Times were tough for Many People

Although I haven’t lived at home for many years, I still crave for many of the meals described below, except for the eels. In the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s the food that we consumed throughout Cape Breton pretty much remained the same if and when you could get it. In the WWII years (1939 – 1945 and up till 1947 or 1948) of course a lot of food items were rationed but we just ate less of those or not at all. Don’t for a moment think that we had these foods that are described below as general fare. We as were most families, especially during the early 1940’s, hovering at times on the poverty line, sometimes above it and sometimes below it. We were very fortunate during the War Years and for years before and after because our father was a good hunter so we benefited from deer meat, rabbits, partridge, wild ducks, geese and pheasant. As well, we knew men who sailed on merchant ships that came up the Gut to Burchell’s for coal and they would bring us many items that were rationed like tea and sugar and coffee if you wanted it.

Here are the items of food that I can recall that were available from time to time and in varying amounts in the kitchens throughout Cape Breton:


If you were Lucky – Eggs





–         Corn flakes, puffed wheat, shredded wheat (hay we called it) were the staples in summer

–         Oat meal, corn meal, Red River cereal, and Cream of Wheat in the winter. We put molasses, or brown sugar, or syrup on hot cereals (my grand-mother Burton put a pad of butter on hot cereal)

Oat Meal Porridge – Brown Sugar or Molasses

–         Homemade bread, rolls, butter milk biscuits and bannock

–         Ham and eggs, bacon and eggs, salt ham, fresh deer meat fried, baloney fried

–         Pancakes, fried dough and fried bread

–         Home made beans

–         It was not common to have toast although we would stick a slice of bread on our fork on occasion and hold it above the stove until toasted

–         Milk and tea (rarely coffee), water

–         Juice on a rare occasion

–         Berries in season

Soup and Sandwich 

Roast Beef Dinner

Dinner (we called lunch dinner and dinner supper) (fathers were rarely home at dinner time during the week and if they were then there was a dinner menu)

–         Soup, canned spaghetti, baloney sandwiches, roast beef  sandwitches, pork sandwiches, corn beef sandwiches, roast deer meat sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches, and butter or jam sandwiches

–         If holiday or Sunday it was a roast of lamb, or beef or pork, maybe chicken, rabbit, partridge, or pheasant (on rare occasions), one winter I came home from the Lakes and our father had shot three beautiful pheasants, ducks in season, fresh fish or salted fish and vegetables such as

Fresh cod fish and potatoes

Fresh herring and potatoes (hopefully blue potatoes)

Fresh mackerel and potatoes

Salt cod, pork scraps, fried onions and potatoes

Fish cakes sometimes with homemade beans

Salt herring and potatoes (raw onions in vinegar were popular with herring)

Salt mackerel and potatoes

Roasted deer meat

Wild duck

Salt Turbot

Fresh Mackerel in a stew

Fried baloney with onion gravy with boiled or mashed potatoes was a great meal

Lamb stew, beef stew and fish chowder and clam chowder

Dumplings served with stew (I called them doughboys and put molasses on them to almost everyone’s disgust)

Wild Rabbit pies (partridge and deer meat may be added)

Homemade beans with sausages (Saturday supper)

Eels (I didn’t like them)

Salt corn beef or salt ribs with vegetables (boiled dinners)

Usually boiled dinners were followed by corned beef hash from leftovers

Apples (fruit in season such as banannas, grapes and oranges on occasion but usually at Christmas)

Salad in season

Tea, milk or water

Jams and preserves

Desserts such as pies, cookies, cake

Jell-O was always popular in winter (set dish in snow to firm)

Bread and molasses sometimes with butter or margarine


Weiners and Beans



–         A repeat of any of the dishes mentioned above

–         Summer time often cold cuts and salads to get away from lighting a fire

–         Homemade beans with our without wieners

–         Desserts such as pies, cookies, cakes

–         All manner of pies, muffins, molasses cookies, ginger cookies, molasses cake, gingerbread cake,

–         Pies would be apple, raison, mincemeat, raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb, and the odd time butterscotch, lemon meringue, and coconut cream

–         Corn cake and molasses or butter or margarine

–         On rare occasions we would have homemade raison bread along with loaves of fresh white bread – I used to get into trouble for slicing off both ends of the loaf because I preferred the heals

–         We had desserts of stewed apples, stewed rhubarb, and stewed cranberries all delicious

–         Cakes with crushed candy inside, cakes with soft boiled brown sugar frosting (everyone wanted to lick the spoon) (my mother often hid a dime in the cake – we were of course warned and would be on the lookout for it)

–         Date squares and a variety of tarts

–         Bread and molasses sometimes with butter or margarine

–         Milk, tea and water


Bread and Jam

Old Standby – Peanut Butter Sandwich

Bed time snack

–         Bread and molasses or bread and jam sometimes with butter or margarine#

–         Cereal

–         Berries in season

–         Bread with milk and sugar eaten as a cereal

–         Molasses cookies or muffins

–           Corncake and molasses

–         Milk, tea or water


Lucky Baby Ready for Lunch

# Many of us found margarine distasteful especially if served in its white form without the colouring. It came with a small packet used to mix and colour it to make it look like butter – still distasteful. 

Note: Fridays were fish days normally (whether Catholic or not – CAPER)

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Louise Theriault on December 27, 2010 at 22:31

    Dear George,
    As you know I’m not a Caper but was blessed with one for 48yrs.
    I enjoyed this blog as it brought back many memories,especially
    about the meals.Although we lived in the States many of the dishes
    were served in our home.NOT EELS,LOL.Hot bread & molasses,boiled
    dinner & butterscotch pie were among the favorites.
    Thanks for the memories


    • Thanks Louise. Yes fresh hot homemade bread and cold molasses you couldnt beat. As we said in the Navy, Compliments of the Season.


  2. Posted by Lara on January 3, 2011 at 20:23

    Great post! Reminds me of my dad’s stories of living in Miramichi.


  3. Born and lived in roseburn inverness c.o.[near Whycocomagh ] until i left in 1973 for Ontario,reading this brought back great memories,and a lot of the meals were favourites,thanks for the memories.


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