The Christmas book haul was extraordinary!! I received several books I had been hinting oh-so-tactfully that I wanted, as well as a few others which, while I didn’t really know much about them before, make great additions to my library!
Out of the books I received, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan is by far the most interesting and coveted. I haven’t been able to put it down. I caught onto this book after reading the article “Praise the Lard” by Sascha Chapman in Toronto Life magazine last month. In a nutshell, the book describes our misinformed, convoluted relationship with fat over the past thirty years, and revisits what our ancestors knew instinctively about fat: that it’s not only needed to survive but it’s also needed to be healthy, that its soul-satisfying, and that it’s Nature’s gift of flavour. This book has already revolutionized my understanding of lard, a fat that’s been labeled BAD BAD BAD for my entire lifetime. And I’m not alone. Fat has been highly praised by the critics and Chris said he searched high and low to get his hands on a copy. And if there was ever a do-it-yourselfer manual for techniques long lost in history, like how to render different kinds of fat, this is it.
I also received the book French Food at Home by Laura Calder, who also has a show by the same name on the Food Network. I’ve been watching her show since the summer when I was on medical leave because of my surgery, and she is the most quirky and lovable host. She makes cooking French food seem effortless (she is always wearing the most sexy little dress and the most luxurious red lipstick while she cooks). This book includes many of the show’s recipes and more, which I’m sure I’ll enjoy. The only downside: no food-porn photography. Which I have to tell you, is a big seller for me on any cookbook.
Chris’s sister Lorraine gave me a copy of Bonnie Stern’s IACP Cookbook Award-winning Essentials of Home Cooking, which does have lots of food-porn photography, and which is also chalk full of amazing recipes, including a most unusual but incredibly tasty Corn Risotto with Chipotles and Cilantro, which Lorraine made for a family dinner recently. Lorraine swears by this book, and I know it will become a regular go-to volume for me, too.
Chris also picked up The Science of Good Food by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss for me, mainly because it answers the great mystery of the carrots turning green in the carrot cake conundrum (say that five times really fast). I haven’t even scratched the surface of this hefty manual yet, but so far it appears to be full of fascinating factoids. Oh and what’s the answer? Apparently the anthoxanthin pigments in the carrots can react with cast-iron or aluminum baking pans, creating a blue colour, which when mixed with the yellow carotine pigments in the carrots can turn them green. Who knew? Well apparently these guys do.
The final book in the stack is called The Natural Treasures of Carolinian Canada, edited by Lorraine Johnson, which includes lots of yummy pictures of Southwestern Ontario’s natural diversity and lots of info about our local wildlife. This will make for a great cottage read.
Portland’s famous Powell’s Books yielded no shortage of treasures, and the extraordinary weight of my (conservatively sized I’m told, for a girl) checked luggage may explain why my bag was subjected to an inspection by Canadian customs on the way home (which I discovered only after I had found it at YYZ, two days after landing, and after I got it home to unpack).
I debated for about an hour in the knitting section what to buy – there is so much to choose from and I can be knit-picky about my books (ha ha, excuse the pun). In the end I decided to pick up a copy of the first Vogue Knitting Stitchionary, Knit & Purl. There are tons of great textures explored here and I don’t really have any kind of stitch dictionary so this is a nice start. It’s a beautifully designed volume, with, you guessed it, lots of yummy photography.
I also picked up Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt, which contains about 300 state fair prize winning recipes for jams, jellies, marmalades, butters, pickles and on and on. I’m obviously on to something with the excitement my canning and preserving generates with everyone around me, so this will help me add some new recipes to my repertoire. Oh and there’s a recipe for a pear butter, something I had recently at a local restaurant (infused with vanilla bean – YUM!) and fell head over heels for.
At Powell’s Technical Books, Chris found Pickled, Potted, Canned: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World, by Sue Shephard. This book is a history of preserving, and it’s next on my list to read. We also bought a facinating almanac titled Country Wisdom & Know-how: Everything You Need to Know to Live Off the Land, from Storey Books. This will no doubt provide hours of leisurely reading at the cottage; “8,167 usefull skills and step-by-step instructions” for everything from growing garlic, drawing sap for Maple syrup, making milk soap and weaving baskets to sharpening tools, making cheese, butter and yogurt, and building your own home brewery! Did I mention Chris is a total junkie for this sort of book? And yes, maybe me too!
Finally, Powell’s Technical Books had this series of small handbooks, called Storey Country Wisdom Bulletins: Building Chicken Coops by Gail Damerow; Building and Using Cold Frames by Charles Siegchrist; and Building or Renovating a Small Barn for Your Horse by Jackie Clay. Can you tell where my fantasies lie? I think I’m just going to have to start collecting these little books, which were only $3.95 USD each at Powell’s. They have many, many others on topics I would just love to read more deeply into. They also have great little illustrations and diagrams.