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‘Out Of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens’ Guides New Generations

Photo: A copy of "Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens" by Marie Nightingale. Credit: Simon Thibault

Photo: A copy of "Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens" by Marie Nightingale. Credit: Simon Thibault

The cookbook “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens,” first published in 1970 and still in print, documented the history of cooking in the Canadian province. The book, written by Marie Nightingale, is still celebrated today. This story is the second in a two-part series and will explore the cookbooks impact on cooks and chefs in Nova Scotia. The first story in the series examined Nightingale’s efforts to write the book.

Marie Nightingale’s “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens” was first self-published in 1970. After its first few printings, however, Nightingale found a new printer with Nimbus Publishing. The book is still a top seller with the company, with more than 200,000 copies printed. “It speaks to the timelessness of the recipes,” says Patrick Murphy, the managing editor at Nimbus. He points out books like “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens” help keep Nova Scotia’s culinary traditions alive. “The historical aspect to the book keeps it a favorite. They are classic recipes from this corner of the world, and so there has never really been a danger of them becoming ‘out of fashion’ just by the nature of what they represent.”

‘Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens’ serves as a useful tool

For some people, the book represents a culinary heritage that could have easily disappeared. Craig Flinn is a chef and cookbook author. “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens” was the first cookbook his mother owned, and he still owns the very same copy. For him, the book is not just as a repository of information, but a tool to be used by home chefs. “‘Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens’ is about keeping those dishes alive and to the forefront,” he says. “We tend to be a busy culture and we don’t have mothers and granddaughters teaching their kids how to cook anymore. Cookbooks have become more important. ‘Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens’ made me understand that every region’s culture was greatly influenced and represented in the food we ate.”


"Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens" by Marie Nightingale

Buy the book:

"Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens"

By Marie Nightingale

Down East Books,

2011, 208 pages

Part 1 of series:

» Cookbook an exploration of Nova Scotia's food history

More from Zester Daily:

» Kelly Liken's inspiration

» Don't take your culinary heritage for granted

» A chef's home cooking

Nightingale’s influence is found in the dishes and ingredients Flinn uses in his Halifax restaurant, Chives. He has made a career as a promoter of local and seasonal foods, even though his home province’s growing season is roughly five months long. He points out that the recipes in “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens” barely mention seasonal cooking, because that’s how people used to prepare food. “In Marie’s book, cooking with the seasons is implied because that’s the way it was,” he says. “It’s so honest and truthful about the way we should be eating. It’s rooted in what I try to preach every day in the restaurant because it’s so easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes because we have access to everything now.”

Another big fan of Nightingale’s oeuvre is Michael Howell. He’s the president of Slow Food Nova Scotia and a former chef. Like Flinn, Michael remembers his mother owning a copy of the book, an edition he still owns. “It has some food stains that I can almost remember when they splattered the pages,” he says. Howell’s relationship with “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens” is special. A few years ago, Nimbus publishing decided to prepare a 40th anniversary edition for 2010. He and Nightingale updated a few recipes, and Howell himself wrote a new foreword for the book. In it he describes the recipes that gave his copy its own distinctive spots and splatters, dishes of “colcannon, baked beans [and] blueberry grunt.” His copy may have lost its front and back covers, but that just speaks to how useful the book has been to him. “I learned that recipes did not have to be complicated to be delicious,” Howell says, “one of the central tenets that my cuisine has adhered to over the years.”

“In most cases, a cookbook has a market span of a year or two,” Nightingale writes in the preface to the 2010 edition of her book. But most cookbooks don’t give readers — as well as those who cook from it — such an immediate connection to their past. A past that could’ve been lost in a food world that values the modern and the contemporary. Not bad for a little book that was published with a plastic coil binding. “I think part of the charm of ‘Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens’ is that it is unassuming,” Flinn says. “It’s all about the content, not the glitz and the glam. I think she would be surprised that it’s been around this long. I don’t think she thought she was writing a classic when she started. You feel like you’re buying a piece of history.”

Here is one recipe from the book.

Hodge Podge

(A dinner of new vegetables)

The recipe below is written as is in “Out Of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens,” with very few measurements and relying on the home chef to know exactly how much they would have and want of each vegetable found in the dish. Hodge Podge is usually served in early summer, when the variety of vegetables is at its best in Nova Scotia.


String beans





1 cup diced salt pork

1 cup cream

1 cup vegetable stock



1. Prepare new vegetables. The string beans, carrots and potatoes may be cooked together in boiling salted water.  Cook the peas and cauliflower separately.

2. Fry the salt pork to a golden brown and add the cream and an equal amount of vegetable stock. Season with chives.

3. Bring to a boil quickly and serve over the vegetables.

From “Out Of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens,” with permission from Nimbus Publishing

Top photo: A vintage copy of “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens” by Marie Nightingale. Credit: Simon Thibault

Zester Daily contributor Simon Thibault is a food writer and journalist based in Halifax, Canada, whose work has appeared in many publications, including The Globe And Mail and Saltscapes. He also helps maintain a food blog with an Atlantic-Canadian focus, called Passable, and has produced food segments for Canada's CBC Radio. He dreams of making perfect, clear-brothed pho, convincing his partner that fermented foods are not scary, and learning how to make spaghetti carbonara without screwing it up. Just once.