Quantity cookery, or cooking for large groups of people, is an underrated skill and one that needs to be retrieved. Considering that $31billion worth of food is wasted each year in Canada, amounting to 40% of all food produced, food waste is both an economic and a social problem. Of the 40% of food currently wasted, almost half is household waste. More fruits and vegetables are wasted than other food groups – followed by cereals, meats and dairy products. The Toronto Food Policy Council estimates that the average household throws out $28 worth of food per week.
Our pioneer ancestors would not have approved. My grandmother, Edith Milligan, was said to be able to “look at a crowd of twenty-five, and being out of bread estimate how many heaping tablespoons of baking powder and how much drippings and milk to put in a bread pan and come up with literally hundreds of delicious baking powder biscuits. It was a case of do, make do, or do without, which they did, and came up smiling” (Chubb & Milligan, 1969, p. 81).
Northwestern Utilities in Edmonton had an active consumer outreach program in the 1950s and 60s that provided information on a variety of home economics subjects, including quantity cookery. I have one of their pamphlets entitled, “Cooking in a Big Way” that includes basic quantities and recipes to serve one hundred people. Some of these could be disputed (e.g. ½ bottle of wine per person seems excessive in light of the current enforced drinking and driving laws) but others are still appropriate. The pamphlet includes retro recipes, dinner menus, quantities for 100, and bridal shower and wedding reception menus. Click here for the pamphlet: cookinginabigway.
I’d probably skip the jellied salad suggestions and stick with the 1 ½ rolls per person.
Chubb, J. & Milligan, H. (1969). Leaves of yesteryear: A history of the Bon Accord District. Bon Accord F.W.U.A.: author.
Food Waste: The Issue of Food Waste. http://tfpc.to/food-waste-landing/food-waste-theissue
See a previous blog post for stories about home economists who worked for the BC Electric Power and Gas https://bcfoodhistory.ca/utility-companies-home-economists/