Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Barbour Cookbook (Dedicated to Donna)

Today's Featured Mittens
Strawberries and Cream
     Recently my cousin Donna posted an interesting challenge on our Henderson Relatives Facebook page.  What is your favorite Barbour Cookbook recipe?   Although there were not a lot of responses, those who did respond had fond memories of the cookbook, the recipes and the emotions evoked by food.  
3rd edition
      My tattered copy of this cookbook tells a story or two.  The cover is absolutely filthy and certain pages are stained with splashes and crusted with dough.  There are notes and directions reaching back over the years.  Those splatters and stains, of course, speak to the popularity of the recipes on certain pages. 
My Dirty Copy
     My favorite recipe is on page 22.....Melting Moments.  I love the alliterative name and the finished product.  They are shortbread-like and really do melt in your mouth. I connect them to my mother and her sister, my Aunt Jean.  When complimented on her Melting Moments, my mother would always say, "Well, thank you, but they aren't as good as Jean's."  
And just below Melting Moments, you find the recipe for Never Fail Cookies which is so encouraging for the novice baker. 
 Melting Moments
     Not only does my BCB evoke tender memories of my mother and my aunt, but it also preserves a bit of my "nuclear family" history. On page 27 of my BCB there is a child-scribed note written beside a recipe for Brownies.  The note, with an arrow pointing toward the brownie recipe, says "This one, Kelly."  It is a message from elementary-aged Julia to middle-school aged Kelly indicating which recipe to use.  Kelly was a good friend of Emma's and they had a brownie baking streak when they were in grade 8.  I probably would not remember that if not for that scribble in the cookbook.  Now it brings back the fondest of memories. 

     And speaking of history, the BCB also enhances the social history of New Brunswick.  One of the features of the Barbour Cookbook (Third Edition) that has always intrigued me is the names of the contributors.  They are often Mrs. Husband's Name.  For example, the recipe for Melting Moments was  contributed by Mrs. Wilmot Giberson and Mrs. Wm. Scott.  There are some contributors who have their own names, but not many.  This edition was published in the 1950s so I suppose that was the standard at that time.  I recently finished a book about Cottage Craft in St. Andrews and the author addresses the practice of using the husband's name when the female employees of that company were listed on a roster in 1917.  She makes no apology, no statement about identity or feminism, but simply says "...the author used the then polite rule of using their husbands', not their own given, names..."
      Cousin Donna's favourite recipe is Walnut Slice found on page 28.  This blurry photo shows the contributor of this recipe used her own given name, Dorothy.  Perhaps she was unmarried. 
Walnut Slice
     And a history lesson on a more global scale.  My mother and aunts often made War Cake, found on page 7 of the BCB.  As a child in the 60s, the very name of this cake held negative connotations for me.  Who would want to eat a cake called War Cake?  And it was dark and heavy and had raisins in it!  I did not know its history until later when I learned that it was so named because people baked it and sent it overseas to family members during World War1 and 11.  Its ingredients---no milk, butter, eggs---allowed it to be safely shipped from New Brunswick to Europe.  It must have been a welcomed treat for the soldiers.   
War Cake
     Another feature of the BCB that always amused me is the brevity of instructions.  If you are able to read any of the blurry recipes I have included, you will see that baking directions are a bit sparse:  "Bake 35 to 40 minutes in hot oven.  Bake 30 - 45 minutes in moderate oven.  Bake 1 hour in a slow oven.  Bake until done."  Right.  As it says in the introduction to this cookbook:
                      "Most of these recipes have been passed on
                        from mother to daughter over many generations,
                        and were originated before the day of the electric  
                        oven with automatic controls."

Current History:
     I recently made a chocolate cake for a friend's 59th birthday.  I used a recipe from the Barbour Cookbook and I used my imagination in the decorating of the cake.  The bikinied model on the cake looks like my friend did when she was 28.  The 2 and the 8 were the candles I found in my "candle drawer".  I figured she would rather be 28 than 82 so that determined the positioning of the candles.  Those balloons have been in the candle drawer since Julia turned 8; they are re-used every time someone has a birthday in our house.  I am sorry to say the cake was not my finest but the icing was good.  
Birthday Cake for Friend
In Closing....    
      I think of The Barbour Cookbook as a uniquely New Brunswick publication.  It is available at G.E.Barbour Inc. which is located in Sussex, New Brunswick.  G.E. Barbour Inc. has existed since 1867 and currently produces such favourites as King Cole Tea, Barbour's peanut butter, and Sussex cheese.  All of these products are exceptional and are staples in our home.
     I could not confirm the size of the Barbour workforce but this photo suggests that it is a substantial number.  You can access more information and even order your very own Barbour Cookbook at G.E.Barbour Inc.  Buy local!  Support our New Brunswick economy!
Until Next Time.....


  1. My favourite thing Barbour's makes is spicy peanut butter - which can be sampled on the delicious Spicy Thai Peanut Burger at the King Street Ale House. Amazing!

  2. Thanks for the tip, Danielle! Tom is going there for his birthday supper on the weekend so I will pass it on!

  3. I did not grow up in NB so my experience with Barbours has been spotty since I could be using one of their products and not know it. I am going to ask my mother if she remembers the War Cake in Ontario?

  4. Is Mike familiar with War Cake?

  5. I don't have the Barbour Cookbook, but my dad gave me my first Harrowsmith cookbook for xmas 1982. That was the year I graduated FHS and this cookbook has that fine aging that your Barbour does, floury, buttery pages the best cookie recipes are found. Dad wrote a lovely inscription that always brings me fond memories.

  6. Nice. Every cookbook tells a story!

  7. How dirty and stained is the book? Is it worse than the oven?

  8. Not as bad as the oven. When are you going to clean that for me? I'll make you some melting moments.