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Parks Canada recipe app gives you a real taste of history Add to ...

You’re visiting one of Canada’s national historic sites this summer. As you explore the scenery and cultural artifacts, you can’t help but wonder: How did the cuisine of early settlers taste?

Well, you guessed it – there’s now an app for that.

To mark its 100th anniversary, Parks Canada is launching its first mobile phone application, Heritage Gourmet, which offers more than 70 recipes tied to the country’s historical landmarks, some dating back to the 18th century.

There’s a recipe, for example, for 18th-century French soldiers’ bread from the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. There’s the original King family recipe for marmalade from former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s boyhood home of Woodside, in Kitchener, Ont.

And there’s even a recipe for moose muffle soup from Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal, N.S., and one for fried muskrat (substituting rabbit) from Fort St. James, B.C.

“We really hope that this is a way that these national historic sites will come alive for people,” says Tamara Tarasoff, project manager of the app. “By making a dish that is related to that site, people can actually bring that historic site right into their home and even talk to their family or their dinner guests about the origin.”

The app, available free starting July 28 at the App Store for iPhone and Android Market, allows users to search for recipes by ingredients, region of origin and time period (which is particularly useful if you’re interested in throwing a 18th- or 19th-century-themed dinner party). Recipes are accompanied by photos and stories, and information about the historic site and people related to it.

A raspberry vinegar beverage from Nova Scotia’s Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, for example, was included because the famous inventorreportedly drank the concoction after the 1909 launch of the famous Silver Dart airplane, which he had a role in developing.

The app also includes complete menus, such as “A Soldier’s Simple Supper” and a “Prime Ministerial Afternoon Tea,” to provide users with some context for how the dishes were historically consumed.

Testing old recipes and updating them for modern kitchens was no easy task, Ms. Tarasoff says. Parks Canada enlisted the help of chefs from the Algonquin College School of Hospitality and Tourism to recreate the dishes. The chefs determined the correct ratios for recipes that had vague or absent measurements and found appropriate substitutions for ingredients that are no longer readily available.

“By recreating them, that allowed them to make revisions, to say, ‘Okay, well, in fact, let’s not use a moose nose for this. Let’s use lamb shanks instead,’ ” Ms. Tarasoff says.

Assembling the contents of the app has been an eye-opening project, she says, noting she was surprised to see how heavily early Canadians relied on breads, pancakes, soups and stews. “It makes me think there was a lot of cooking that involved what you had in the garden and putting it in a pot.”

She was also struck by the similarities of dishes from people living in different parts of the country, like bouilli, a traditional Acadian dish from Nova Scotia, and Jiggs dinner, a traditional Newfoundland fishermen’s stew. Both involve salt meat, cabbage, and potatoes, and exemplify how, in the absence of today’s supermarkets, Canadians used limited, common ingredients, Ms. Tarasoff says. “They really had to take what they had and make what’s available to them.”

Heritage Gourmet will be available July 28 at the App Store and Android Market. A version for BlackBerry devices is expected to be released soon after. Recipes can also be accessed on the Parks Canada website, www.pc.gc.ca. For sample recipes, go to tgam.ca/parksrecipes.

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