Friday, 16 December 2011

Holiday Entertaining with the Winnipeg Tribune's Kay Middleton !

This holiday season I want to share some holiday entertaining tips and recipes from Katharine 'Kay' Middleton. From 1935 - 1948 Middleton was the Winnipeg Tribune's Home Economics Editor, writing 4,000 "A Page for Winnipeg Homes" columns. She was also a regular contributor in the Free Press, published cook books and for a time had a radio show on CKJS.

which I will add to each day. First, though, a biography.

Katherine "Kay" Major Spink Middleton was born in Toronto in 1906, though her family moved to Winnipeg when she was a child. She attended Rupert's Land Ladies College on Carlton Street, (a forerunner to Balmoral Hall), obtained her BSc in Home Economics at the U of M in 1929 and did post graduate studies in dietetics at the Mayo Clinic.

March 19, 1931, Winnipeg Free Press

Middleton began working at the Morden Hospital and her public career began at the Eaton's test kitchen. There, she regularly demonstrated new recipes and entertaining tips such as how to set a table correctly.

In 1935 she became the Tribune's Home Economics Editor and began her almost daily column "A Page for Winnipeg Homes." It offered up recipes, nutritional information, cleaning advice and household budget tips. She is credited with writing 4,000 columns and 7,000 recipes during her tenure !

Middleton was not afraid to get our from behind her typewriter. She toured schools and visited military barracks to ensure that proper, nutritious meals were being served in a clean, safe environment. She regularly spoke at everything from major conventions to service group meetings and girls' school graduating classes. In the late 30s she hosted "A Winnipeg Home" radio show on CKJS and published her first book of collected recipes.

CBC Program Guide, 1945
Middleton believed strongly in the role of the home economist as change-maker in society. In 1939 she and fellow Winnipegger Anna Speers founded the Canadian Home Economics Association (disbanded in 2003) whose purpose was:

"... to strengthen the home economics profession and to promote improved quality of life for individuals and families. Home economics was concerned with all aspects of daily living including: human relationships and development, resource management, consumerism, foods and nutrition, clothing, textiles, housing and aesthetics."

Many of the things advocated by Middleton are ones we are trying to relearn today. She hosted demonstrations on how to properly carve a turkey so as not to waste any meat. She also advocated for what we now call a 100 mile diet, taking advantage of foods that could be grown in the garden or bought from local producers.

May 2 1942, Winnipeg Tribune

World War II brought major challenges for Manitoba's homemakers. Thousands suddenly found themselves as the head of a single-parent household and many had to go into the workforce. Family incomes were often slashed and, combined with wartime inflation, strained budgets to the limit. Rationing restricted or eliminated the use of many familiar food products. Each day the media brought news of death and every ring of the doorbell could be that devastating telegram from Ottawa.

December 9, 1941, Winnipeg Tribune,

In 1941 the Women's Canadian Club created a "Health for Victory" campaign and Kay Middleton was appointed chair of the Winnipeg chapter. The goal of the program was to ensure that families on the home front continued to eat nutritious meals in the midst of all these changes.

Initially the program was to be a six week course, a combination of films, lectures and cooking classes for homemakers. The Women's Canadian Club funded the program. The Canadian Home Economics Association created many of the new recipes that worked around rationed meat, sugar and butter. The Volunteer Bureau supplied instructors and helped secure centres in dozens of neighbourhoods across the city to hold the courses.

Based on the success of the first round of classes (4,000 participants) and the sinking feeling that the war was going to drag on, the program was extended and expanded to include printed material, organizing "victory" (community) gardens, holding seasonal canning classes and national speaking tours featuring renowned doctors and nutritionists.

Middleton as chair was a perfect fit. She was able to put her cooking skills to work, advising how you could stretch your meat portions using grains and substituting meat fat to save on vegetable oil. Her regularly published rationing timetables (above) and accompanying columns and recipes ensured that homemakers who followed along would waste nothing.

It also allowed Middleton to again step into the bigger issues that led her to create the national Home Ec Association. She was able to explain government policy, such as the need for rationing and spoke out in favour of an international food policy through the U.N.. She told a Women's Canadian Club meeting in Brandon:

Human discontent, which develops from empty stomachs, poor housing and shoddy clothing is basically responsible for wars for hungry, angry people can be led easily by unscrupulous, warring individuals whose lust for power overshadows all humanity.
Winnipeg Free Press, January 18, 1946

In 1948 Middleton announced that she was moving to Chicago to take up a position with a large Home Economics / Consumers Information firm called Harvey and Howe. They did test cooking, published cookbooks and produced related media programs. She also edited the journal "What's new in Home Economics".

She made herself known to Chicagoans as the host of a morning television show. In an obituary the Chicago Tribune wrote:

Middleton was a diabetic and spent many years as a volunteer dietician with the Chicago chapter of the American Diabetes Association. She was doing the final revision of her book The Art of Cooking for the Diabetic, when she died of a heart attack on June 2, 1987 at the age of 80. She is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.

Two 1942 ads published by the Health for Victory Campaign


A history of home economics Ryerson University
Culinary landmarks: a bibliography of Canadian cookbooks, 1825-1949 By Elizabeth Driver
Obituary Chicago Tribune
Obituary Winnipeg Free Press- Note that many of the hyperlinks go to Manitobia's newspaper archives which tends to go off-line for a day at a time. I have used images of the articles where I can.

1 comment:

Reed Solomon said...

interesting. good research.