Food From Home to the War Front

Food was one way that Canadians at home could support their troops overseas, either by rationing or economizing or sending care packages. A previous post described War Cake, popular during both World Wars I and II and modified in peacetime. It stores and travels well, remaining moist and delicious for long periods of time. Hard Tack, Walnut Cakes, Christmas Cake, and Butterscotch [candy] were also sent to the troops, and Baird and Wranich include recipes for these in their 2018 publication Recipes for Victory

Hard Tack on the frontier and as Army-issue was a kind of biscuit cracker. The version in Aunt Hanna’s War-Time and Peace-Time Recipes and reprinted in Baird and Wranich (2018) was a sweet version full of walnuts and dates, and dusted with icing sugar; more like a “chew” than hard tack.

Packages from home endured long and difficult trips by ship, train, vehicle, horses and hand before reaching soldiers at the front. Food was often canned or dried. Baked goods had to last the journey and be protected through packaging. Wartime recipes in newspapers and cookbooks were described as “good for overseas” and this usually meant that they “did not spoil or break easily and were perfect for sharing – a welcome taste from home”( D’Aguilar, 2018, p. 85).   The Canadian Field Comforts Commission that assembled and forwarded parcels to the front as a unit of the military specified: …”please do not send any apples or other fruit. It is a shame to have a good parcel spoilt by one bad orange” (Baird & Wranich, 2018, p. 87).

A 1917 letter in the Chilliwack Archives from “Ray” to “Rachel” mentioned food sent from home to the war front, specifically apples. The apples arrived in fine condition, were perfect for sharing with comrades and very much appreciated by all since they had had no apples while in France. The letter seemed to suggest that BC families may have violated the Canadian Field Comforts Commission guidelines not to send apples. 

1917 letter from Ray to Rachel

Ray’s letter to Rachel, 1917, courtesy of Chilliwack Museum and Archives, Margaret Tramner Collection, 2008.020.0200


Baird, Elizabeth & Wranich, Bridget (Eds.) (2018).  Recipes for victory. Vancouver: Whitecap Books.

D’Aguilar, M. ( 2018).  In E. Baird & B. Wranich (Eds.). Recipes for victory. Vancouver: Whitecap Books.

Ladies of Ward 2 Patriotic Association of Toronto (1918). Aunt Hanna’s War-Time and Peace-Time Recipes. Toronto: Author.