A quartet of Canuck cookbooks

Karl Wells
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Cuisine

Every year, international publishing releases an avalanche of cookbooks. They come in every conceivable style, from celebrity-penned recipes - Rachael Ray, Gordon Ramsey, Emeril, Mario and Bobby Flay - to books on pickling, hydrating, slow cooking and ethnic cuisine from Alsatian to Zimbabwean.

A small but growing segment of this flood of culinary prose comes, thankfully, from Canada.

We northern people have great food resources. In Western Canada there's fish, fruit, wine, wheat and beef, and in the East there's more of the same. We also have an abundance of wild food in Canada - game, berries, herbs, mushrooms and so on.

Dirty peach cobbler from "Niagara Cooks." Photo by Karl Wells/Special to The Telegram

Every year, international publishing releases an avalanche of cookbooks. They come in every conceivable style, from celebrity-penned recipes - Rachael Ray, Gordon Ramsey, Emeril, Mario and Bobby Flay - to books on pickling, hydrating, slow cooking and ethnic cuisine from Alsatian to Zimbabwean.

A small but growing segment of this flood of culinary prose comes, thankfully, from Canada.

We northern people have great food resources. In Western Canada there's fish, fruit, wine, wheat and beef, and in the East there's more of the same. We also have an abundance of wild food in Canada - game, berries, herbs, mushrooms and so on.

It's good to see Canadian cuisine being celebrated in print and media generally. Good cookbooks can be a timeless resource in keeping Canadian food traditions and recipes alive.

Recently I had the pleasure of reading a quartet of new Canadian publications. They are: "Anita Stewart's Canada," by Anita Stewart; "A Taste of Canada" by Rose Murray; "Fresh and Local" by Craig Flinn; and Lynn Ogryzlo's "Niagara Cooks."

Each one makes a significant contribution to the body of modern Canadian food writing. Here's my assessment of each.

"Anita Stewart's Canada"

By Anita Stewart

Harper Collins

"Anita Stewart's Canada" documents an extraordinary culinary journey across Canada. It is an impressive book because its voice is that of someone who demonstrates a deep interest in Canadian food culture.

The book's attractive cover, featuring buttery brioche slathered with blackcurrant preserve, belies the breadth and depth of the book's rich content.

Stewart's description of ice fishing in Gimli, Man., is riveting as she tells of fishing on a frozen lake covered in drifting snow at -25 C. She uses that frigid setting to launch an account of Canadian fishing history, accurately pointing out it was Newfoundland cod that the first Europeans sought, not "furs to clothe the fashionistas of the day."

The book is slightly different in that it is divided by some less conventional food categories, i.e. corn, beans and squash, potatoes, fruit and nuts, etc.

However, Stewart begins each section by beautifully describing the importance of each food grouping in Canadian cuisine.

In the fruit and nuts section, she writes of going on a berrypicking expedition with her mom in their 1959 Pontiac. "It was like we were going on an edible treasure hunt with no particular destination. We might get waylaid by a row of elderberries hanging seductively on the other side of a watery ditch in Proton Township, or by a hedgerow of chokeberries that we'd pick quickly."

What I particularly liked about "Anita Stewart's Canada," and what I thought gave this volume such credibility as a work of food journalism, was the many references to real Canadians.

Stewart travelled the length and breadth of Canada and met with individual farmers, fishermen, cooks and characters. They told her in their own words about the food and cooking of their region. And those words describe the cuisine of our country.

There was Manitoba ice fisherman David Olsen, of Icelandic heritage, with a penchant for pan-fried pickerel; Dorothy Grove of Waterloo County, Ont., a Mennonite waffle maker extraordinaire; and John and Flossie MacDonald of Prince Edward Island, blueberry aficionados who shared a recipe for Island Blueberry Buckle, a recipe, by the way, that worked perfectly.

In fact, all the recipes I tried from "Anita Stewart's Canada" came out well, but I would have expected no less from the author the National Post described as the "Wonder Woman of Canadian Cuisine."

"A Taste of Canada"

By Rose Murray

Whitecap

First impressions of "A Taste of Canada" are good, thanks to its beautiful cover. A panoramic picture at the top of the cover shows a winding river bordered on either side by lush greenery. A glossy beige strip bearing the book's title separates the river photo from the book's main cover picture, Cape Breton fennel-roasted seafood chowder.

It's a comprehensive book that does a very good job of educating the reader about where Canadian cuisine came from and where it is today.

For example, did you know that, "the first permanent settlers of Upper Canada relied greatly on pork, relieved by fish and game when possible, since there was no feed for keeping cattle and sheep"?

Or, did you know that in our larger cities, "we are now just as familiar with pulled pork, sushi and designer pizzas as we are with the salt pork and potatoes that sustained some of the early settlers"?

"A Taste of Canada" lives up to the title in its range of recipes, of which there are hundreds.

Some are traditional, or traditional with a twist, while others like Pad Thai, Chicken Piri Piri and Thai Tom Yum Shrimp Soup reflect the modern, broader Canadian palate.

The easy-to-follow recipes are from half a page to one page in length. Beautiful images by photographer Shawn Taylor accompany many of them.

A word of caution: if you purchase "A Taste of Canada," do not expose the cover to direct sunlight. I laid it on my patio table for about 30 minutes and the front cover permanently buckled.

"Niagara Cooks"

By Lynn Ogryzlo

Epulum

Lynn Ogryzlo is a food journalist living in the Niagara region of Ontario. "Niagara Cooks" is a collection of comfort food recipes that feature ingredients grown and produced in that area renowned for its produce.

Ogryzlo writes, "I am especially lucky to live in the Niagara Region, where the soil and climate are ideal for producing some of North America's most flavourful foods."

The artful photographs by her husband, Jon Ogryzlo, make Niagara's food appear to be every bit as delicious as advertised.

In addition to the dishes, all of which are easy to prepare, Ogryzlo provides the recipes with information about the artisan, farmer, chef or producer responsible for the key ingredient in each recipe. The chestnut loaf page, for example, tells you all you need to know about Grimo Nut Nursery, a grower of chestnuts and hazelnuts.

One of the most Canadian-inspired recipes in "Niagara Cooks" is whisky potted maple brioche. What could be more Canadian than a combination of brioche - baked in Niagara-on-the-Lake - Kittling Ridge Forty Creek Whisky and Niagara maple syrup? Then, of course, there are the beautiful fresh peaches of southern Ontario lovingly used in a recipe for dirty peach cobbler. Why "dirty"? The peaches are speckled with bits of fresh vanilla bean, processed in a coffee grinder.

"Fresh and Local"

By Craig Flinn

Formac

Visually, two things stand out with "Fresh and Local." First, the food photography by Alanna Jankov is very good. The shots of proscuitto-wrapped monkfish and lamb Wellington with chanterelles especially jump from the page.

The small size and tight spacing of the print used for the lists of ingredients was the second thing that caught my eye. The remainder of the text is larger and more comfortably spaced. It's possible that farsighted individuals may have problems with the ingredients text.

Author Craig Flinn is the chef/owner of Chives Canadian Bistro in Halifax. "Fresh and Local" reflects the philosophy he adopted for his restaurant, a philosophy that also promotes awareness of the needs of farmers.

He says, "Understanding the work behind food production of all types, the financial struggles of our farmers and how the food on our table is taken for granted in our 'have it all, have it now' society has made me a better person as well as a better chef."

"Fresh and Local" has colour-coded recipes. A coloured tab on each page indicates the season in which the recipe can be made utilising fresh produce.

For example, the grilled lobster with fiddleheads and Jerusalem artichoke puree has a green tab, meaning it's a springtime dish.

It's a way of reminding readers that it's best to prepare food in sync with the seasons. The result will be more flavourful and nutritious, especially if you use the recipes from this quartet of Canadian cookery books.

Karl Wells is a recipient of the Canadian Culinary Federation Sandy Sanderson Award for Communications and a Restaurant Panellist with EnRoute Magazine. Contact him through his website, www.karlwells.com

Organizations: Stewart's, National Post, Chives Canadian Bistro EnRoute Magazine

Geographic location: Western Canada, Gimli, Newfoundland Proton Township Manitoba Waterloo Prince Edward Island Cape Breton Ontario Niagara Region North America Niagara-on-the-Lake Southern Ontario Halifax Jerusalem

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Recent comments

  • The WildCheff
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    I am keeping my Canuck cooking roots alive via my WildCheff persona and concept. My family tree stems from Quebec and formerly the Cognac & Bordeaux Region of France...I ultimately was raised in New England but love to visit my Canadian brtheren across the border.

    I do also write cookbooks on fish and game that highlight my Canadian cooking traditions.

    Master Game Chef, known Nationally as The WildCheff

    Born and raised in a large French-Canadian family in New England, Master Game Chef - Denny Corriveau is affectionately known as The WildCheff nationally. He is a noted authority on fish and wild game and has perfected a best practice methodology for cooking that encompasses his experience of over 25 years on this topic. The WildCheff's background is as diverse as his versatilty with how he cooks fish and game; private game chef, restaurant consultant, wild game caterer, cookbook author, wild game cooking columnist, and the Founder & Instructor of the WildCheff Cooking Academy. He is recognized for bridging the gap between hunters and non-hunters, game enthusiasts and those just seeking a healthy and organic alternative to standard meats.

    Occasionally referred to as the Emeril Lagasse of Wild Game - Denny is also a rising star on the national culinary scene gaining the attention of the Food Network, as well as other Networks that are currently reviewing him for his own wild game cooking shows. He is beginning to work with national organizations such as the National Bison Association, North American Deer Farming & Elk Breeders Associations, as well as other similar groups so that more individuals, chefs, and restaurants can explore and enjoy learning about cooking, as well as serving sumptuous fish and wild game. The WildCheff is also a featured guest chef at culinary schools who want to provide wild game education.

    In addition, Denny has developed his own gourmet line of over 25 products that support his mission of helping others to understand the versatility and health benefit of eating wild game - the true organic meat! His products were developed by Food Industry experts to work specifically with wild game, and provide a means to be able to enhance the flavor of it for various cooking methods and ethnic styles of prepration. L.L. Bean and others have taken notice in desiring to carry his quality line of products. To find out more about the WildCheff and his products, visit www.wildcheff.com

    Bon appetit,

    Denny Corriveau
    Master Game Chef, Instructor, Speaker
    National Pro-Staff Game Chef
    WildCheff Enterprises, LLC
    Amesbury, MA / Sebago Lake, ME
    info@wildcheff.com
    http://www.wildcheff.com/
    Im Game if You Are!

    Member: NRA, Professional Outdoor Media Association, Professional Outdoor Speakers Bureau, New England Outdoor Writers Association, Sportsmans Alliance of Maine

  • The WildCheff
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    I am keeping my Canuck cooking roots alive via my WildCheff persona and concept. My family tree stems from Quebec and formerly the Cognac & Bordeaux Region of France...I ultimately was raised in New England but love to visit my Canadian brtheren across the border.

    I do also write cookbooks on fish and game that highlight my Canadian cooking traditions.

    Master Game Chef, known Nationally as The WildCheff

    Born and raised in a large French-Canadian family in New England, Master Game Chef - Denny Corriveau is affectionately known as The WildCheff nationally. He is a noted authority on fish and wild game and has perfected a best practice methodology for cooking that encompasses his experience of over 25 years on this topic. The WildCheff's background is as diverse as his versatilty with how he cooks fish and game; private game chef, restaurant consultant, wild game caterer, cookbook author, wild game cooking columnist, and the Founder & Instructor of the WildCheff Cooking Academy. He is recognized for bridging the gap between hunters and non-hunters, game enthusiasts and those just seeking a healthy and organic alternative to standard meats.

    Occasionally referred to as the Emeril Lagasse of Wild Game - Denny is also a rising star on the national culinary scene gaining the attention of the Food Network, as well as other Networks that are currently reviewing him for his own wild game cooking shows. He is beginning to work with national organizations such as the National Bison Association, North American Deer Farming & Elk Breeders Associations, as well as other similar groups so that more individuals, chefs, and restaurants can explore and enjoy learning about cooking, as well as serving sumptuous fish and wild game. The WildCheff is also a featured guest chef at culinary schools who want to provide wild game education.

    In addition, Denny has developed his own gourmet line of over 25 products that support his mission of helping others to understand the versatility and health benefit of eating wild game - the true organic meat! His products were developed by Food Industry experts to work specifically with wild game, and provide a means to be able to enhance the flavor of it for various cooking methods and ethnic styles of prepration. L.L. Bean and others have taken notice in desiring to carry his quality line of products. To find out more about the WildCheff and his products, visit www.wildcheff.com

    Bon appetit,

    Denny Corriveau
    Master Game Chef, Instructor, Speaker
    National Pro-Staff Game Chef
    WildCheff Enterprises, LLC
    Amesbury, MA / Sebago Lake, ME
    info@wildcheff.com
    http://www.wildcheff.com/
    Im Game if You Are!

    Member: NRA, Professional Outdoor Media Association, Professional Outdoor Speakers Bureau, New England Outdoor Writers Association, Sportsmans Alliance of Maine