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Heritage Week 2023 is quickly approaching, and this year’s theme, “Always in All Ways”, invites you to explore heritage in all the ways that excite you! So, take a walk through a historic park, listen to a podcast about a notable figure, learn a new craft at a community workshop, watch a documentary, or visit a museum! Find what interests you about local heritage and explore it in a way that works for you. As a new member of the Sea to Sky Community, I have enjoyed learning about local traditions, monuments, and the culture of the area, and this Heritage Week I’m looking for more ways to connect with Britannia’s heritage on a personal level. One of my favourite ways to connect with new areas and cultures is through food!
Now, you might be thinking: “Food at Britannia?! I thought they mined rocks, not rock candy!”.
The managing company at Britannia mine published newsletters that included information about upcoming dances, recaps of past festivals, and important community milestones. Nestled in each issue was the “Kitchen Corner” containing a new recipe submitted by a resident! Sharing food helps connect people to their culture and heritage and can provide an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle of the people who make it. We share food during times of grief and celebration, and I believe this helps build stronger relationships which in turn helps create a stronger community. Britannia has always been known for its tight knit community!
Most of the recipes in the Britannia newsletters are fairly simple like nut fudge or rice casserole, but others like Ukrainian kolache bread, American apple pan dowdy, salmon in aspic, jam slices, and English beetroot wine illustrate the diverse community of Britannia. Over the course of the mine’s 70 years of operation 60,000 people from over 50 different nations worked and lived here. Decades later, the recipes in the Britannia newsletters give us a glimpse into who the mining community members were, what ingredients they had available, and what food was popular at the time.
To get involved in this year’s Heritage Week my way, I decided to bake the Chocolate Sponge Cake submitted by Mrs. F. Bentley in the February 21, 1950 issue of The Townsite Reporter.
The recipe was fairly easy to follow aside from not being able to see how many teaspoons of salt were necessary (I went with .5 teaspoons). Compared to modern cakes, there is a curious absence of butter and/or oil from this sponge cake recipe and I wondered if perhaps vegetable oil or butter was difficult to get at Britannia or too expensive in February 1950. I am sure many of us can relate when certain items are difficult to find or don’t fit into our budget. Fortunately, the result was a delightfully light and fluffy cake with a subtle chocolate flavour.
Today we can Google search a cake recipe and get millions of options but in the 1950s at Britannia, this recipe, which considers the ingredients available at Britannia’s company store, may have been the chocolate sponge cake recipe. So many recipes that I make for special occasions are part of my family’s history and are the first ones I share with friends when they are looking for something new. Where did Mrs. Bentley get her chocolate sponge cake recipe and how many other Britannia residents tried it?
Baking a recipe from a Britannia newsletter was how I decided to explore the culture and heritage of Britannia Mine. What are all the ways you will choose to explore your community’s heritage?
Learn more about 2023 Heritage Week: https://heritagebc.ca/events-activities/heritage-week/all-ways/