I am a professor of history at the University of Winnipeg, where I teach Canadian, food, and business history. My research interests include the 20th century history of labour, business, and religion, as well as food history and oral history. My latest book is Snacks: A Canadian Food History.

Below is the L.B. Foote photograph that I use as my avatar (Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Still Images Section, Foote Collection, item 1535, negative 2554). I explain why in this blog entry: http://lostfootephotos.blogspot.ca/2012/01/favourite-foote-photos-janis-thiessen.html

Workers copper sheathing the roof of Winnipeg's Hotel Fort Garry, ca 1915. (SOURCE: Archives of Manitoba, Still Images Section, Foote Collection, item 1535, negative 2554)
Workers copper sheathing the roof of Winnipeg’s Hotel Fort Garry, ca 1915. (SOURCE: Archives of Manitoba, Still Images Section, Foote Collection, item 1535, negative 2554)

10 thoughts on “About

  1. Dear Janis,
    In 1954 I worked at Hawkins in Tweed, Ontario. My job was to stand at a table with two other girls and I used a metal scoop to put one scoop of potato chips into each bag. The bags were not weighed.
    The next girl across the table held and sealed the bags on a foot operated hot press machine. the third girl put the sealed bags into boxes.
    Some memories stand out. A manager came over to me one day and asked which bag of chips would I buy. One bag was much fatter than the other, meaning I had not done such a great job in scooping and filling the bags evenly with chips.
    Another memory, while it may not be accurate, was the process of making the potato chips. The whole potatoes where sliced very thin. I don’t think they were made into a mash as is done now.
    The girl on the bag sealer was missing half of her index finger. It had been burned off by the hot bag sealer. She had been paid 300.00 for her finger and was given her job back when she recovered.
    Sometime after my short stint at Hawkins, it is said that there was a fire at this plant in Tweed. By the late 50’s Hawkins had moved the operation to a large building in Belleville, Ontario. I remember seeing
    manager Shirley Woodcock with her beehive hairdo around Belleville. In 1958 I moved to Toronto.
    I am not sure when Hawkins began making Cheezies, which is my only choice of snack food over the decades I’ve lived in BC.


  2. Enjoyed listening to you on CBC Day 6 this morning regarding you new book. My favourite snack is Hawkin’s Cheezies way over chips. I think this shows I’m a true Canadian! lol However, when it does come to eating chips my genealogy must factor into that choice. My father is Ukrainian and I do love dill but the chips I prefer are sour cream. My mother was born in Montana so it appears my choice is dictated by my American side.

  3. Hello Ms. Thiessen,

    I am a Toronto based artist who often creates anthropomorphic food based characters. Last week I had several people email me your recent CBC interview regarding your book on Canadian Snacks. I have created two different series which feature Canadian food items and candy. My exhibit “True Patriot Grub” opened a few years ago. It featured items from coast to coast to coast. One item was Hawkins Cheezies in the setting of the big fire that destroyed their original factory. I was lucky to have my show reviewed in the Toronto Star on Canada Day. As a result of this article, the daughter of Mr. Hawkins reached out to me. We met and she was thrilled with my tribute and shared many stories and more of the history of the family business.
    I have included a link to my website where you may view my Hawkins Cheezie painting.
    My most recent series of drawings is inspired by vintage Canadian candies and snacks. From Cherry Blossoms to Jos Louis, I have created anthropomorphic characters of sweets from my childhood.

    I have done my best to share Canada’s unique snacks with my US friends. Every time I visit Chicago I must be sure to pack a bag of Ketchups Chips!! I look forward to reading your book and learning more about our original snack history!

    All the best,

    Cindy Scaife


  4. Hi Janis,
    I heard you speaking on the CBC podcast The Fridge Light. I interpreted Michael Pollan differently. I felt all his books about food seem to more revolve around enjoying food rather than measuring and weighing and treating food like an enemy. I do recognize he gets down on processed foods but i guess i interpreted that as not really a bad thing and eating them is find just not all the time.
    Eating food made by people that love what they made and being passionate about eating verses eating just to fill a void or because you have to seems to make sense to me. Maybe I have cognitive dissonance.

  5. Hi Janis, My name is Brenda Hrycyk and our company name is Family Keepsake Cookbooks/Gateway Rasmussen – based in Winnipeg. We have been printing cookbooks since 1965.
    I’m contacting you today because I’m very interested in your Food History project. I feel that people are hungry for a taste of their childhood. Food is a way to get back to the “feel good” sensations from their youth. Cookbooks are a great way to preserve your family traditions and memories.
    We would love to get involved in your project.
    I look forward to speaking with you.


    Brenda Hrycyk
    Unit Manager
    Gateway Rasmussen
    The Cookbook Printer
    Toll Free 1-800-665-4878
    Tel# (204) -654-5899 Fax# (204) 224-4410
    Email: brenda@cookbookprinter.com

  6. Hi Janis,
    This may already be covered in your book (which I look forward to checking out upon learning about it), however I did want to ask in the event an answer may exist. For years, I can remember when I was a kid that I would often eat a type of cheezie that was crinkle cut. They weren’t hard at all, and I think they came in a white bag with some clear areas on the package. For years now I have tried to find a photo of this to figure out the brand, if they were made in Canada, etc. All these years and still no luck! It would have been in the late 1980’s to very early 1990’s when I would have had them. I really want to say they were a Hostess brand of cheezie for the simple fact that my parents sold Hostess chips at their restaurant (and not Humpty Dumpty to my knowledge). I’ve wondered for years what this brand was and would love it if anyone may have an answer!


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