Taste Canada recently announced the absolute best Canadian cookbooks and food-related books for 2016, and we’re far from disappointed with the results:
Mechefske, Lindy. Sir John’s Table: The Culinary Life and Times of Canada’s First Prime Minister. Goose Lane Editions, Fredericton
Canadian Living Test Kitchen. Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook. Les Éditions de l’Homme, Montréal
Musgrave, Susan. A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World. Whitecap Books, Vancouver
Mundy, Jane. The Ocean Wise Cookbook 2: More Seafood Recipes That Are Good for the Planet. Whitecap Books, Vancouver
Health and Special Diet Cookbooks
Telpner, Meghan. The UnDiet Cookbook: 130 Gluten-Free Recipes for a Healthy and Awesome Life. Appetite by Random House, Vancouver
In Pursuit of More, Shira McDermott
Les Narrations Culinaires
Chartier, François. L’essential de Chartier. Les Éditions de Presse, Montréal
Livres de Cuisine Générale
Robitaille, Josée. C’est l’hiver! Les éditions de la Carotte blanche, Montréal
Livres de Cuisine Régionale et Culturelle
Loureiro, Helena. La cuisine d’Helena : 80 recettes portugaises pour ensoleiller votre table. Les Éditions de l’Homme, Montréal
Livres de Cuisine Sujet Unique
Vézina, Daniel. La cuisine réfléchie : Bien manger sans gaspiller. Les Éditions La Presse, Montréal
Santé et Diète Particulière
Côté, Stéphanie et Philippe Grand. Nutrition Sportive : 21 jours de menus. Modus Vivendi, Montréal
The Green Life, Sophie Bourdon
In fact, we were so impressed with the first-place winners that we decided to dig a bit deeper into some of their books:
The Ocean Wise Cookbook 2: More Seafood Recipes That Are Good for the Planet by Jane Mundy
Won gold in single-subject cookbooks
The Ocean Wise Cookbook 2 is all about seafood and sustainability. With over 150 sustainable seafood recipes from Canadian chefs, this book is sure to satisfy your seafood cravings in a guilt-free way.
According to Mundy, this cookbook comes with a big message: “[Thinking] that you alone can do something about the state of our oceans may be overwhelming, like plugging the dike with your finger. But if you can take away just a few ideas from this book, such as frozen can be better than fresh, that many fish farms are sustainable and little fishes like mackerel, herring and sardines really are delicious (thanks to the Ocean Wise chefs’ superb recipes), you can help the planet.”
You don’t need to have superpowers to make a difference, you just need to be aware of the environment and make small changes at a time.
“Increasingly more chefs and restaurants across Canada have become ‘Ocean Wise.’ Many of their recipes feature seafood and fish sourced locally, such as P.E.I. mussels and Lake Erie pickerel. So before choosing a restaurant next time you dine out, look for the Ocean Wise logo. Same goes for your local fishmonger… Ask where that fish comes from, and when it was caught. If you don’t get an answer, don’t purchase it,” said Mundy.
It’s no wonder this book won an award–it’s resourceful, environmentally friendly and full of great-tasting recipes.
A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World by Susan Musgrave
Won gold in regional/cultural cookbooks
Musgrave’s cookbook explores food gathering and foraging through storytelling and demonstrates a taste of Haida culture and an appreciation for preserving food and wildlife.
“It’s strange that… most cookbooks are really serious. There should be laughter in cooking, especially in your mistakes,” said Musgrave. “In fact, your mistakes are where the good stories are. You don’t have to be a perfectionist. The line that drives me is my father saying this when I was 11: ‘You’re so useless you can’t even boil an egg.’ Whenever I make any meal, that goes through my head–this is going to be a flop–but it never has been. Although, so what? No one cares anyway. They’re having a good time because you cooked for them. The human element is what’s important, and it’s what’s important on Haida Gwaii, too. We have lots of potlucks and bonfires and everyone makes food.”
“If you know how to read a recipe, you can find good ones anywhere, but it’s the stories of peoples’ lives I care about,” she explained.
Wise as her words to explain her wisdom-filled book.
Sir John’s Table: The Culinary Life and Times of Canada’s First Prime Minister by Lindy Mechefske
Won gold in culinary narratives
Sir John’s Table is a clever biography that uses food stories to recount Sir John A. Macdonald’s life.
“In a way, the book is also the story of Canada’s birth and of our culinary heritage,” Mechefske stated.”I believe food stories are the real stories of our lives, of our nation… Food is at the heart of everything that matters–of life itself, of family and community, of culture, of national heritage and of our economy (food is the world’s largest single industry).”
Don’t be fooled, Mechefske notes that this isn’t just a political book: “I didn’t write a book about the politics of the colonial era… I was more interested in the culinary history of the nation–the food stories–good and bad. I did cover the starvation of the First Nations People of the Plains–it is a food story –albeit a terrible, tragic one. I also covered happier food stories, such as the roast duck dinner that quite literally saved the dominion.”
Calling all history buffs–this book will, without a doubt, give you a new, foodie lens when looking back on the past.
“When I started delving through archives looking for food stories, I was astounded at the gems I found. I couldn’t actually believe that someone hadn’t beaten me to writing this book,” she said. “Without [food], nothing else matters. For over fifty-five million years, humankind and our earliest ancestors have roamed the planet in search of one thing – food. Finding food and water has been critical to our survival. We are hardwired to think about our next meal, the need is encoded in our DNA. The sharing of food is so paramount; so imprinted. So much bigger than ourselves–a deeply spiritual and universal, primal bonding experience. We eat because it is a biological necessity; because food is life. But food is also about hunger and yearning; about memory and love; about safety and security; about community and heritage; about belonging and the intangible connections between us.”
The UnDiet Cookbook: 130 Gluten-Free Recipes for a Healthy and Awesome Life by Meghan Telpner
Won gold in health and special diet cookbooks
Sure, you’ve probably skimmed dozens of gluten-free cookbooks before, but this one’s different from all the others. As Telpner puts it, “[it’s] a collection of delicious, beautiful and health-inspired recipes offering an inspiring lifestyle that doesn’t mandate any one way of eating, cleansing or dieting—only beautiful, nourishing, radiant living.”
“I wanted this book to inspire readers that healthy living has nothing to do with deprivation and dietary restrictions,” she said. “The UnDiet book instead shares how fresh and delicious recipes, and simple lifestyle practices impact our lives and the lives of those around us in the most awesome and delightful ways. The food we eat impacts how we feel, our thoughts, and our desires. If we understand why we’re making the food choices we’re making (rather than being told what we should and shouldn’t eat with a label on our diet), there’s this incredible sense of empowerment in knowing that our actions and choices can have a profound impact on how we live everyday.”
Although Telpner couldn’t pick out a favourite recipe from the book, she did bring up the ‘rawmazing keylime pie’ (on page 215 of her cookbook) to start with. “It is dairy-free and gluten-free, as is my entire book, but there is absolutely nothing lacking in this sweet and tangy dessert. All of the ingredients can be found at any major supermarket, it doesn’t require any fancy equipment or advanced culinary skill.”
“Though it is a cookbook, we go beyond food recipes. There’s an entire chapter of homemade beauty care products, a chapter on how to take the UnDiet lifestyle on the road with travel tips as well as a chapter of menus for any type of party. For example, there’s a menu for a kid’s party or an afternoon ladies tea… featuring recipes from the book and a prep schedule to help you host a great event. There is truly something for everyone and whether someone wants to go gluten and dairy-free or not, the recipes will integrate effortlessly into any style of living and eating.”
Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook by the Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Won gold in general cookbooks
“This cookbook reflects Canadian cuisine for today. We didn’t create a book of vintage recipes for our 40th anniversary; we’ve offered a diverse and delicious set of recipes that represent the range of cooking that Canadians are looking for,” said Jess Ross on behalf of the Canadian Living Test Kitchen.
She also recommended trying out the classic vanilla layer cake from the book (in case you didn’t know what to try out first).
It’s hard to imagine a book that could top any of these ones in 2017–guess we’ll have to just wait and see.