This is the year Canadian cookbooks came of age. Our books are confident, original and authentic. I would nominate Canadian cookbooks as among the best on the cookbook shelves.
The Art of Living According to Joe Beef
A Cookbook of Sorts, by Frédéric Morin, David McMillan and Meredith Erickson, Ten Speed Press, $40
One of my favourite books this year is a joyous book that celebrates life and food with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. More than a cookbook, it is a memoir, a history of Montreal, and tales of people, places and things with a little philosophy thrown in. It is completely irreverent. Having eaten at Joe Beef, I know the food is superbly flavoured and simple. The book is less simple, a bit meat-heavy, and the food (except for the desserts) strikes me as more man food. The Nifty Kale for a Hangover was a definitive rendering of kale. And you could get a hangover with some of the drink recipes. My favourite was the takeoff of the Master Cleanse. Drink and lose weight? A perfect partnership. Some recipes were uneven in execution, the éclairs made twice as much as noted but they did taste good. Over all, it makes me want to run back to the restaurant to experience its superb tastes and simple pleasures.
How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, by Jennifer McLagan, HarperCollins, $39.99
A third volume of Jennifer McLagan’s fine books tackling topics most cookery writers avoid. Both Fat and Bones won prizes, and Odd Bits is on the same track. McLagan believes, vociferously, that you should eat the whole animal. You have to be interested in learning more about that philosophy to enjoy a large part of the book – and you will be rewarded. Although there are excellent recipes for the more familiar offal – sweetbreads, liver, bone marrow and some unusual stewing cuts – it does go the whole hog, with pig snout, testicles and more. Chefs will love this significant book, as will anyone who subscribes to or wants to understand the nose-to-tail trend.
A Resource Cookbook for Canning and Freezing, by Pat Crocker, HarperCollins, $29.99
The trend of eating locally and sustainably has led to a renewed interest in canning and preserving . Pat Crocker has created imaginative recipes, divided by season and ingredients, for both preserving produce and using these preserves. She reveals the best varieties for preserving, gives information on storing and what the foods best accompany, and even includes some freezing tips. Many people are afraid of canning and preserving because of a lack of understanding of bacteria and spoilage. Crocker’s grasp of these concepts, and the ability to both explain and photograph the process as you would experience it in a home kitchen, make Preserving a must for the modern canner.
Dinner Chez Moi
The Fine Art of Feeding Friends, by Laura Calder, HarperCollins, $39.99
Laura Calder’s third book is a departure for the Food Network star known for her expertise in French food. This is a collection of the dishes she shares with friends, whether a baked potato or an elaborate meal. The menus have a simplicity of style, with breezy whimsicality created by Calder’s accompanying essays and drawings. The food is interesting and enjoyable. A great read.
Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica
Great Italian Recipes Made Easy For Home, by Mark McEwan with Jacob Richler, Viking Canada, $39
Known equally for his business acumen and culinary sensibilities, Mark McEwan recently opened Fabbrica, in Toronto. It celebrates his love of Italian food and is the basis for this book. Though there are truffles evident here, there is much less luxury on display than in last year’s Great Food at Home. Instead, when you prepare his recipes, look for the freshest tomatoes, the best olive oil, the finest rice and locally sourced meats to use as underpinnings for his recipes for panini, pizza, pastas and meaty mains. I don’t get much of a sense of McEwan himself, but the recipes are fun and fairly easy, although some are time-consuming. The photographs are mouth-watering. You want to eat them.
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