Historical Meals on Wheels:

The Manitoba Food History Project

Janis Thiessen and Sarah Story, inside the Manitoba Food History Truck. Photos by Kimberley Moore.

Janis Thiessen and Sarah Story, inside the Manitoba Food History Truck. Photos by Kimberley Moore.


Join us this week as The Feast hits the road with the Manitoba Food History Project Food Truck. We speak to Dr. Janis Thiessen and Kent Davies (University of Winnipeg), two leaders on this research project to discover meaningful dishes and historical recipes in Manitoba, Canada. The truck (and the project) travels the length and breadth of the province, interviewing Manitobans about food and recipes. From chili cheeseburgers to Jollibee chicken to puffed wheat squares, we’ll learn how this project uncovers the rich history to Manitoba’s food, all from the confines of a (semi-)reliable food truck.

Written and Produced by Laura Carlson

Sound Mixing by Mike Portt

Special Guests:

Dr. Janis Thiessen, Professor of History, University of Winnipeg, author of Snacks: A Canadian Food History

Kent Davies, Oral History Centre Audio Technician & Adjunct Professor, University of Winnipeg, Podcast Producer of Preserves, the podcast of the Manitoba Food History Project

Special Thanks to: Kimberley Moore, collaborator on the Manitoba Food History Project. She is an Adjunct Professor and Program Co-ordinator at the Oral History Centre at the University of Winnipeg


A Manitoban Classic:

Puffed Wheat Squares

Puffed wheat squares, which were a featured dish made on the Food History Truck, are a classic of Manitoba (and perhaps Saskatchewan and northern Ontario too!).

A simple, no-bake dessert or sweet snack, the main ingredient is, no surprise, puffed wheat. Similar in its airy, crunchy nature to popcorn, puffed wheat was a common grocery store cereal throughout the region. It is Canada’s breadbasket after all. When combined with butter, sugar, often a little corn syrup, and cocoa powder, the cereal could be easily moulded into individual bars or, depending on the region, a small cake.

Although most puffed wheat cereal is now imported from the US, puffed wheat squares (or cake) remain a favorite for many a Manitoban. Not long ago, the CBC did a story on the “supposed” scarcity of puffed wheat in Manitoba grocery stores. Despite the fears that the main ingredient of puffed wheat squares may be soon gone for good, turns out, the fears were greater than the reality and puffed wheat remains well-stocked in many a Manitoban supermarket.

Looking to try a true Canadian classic? Find a simple recipe for puffed wheat squares below, courtesy of Sharon Gerein:


  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine.

  • 1/3 cup corn syrup.

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar. 

  • 3 tbsp  cocoa powder.

  • 8 cups of puffed wheat. 


  1. Put puffed wheat into a large bowl. 

  2. Grease a 9 x 9 pan. 

  3. Put first four ingredients in a sauce pan, and cook over medium heat. 

  4. Stir until it mixture comes to a full boil.  Let it boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. 

  5. Pour mixture over puffed wheat, and stir until it is evenly coated.  

  6. Press into the greased pan.  Let it cool.  

  7. Store in an airtight container.