Our Flavourful Past: The History of the Food Scene in Oshawa

December 14th, 2019 – August 9th, 2020

Barrowclough and Goodall Butcher Shop, 1912. From The Thomas Bouckley Collection.

Beyond a necessity, food is pleasurable, brings people together, and is a reflection of culture. Some of the most heated discussions about food take place in reviews on Yelp or Google and focus on taste, quality, and service, but we seldom consider the implications of the role of food in society from a broader cultural context. This exhibition explores the food scene in Oshawa during the 1890s-1940s, including photographs from the Thomas Bouckley Collection and archival documents on loan from the Oshawa Museum. It reveals how food is always more than a fundamental need or a commodity—it is an indispensable part of our socio-cultural evolution.

Once described as the “Manchester of Canada”, Oshawa’s prosperity sparked comparison to the industrial city of Manchester in England. The selection of photographs in this exhibition gives a glimpse into Oshawa’s food landscape before the emergence of supermarkets and chain restaurants and answers questions like: How was food delivered back then? How was food perceived by people of different ages and classes? What was the food scene like during war time? This exhibition presents the role of food in shaping Oshawa’s industrial and technological innovation, cultural diversity, and the everyday lives of residents.