Quantity cookery

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.  

Edith Mary Thalia Hewitt Milligan 1875-1960

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/



2 Responses to Quantity cookery

  1. John Milligan July 16, 2018 at 7:52 am #

    My contribution to the cooking of large meals for threshing and haying crews was keeping the woodbox filled with slabs of lumber offcuts that accumulated during the 30’s from the sawmill that Grandad Milligan owned. An incredibly boring job that was never ending except for the exploration of channels under the bark from spruce trees. I never found a beetle and thea mystery endured long after the switch to natural gas.

    • Mary Leah de Zwart July 16, 2018 at 8:10 am #

      I’m lucky to have avoided the woodbox days! (Although girls seldom filled the woodbox).

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