Tasting the global city: Multicultural histories of Toronto’s cuisines

Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Pilcher

Department: Historical & Cultural Studies

Grant Names: SSHRC ; Insight Grant ;

Award Years: 2016 to 2020


This project is dedicated to documenting and analyzing the history of multicultural foods in Toronto, from the First Nations to the contemporary age of global migration. It is designed to facilitate active participation from student researchers, who leverage their classroom learning as well as linguistic and cultural knowledge to record the homeland foodways and cultural adaptations of Toronto and Scarborough’s diverse immigrant communities. The project site includes oral histories, interactive historical maps of Toronto’s food system, and student-composed “stories” presenting the results of their classroom and independent research on Toronto’s culinary icons. The project also sponsors public cooking demonstrations by professional chefs and home cooks in the Culinaria Kitchen Laboratory. 

In addition to the website and demonstrations, the project mobilizes knowledge through traditional academic means. Participating students have presented scholarly papers at professional organizations. The Principal Investigator will synthesize this research in a scholarly monograph revealing connected histories of cosmopolitan eating and culinary innovation in Toronto. Drawing on perspectives from within immigrant communities, the book will analyze the cultural politics of ethnic dining and the ways that markets fulfill diners’ desires for “authentic” and “creative” versions of immigrant foods. The author will employ a mix of humanities and interpretative social sciences to examine vernacular expressions of cultural pluralism and the negotiation of diversity of food exchange in restaurants, markets, and other social situations, thereby enhancing our understanding of Canadian multiculturalism.