Five Roses recipes

From analogue to digital

By Marisa Romano

A post on Buy Nothing The Glebe a few weeks ago caught my attention. “I get my recipes online,” it said. “Anyone still use analogue cookbooks? Please take more than one.” But what really sparked my curiosity was the reply asking for one of them, The Five Roses Complete Guide to Good Cooking: “My version is 40 years old, I would like to replace it.”

Buy Nothing The Glebe belongs to a global network of community-based small gift economies where valuables and services are given as a gift rather than exchanged for value received. The movement was founded in Seattle in 2003 as a community Facebook group and it quickly spread worldwide. There are now about 5,500 groups in 44 countries. Its true wealth is the web of connections formed between neighbours and by tapping into that wealth, I reached for the story behind that cherished 40-year-old cookbook, an old analogue.

Every busy kitchen has a favourite classic collection of recipes on a shelf; maybe it is the first one acquired or a special gift or a family heirloom. The most dependable and loved are marked by food stains, curled up page corners, scribbled notes and corrections; they have helped feed growing families, shape dinners with friends and give life to memorable parties.

For Cornelia Wagner, that dependable cookbook is The Five Roses publication that she was hoping to replace. She acquired it in 1975 as a young bride; it’s a guide to basic cooking with a little bit of everything, from easy sandwiches to demanding turkey dinners, from sections with ethnic dishes to the essential tables of measure equivalents and substitutions. That was one of two sources of recipes – the other being a collection of Chinese-inspired dishes – for the family table set by Wagner, the main cook in the family, at the end of her busy days as an English teacher at Glebe Collegiate.

The first edition of the Five Roses Complete Guide to Good Cooking was published in 1913 by Lake of the Woods Milling Company, the maker of Five Roses flour. Established in 1888, the company operated a flour mill in Keewatin, just west of Kenora. At the height of its 79-year production, the plant “was possibly the largest flour mill in the British Commonwealth.” That first edition of the classic all-Canadian publication was a collection of the best 600 or so recipes with Five Roses flour, submitted by Canadian housewives for a contest run by the company. Its success led to the publication of many more expanded and updated editions. The latest was published in 2003 as a reproduction of the 1967 version, which is very close to Wagner’s undated print. To date, the Five Roses cookbook is the longest-running recipe collection from a Canadian flour company; a Canadian Living survey lists it among the top 20 cookbooks most used in Canadian kitchens.

What Wagner received as a gift through Buy Nothing is the 26th edition, published in 1989. “It reflects a different demographic,” says Wagner. It represents a more modern cuisine and misses some of the very basics that helped her build confidence in the kitchen.

When her daughters left home, Wagner intended to send them off with a copy of the recipe collection that was so pivotal in fostering her love of cooking, but all three of them rely mainly on the plethora of cooking ideas available online, another reflection of a new demographic.

The good news for all analogue-free kitchens is that the digital versions of modern, tried and true Five Roses recipes are now reachable with a click of the mouse ( Analogue or digital, The Five Roses cookbook will likely continue to be among the sources of inspiration that get the most use in Canadian kitchens.

Marisa Romano is a foodie and scientist with a sense of adventure who appreciates interesting and nutritious foods that bring people together.

Oat Delights

This Wagner family favourite from an earlier version of the Five Roses cookbook has been adapted to make it vegan by substituting cow milk with almond milk and butter with coconut oil: the perfect treat to share with a vegan friend.

2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa
½ cup coconut oil
½ cup almond milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut
3 cups quick oats
(or large flaked oats)

Combine sugar, cocoa, butter and milk in saucepan; bring to a boil. Add vanilla. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and oats. Drop by teaspoonful onto wax paper; chill.
Yield: 4 ½ dozen. (Five Roses Complete Guide to Good Cooking)

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