I have chosen to start with the book that started it all, a 1999 reprint of the 1915 edition of the Canadian classic, The Five Roses Cookbook. Since buying that first book, I’ve gotten hooked on old cookbooks, and have picked up an original 1915 edition, and the 1938 and 1959 editions as well.
I grew up eating the tutti frutti squares that are found in the fifties editions, made by my Grandma, and my Mom got her copy, along with copies for a few friends in the early 60’s. She paid 50 cents a copy.
The Mincemeat Without Suet recipe that appears in later editions is what I grew up eating, and Dad still makes it every other year or so. It’s hands down my favourite mincemeat; way better than any store-bought mincemeat. Mom’s favourite recipes include Prize Gingerbread, Prize Shortbread, and baking powder biscuits.
For myself, Five Roses is my go-to book for pastry, but I have to admit that I read my cookbooks more than I cook from them, so I’ve probably made less than a dozen recipes from the whole series. I’m hoping to change that, though! My plan for this blog is to feature a different cookbook from my collection every week or so, and to actually try some recipes to share with you, as well as my own impressions of how the recipe turned out.
Five Roses Flour still exists, and they have a website with recipes. It seems that the recipes all feature modern techniques, and are made for modern tastes. No Ammonia Cookies there!! (And for all of us who are wondering what on earth is pulverized ammonia, and why would I want it in my cookies??? I have found the answer here.)
One thing I love about my oldest Five Roses is the precise, yet vague style to the recipes. The reader is reminded over and over that all measurements must be level, and that flour is to be carefully sifted before measuring, and yet the recipe often calls for “Five Roses flour to thicken” or “water to mix quite thin.” The book assumes that the cook will know enough about cooking before starting to know how thick to make a bread, cake or pancake batter, and the general time, temperature and pan size for when it’s time to “bake in two layers.” This style of recipe writing is common in the older cookbooks, and must have posed quite a problem for young or inexperienced cooks without someone nearby to advise them.
The newer editions have more precise ingredient lists and instructions, but that’s not always enough to save an amatuer chef. When I was about 10, I was very excited to get to make dessert one night when Grandma and Grandad were coming for dinner. I carefully selected a recipe for raisin pie, which I’d never had, but sounded good to a kid who loved raisins. I misread the recipe and added 2 cups of flour rather than the required 2 tablespoons, but assured myself that it would all somehow cook together during the baking process. It did not. My family was treated to a very dry raisin pie with clumps of still powdery flour through out. My Grandad teased me about my flour pie for the rest of his life.