Food blog Rye & Ginger marks Kitchener's past with recipes from 1916

A Kitchener-based food writer is documenting the city's culinary history with a site dedicated to recipes from 1916, the year the town of Berlin officially changed its name to Kitchener.

Features local recipes from 1916, the year Berlin changed name to Kitchener

Jasmine Mangalaseril, a freelance food writer cooks creations from the kitchens of Kitchener's past. (Jasmine Mangalaseril)

A local food writer is documenting the culinary history of the Kitchener area, with a site dedicated to local recipes from 1916, the year the town of Berlin officially changed its name to Kitchener. 

"We have this rich, rich food history here," said Jasmine Mangalaseril, a freelance food writer, and author of the site Rye & Ginger, in an interview with Craig Norris on CBC KW's The Morning Edition. "If you look at our demographics ... people have come from all over the world, and brought our food traditions."

The name Rye & Ginger is inspired by the city's culinary roots: rye representing distilling history, and ginger, both for the indigenous wild ginger, and for the many multi-cultural influences on the region's cuisine.

Some of the recipes are straight from vintage cookbooks, while Mangalaseril discovered many more while "camped out" at the Kitchener Public Library, reviewing microfilm copies of the two English language newspapers of the day, both of which regularly featured recipes. 

"From what I can tell, recipes were basically filler between articles," she said. 

Dishes like Dreikönigskuchen, or Epiphany Cake, reflect the culture of the region's many early German settlers, while recipes for Irish Stew and Gai Yuk Chee Yuk represent the diversity that was starting to take shape in the area in those days. 

The recipes are original, with some adaptations for the modern kitchen. After all, ingredients like "sweet milk" and units of measurement like the "salt spoon" don't appear in our cookbooks as often as they once did. 

"Even a cup is not the same cup we use today," she said. 

Recipes at the turn of the last century often took on a more freeform approach as well, geared toward the experienced homemaker, rather than the casual cook. Mangalaseril's includes both the original text and modern additions (like precise oven temperatures) for the less self-directed chef. 

"People need a little extra guidance than they did a hundred years ago," she says.