Kitchener-Waterloo

Author adds vegan twist to grandma's traditional Mennonite recipe book

Editor and author Jo Snyder updates the traditional old Mennonite Community Cookbook with plant-based recipe ingredients in an homage to her grandmother's folksy favourites.

Editor and author Jo Snyder reimagines traditional old Mennonite recipes with plant-based ingredients

Jo Snyder's plant-based version of her grandmother Lena's famous "Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas." (Jo Snyder/The Vegan Mennonite Kitchen)

Inspired by the cooking of her grandmother, author Jo Snyder has reinvented old Mennonite recipes to create modern plant-based dishes.

The "Mennonite Community Cookbook" is a cookbook many Mennonite families across the country and the United States may have owned, including Snyder's grandmother Lena, who was raised as an Old Order Mennonite.

After she passed away, Snyder inherited her grandmother's copy of the book and was inspired to create her own version, "The Vegan Mennonite Kitchen" with the help of her vegan friends.

Together they spent many evenings cooking and trying out traditional recipes with plant-based substitutions. 

"We thought we would try to make a few recipes together and make them plant-based and keep true to the recipe itself," said Snyder. "That kind of spurred into many evenings of cooking and looking through the book and thinking about Mennonite food and how we could make it plant-based."

Throughout Snyder's upgraded version of the cookbook, she pays homage to the original book by keeping the dishes traditional but substituting meats to plant-based ingredients.

The book is also introduced to a generation of Mennonites that are vegan.

A trip down memory lane 

Snyder grew up with her parents, uncles, cousins, aunts and grandmothers on both maternal and paternal sides of the family, on a crop farm in the region.

Snyder said, with her grandparents living nearby, they'd spend a lot of time together, making them a significant part of her life.

She recalls her late grandmothers cooking most of the time and having big family dinners together, "It was a really nice way to remember them by and to think about them by recreating these recipes in a way that I could enjoy them today," said Snyder. 

Baking recipes are also featured in the book and Snyder connects this with many memories she has of her grandmother Lena that used to bake a lot of cookies and keep them in a freezer. Together with her cousins, they'd sneak in and eat the cookies.

"We always used to sneak across the large yards, pass the barn and run into their house and grab cookies without even saying 'Hi' sometimes," said Snyder. 

Snyder remembers her late grandmother Marjorie, as a warm and beautiful woman. She always baked goods like lemon bread for her grandchildren and visitors who'd come to visit.

A recipe in particular that Snyder enjoyed her grandmother Lena making was "Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas." In her book, Snyder recreates that macaroni and cheese recipe two ways; one with a cashew cream similar to a nut cheese sauce and also with a squash-based cheese sauce.

Bringing community together 

 "The community spirit of the book is really about coming together to eat and share food around the table," said Snyder.

"I think there's a lot of comforting things to make [in the cookbook] like a lot of breads, pies, a lot of preserves that people would have a good time making during these times," said Snyder.

She also said this is a great time to learn these recipes, "Maybe it's a good opportunity for when we can come together at the table."

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