Almost every local museum has some food-related material in their collection: from tractors and farm implements, to kitchen utensils and equipment, to plant and animal specimens, to traditional table textiles, to cookbooks and historic photographs, to fish nets or tools used by indigenous cultures, to household items from archaeological contexts. British Columbia is rich in museums with one found in almost every town from Wells, population 300 to the Lower Mainland which purportedly has 37 different museums.
I didn’t know very much about the food history of White Rock, where I have lived for many years. I hadn’t given much thought to food production in the “city by the sea”, although I knew that seafood was easily available and I have visited many of the farms that are close by in Surrey. When I discovered the current exhibit at the White Rock Museum and Archives entitled “Soil and Sea: A Story of Local Food”, I was pleasantly surprised and very interested in what I learned from it.
For anyone unfamiliar with White Rock, it is a small seaside community on Semiahmoo Bay of the Salish Sea, located in the southwest corner of the Lower Mainland and is surrounded on three sides by Surrey. Over the years it has become mainly a residential community so it was interesting to learn that in the past there were thriving businesses related to food production.
For example, the location of the current City Hall, was the site of the market garden. The land was homesteaded in 1921 by Charles Letourneur and his wife. They grew potatoes and carrots and gradually expanded to other vegetables which they sold door to door.
And, in the early 1900’s there was a crab processing factory in White Rock, as Dungeness and Red Rock crab were plentiful in the bay.
Other local museums also have a lot of information to offer. In an earlier blog post this summer on “Celery”, the Armstrong – Spallumcheen Museum provided several excellent sources of photographs and information.
Check out your local musem to see what it can offer on food history in your area. You might be surprised like I was.