Danny Randell doesn't exactly fit the image of one who's adopted the 'vintage' lifestyle--a 26-year-old in his modern Calgary kitchen, filming a recipe to post on YouTube or to his Instagram community @thevintagelifestyleblog. But that's what this Lloydminster-area native is all about--the history, the music, the nostalgia, the clothing, the paraphenalia of an earlier time.
Whether he's writing a historical piece on the Spanish Flu for his blog or testing out vintage straight razors to demonstrate an old-time shave to his viewers, Randell is living a 'vintage vision' unique to him. Lately, that includes working with kitchen tools of old (using an old-fashioned, hand-cranked egg beater, for example) to recreate the recipes of a time of scarcity (during World War II), for his new self-published cookbook called Have Rations, Will Cook!
"I've always loved old stuff--as a kid, it started with antiques. I do get a love of the past from my dad, my Newfoundland family. I was in the army cadets too, where I found a love for the monarchy, and then worked at museums as well," explained Randell, adding that thought his current day job is in public/media relations, he has a history degree, and hopes to one day teach history too. "When COVID hit and we were stuck at home, using up the food we had in our cupboards, it reminded me of rationing and what recipes I could share online. I started looking through archives, and posting the recipes to my own blog and recreating them on YouTube, to good response. So here we are now, with a book of dozens of easy, educational recipes from a bygone era."
Randell says during the war years, rationing meant less meat, fresh fruit, sugar and butter, and more of pantry staples--soups, bread, desserts, and some salads. People used ingredients that were available or that they could grow in their own gardens, and that's the bulk of the recipes in his cookbook; basic, easy-to-make meals and desserts using the simplest of ingredients. Sections on soups, vegetable dishes, fish dishes and cookies/cakes, include things like Victory Garden Chowder, Baked Corn and Tomatoes, Beef Upside Down Pie and Liver Loaf. There's also War Cake and Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies, among others.
"It's cool to bring back tried-and-true recipes, things our grandmas or great-grandmas would've made, to a new generation," he said. "I had to debate whether to include metric versus imperial measurements, and to make some recipes understandable to a modern reader, things that said to 'remove a pot from the fire', which means 'take it off the burner'.
Randell says the vintage lifestyle is a growing movement--though he has to compromise his own zeal so as to live peacefully with his modern and tech-loving wife. "I rope my wife in to help shoot the videos; but she's not giving up her modern appliances anytime soon."