecturer in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include global issues, action research, home economics and everyday life. Gale holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Pedagogy from UBC.
Mary Leah de Zwart
Mary Leah de Zwart
Mary Leah de Zwart is a retired teacher and sessional instructor for the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia. She became interested in food history through community cookbooks and has researched early pioneers in home economics and women’s work. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Pedagogy from UBC.