Food Writing: From My Bookshelves and Browser

Jennifer Cockrall-King is the author of three food books, most recently her co-authored tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, by Shane M. Chartrand. In this recommended reading list, she shares the food books, and writing and podcasts, that inspire her. 

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With my head buried in a cookbook project for two years solid (and a couple more before that as chef Shane M. Chartrand was seeking a place to begin the process of storytelling and recipe writing), I’ve kept myself inspired with the writing and talent of many Canadian food writers and cookbook authors.

Here’s a list of writers who’ve found a place on my bookshelves, my magazine stacks, and my bookmarks of good websites. I offer it up as a jumping-off point for a larger discussion of authors and thinkers who inspire us to think more deeply about the food we eat, cook, and share.

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Let’s start with Anita Stewart, because how many other cookbook authors and culinary writers are also members of the Order of Canada, University of Guelph Food Laureates, founders of Food Day Canada? Stewart has spent the past four decades documenting, cooking, and celebrating the diversity of Canada’s cuisines and her grasp of the culinary history of our land is unparalleled. Start with Anita Stewart’s Canada: The Food, The Recipes, The Stories

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Jennifer McLagan is one of our country’s best cookbook authors, yet she somehow flies under the radar here, though not in Europe and Australia. She’s a professional chef-turned-author and her smart, incisive, trend-setting single-subject cookbooks—including more than recipes it should be noted—have won awards from the Beard Foundation, IACP, and World Gourmand. Odd BitsBonesFat, and Bitter are not just excellent cookbooks, but also excellent reads.  

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Book Cover Dirty Food

Is there an EGOT for food writing? If so, Julie Van Rosendaal should be multi-medallioned. Who else writes think-pieces on food issues in the Globe and Mail, hosts and produces an excellent podcast ("Crispy Bits"), dispenses cooking wisdom and trend-spots on CBC Radio in Calgary every week, pushes out a free newsletter in her spare time, blogs, develops recipes, and guest judges on Iron Chef Canada? She is publishing her newest cookbook, Dirty Food: Sticky, Saucy, Gooey, Messy, Shareable Food, right now. 

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Amy Rosen is one of my food writing heroes. Her writing is smart, funny, thoughtful, and sassy all at once. She writes brilliant culinary travel pieces and profiles trends and chefs in award-winning style for major magazines. Plus, she’s a great cook and a food business entrepreneur. Amy launched her fifth cookbook, Kosher Style: Over 100 Jewish Recipes for the Modern Cook, this fall.

Though I’ve never eaten at their restaurants, I’ve fallen in love with the cookbooks of David McMillan and Fred Morin. Their second cookbook, Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse: Another Cookbook of Sorts, is a brilliant follow-up to their debut, The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts, which showed us a new way of cookbook writing. And here’s to their co-author Meredith Erickson, who, as the writer on both books, transformed Morin and McMillan’s scribbled recipes and tangential chef-thoughts in a manuscript.

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As a nation, what culinary landscape do we have that most other places do not? The North. Yet, most of us know so little about the foodscape beyond the 60th Parallel. This is why I love Michele Genest’s beautifully photographed and tastily written books: The Boreal Gourmet: Adventures in Northern CookingThe Boreal Feast: A Culinary Journey Through the North, and Cold Spell: Cocktails and Savouries for a Northern Winter—co-authored with Jennifer Tyldesley. 

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Anything that Naomi Duguid writes is worth seeking out. Together with her then-partner Jeffrey Alford, she stormed the cookbook world with Flatbreads and Flavours: A Baker’s Atlas and Seductions of Rice: A Cookbook, and followed this up with more award-winning culinary travel/memoir/cookbook masterpieces. Her most recent monograph books—Burma: Rivers of Flavour and Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan—continue to meld excellence in story telling, decoding recipes and traditions from far-away places, and incredible recipe writing. 

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Ned Bell went from TV celebrity chef (and an excellent working chef in his own right) to a culinary activist raising awareness about the tragedy of overfishing and industrial fishing. On a hopeful and tasty note, Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast is a collection of recipes that make sustainability as mouthwatering as it gets. 

The four Whitewater Cooks cookbooks, by Shelley Adams, are in very high rotation in my kitchen. The flavour-to-effort ratio is unbeatable, even when the recipes run a little long on ingredients. Everything turns out delicious and this is why this self-published series continues to sell itself. 

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While cookbook publishing seems to be self-sustaining, the magazine and periodical world keep contracting like melting glaciers. Thankfully I’m finding that good culinary journalism just keeps finding a way. I follow the breadcrumb trails and read whatever Sasha Chapman is writing about in magazine pieces in The Walrus, and her series about fishing in Hakai Magazine

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And why isn’t there more culinary exposition in Canadian novels? Take a page from Kim Thuy’s fiction that is fuelled by exquisite food writing. And now we have a cookbook from her, beautifully written of course: Secrets From My Vietnamese Kitchen: Simple Recipes From My Many Mothers.

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Lastly, when I’m not reading, I’m listening:

I’ve already sang her praises, but seriously great food conversation happens on Julie Van Rosendaal’s Crispy Bits podcasts

With the farmer population aging out in Canada (and elsewhere) I regularly ponder who will be left in a decade to grow our food. Jordan Marr—young, thoughtful, and wholly immersed in the business of certified organic farming at his Unearthed Fine Veggies & Herbs in Kelowna, BC—gives me hope. And he has a literary bent with his blog and his on-farm produced podcast called The Ruminant. Episodes range widely, from authors who write about food issues to rotational grazing tricks, to depression in the farming community, like any good mixed farm. 

I pay close attention to whatever Corey Mintz writes about. His food journalism keeps me plugged in to the Big City without me having to leave my little village in the Okanagan Valley. His podcast, Taste Buds on Canadaland, goes into restaurant industry insider territory in all the right ways. 

And you? What writing in Canada and which culinary podcasts nourish you?

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About tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine

tawâw [ta-wow; Cree]: “Welcome, there is room.”

Born to Cree parents and raised by a Métis father and Mi’kmaw-British mother, Shane M. Chartrand has spent the past fifteen years learning about his history, visiting with other First Nations peoples, gathering and sharing knowledge and stories, and creating dishes that combine his diverse interests and express his unique personality. The result is tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, a gorgeous book that traces Chartrand’s culinary journey from his childhood in Central Alberta, where he learned to raise livestock, hunt, and fish on his family’s acreage, to his current position as executive chef at the acclaimed SC Restaurant in the River Cree Resort & Casino in Enoch, Alberta, on Treaty 6 Territory.

Containing over 75 recipes—including his award-winning dish “War Paint”—along with personal stories, interviews with Chartrand’s culinary influences and family members, and contemporary and archival photographs of his journey, tawâw is part cookbook, part exploration of ingredients and techniques, and part chef’s personal journal—a visionary book that will invite readers to leaf through its pages for ideas, education, recipes, and inspiration.

October 7, 2019
Books mentioned in this post
tawâw

tawâw

Progressive Indigenous Cuisine
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
More Info
Fat

Fat

An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes
edition:Hardcover
tagged : diets
More Info
Kosher Style

Kosher Style

Over 100 Jewish Recipes for the Modern Cook
edition:Hardcover
More Info
The Boreal Gourmet

The Boreal Gourmet

Adventures in Northern Cooking
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
More Info
The Boreal Feast

The Boreal Feast

A Culinary Journey Through the North
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
More Info
Seductions of Rice

Seductions of Rice

A Cookbook
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
tagged :
More Info
Lure

Lure

Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : seafood
More Info
Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen

Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen

Simple Recipes from My Many Mothers
edition:Hardcover
More Info
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