Manitoba Food History Project

Food trucks can serve up more than delicious street food! They can serve a dual purpose as an innovative way of interacting and recording oral history. University of Winnipeg Professors Janis Thiessen, Kent Davis, and Kimberley Moore created a classroom experience that allowed students to dive into their first oral history interviews while extending their creative sides in the mobile kitchen. In this guest post, they describe the project on which they based their recent OHR article, “Rhymes with Truck: The Manitoba Food History Project.”

Logo designed by Kimberley Moore.

By Janis Thiessen, Kent Davies and Kimberley Moore

Who doesn’t love a food truck? That’s what we thought when we began the Manitoba Food History Project. Fortunately, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada agreed with us! And so, for the last few years, the Manitoba Food History Project team were able to use a food truck as an oral history research vehicle. The Manitoba Food History Truck was both a mobile kitchen and a recording studio, and our experiences with it were both an education and an adventure.


University of Winnipeg students conduct interviews as part of the Manitoba Food History Truck Field Course. Top Left: Lesley Beardy, Laura Bergen, and Jasmine Parisian interviewing Steffen Zinn on board his Red Ember pizza truck. Top Right: Emily Gartner and Trent Brownlee interviewing Anthony Faraci in front of his food truck. Bottom Left: Alexandra Skwarchuk cooks with her grandmother while interviewing her on board the Manitoba Food History Truck. Bottom Right: Caroline Evans being interviewed by Joana Salazar and Esther Ezekwem on board the Manitoba Food History Truck. Photos by Kimberley Moore. 

Promotional banner for the Manitoba Food History Truck field course at the University of Winnipeg.

In our recently published Oral History Review article “Rhymes with Truck,” we describe the creativity required in overcoming the challenges of a food-truck interview studio, the creativity of the students who conducted their first oral history interviews on the truck, and the public history outcomes they worked to produce.


You can browse through our project’s many outcomes on the Manitoba Food History Project Website, including the Preserves Podcast, where you can listen to the story of the Pizza Pop’s inventor Paul Faraci, and his great-nephew Anthony Faraci’s effort to resurrect “Paul’s Original Pizza Snack,” peruse Story Maps such as “A Perogy Story,” which tells the story of the Perogy in Manitoba (not to mention that of the infamous Bill Konyk and his “Hunky Bill’s Perogy Maker”!) and Image Galleries where you can view some of our interviewees and our travels with and without the Food History Truck.

Promotional video for the Story Map: “A Perogy Story.” Story Map produced by Madison Herget-Schmidt.


To learn more about our project, and other applications of research vehicles in oral history field work, attend the roundtable “Driving Oral History Home: Mobilizing Community Knowledge,” at which the Manitoba Food History Project Team (Janis Thiessen, Kimberley Moore and Kent Davies) will be joined by the Humanities Truck’s Dan Kerr, Angie Whitehurst, and Corrine Davenport, and the African American Humanities Truck’s Patrick Nugent, Airlee Ringgold Johnson, and Carolyn Brooks, at the upcoming OHA Annual Meeting (Baltimore, Maryland October 18–21, 2023).  

Featured image: The Manitoba Food History Project team aboard the Manitoba Food History Truck. R to L: Janis Thiessen, Kent Davies and Kimberley Moore. Photo by Kimberley Moore.

Janis Thiessen is professor of history at the University of Winnipeg. She is the author of four books in oral history, including NOT Talking Union: An Oral History of North American Mennonites and Labour (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016) and Snacks: A Canadian Food History (University of Manitoba Press, 2017). She is the coauthor, with Kimberley Moore, of a book about the Manitoba Food History Project (forthcoming from University of Manitoba Press).

Kimberley Moore is an adjunct professor and the Programming and Collections Specialist at the University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. She teaches workshops in oral history, develops educational resources, assists in ongoing oral history projects, and co-manages the Oral History Centre’s archival collections. Kim’s areas of expertise are the preservation and accessibility of oral history collections. She is a collaborator in the Manitoba Food History Project and is the editor of the project’s story maps, “Stories of Food in Place,” and coauthor of a forthcoming book about the project from University of Manitoba Press. She has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master of arts from Concordia University.

Kent Davies is an adjunct professor and technician at the University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre (OHC). He provides OHC members with the equipment, technical support, learning tools and resources needed to complete oral history research projects. He assists in the development and preservation of the OHC digital archive. He has an extensive background in radio broadcasting and has served as a long-time board member of CKUW 95.9 FM. He is the producer of the podcasts, “Preserves: A Manitoba Food History Podcast,” and “UWRQ: UWinnipeg Research Question.” Davies is the primary researcher of the Harvest Moon Society Oral History Project and collaborator with the Manitoba Food History Project.