Much More Than Maple Syrup

18 Apr 2008

This is Anita Stewart’s fourteenth book, the latest stage on a long journey in search of the true essence of traditional and modern Canadian cuisine and the people behind the recipes and their ingredients. In the frontispiece, she quotes Jean-Anthèlme Brillat-Savarin: ‘The state of nations depends on how they eat’. If the book is anything to go by, Canada is very well indeed, thank you very much, bursting to the brim with cultural and gastronomic diversity.

The author’s passion for sourcing food locally, seasonally and sustainably emerges in the charming anecdotes scattered here and there among the recipes, interesting insights into the lives of ‘food communities’ all over Canada— ‘a menu of stories’, as Stewart puts it in her introduction.

The division of the chapters into two sections ‘The Original Palate’ and ‘The Contemporary Palate’ reflects culinary shifts and changes over time. We move from comforting close-to-home favorites such as Mom’s Pumpkin Pie to a more modern fish dish with a twist, Georgian Bay Whitefish Masala.

Stewart, as always, is as perceptive as she is erudite about the ‘ethnic’ influences at work in her country’s cuisine, from its native roots to the present day. Among the 150 recipes presented, we find everything from the dishes of the earliest pioneers (Scotch Broth, Brandade) to those of more recent immigrants: Jamaican Jerk Pork, Greek Fish Soup, Finnish Pulla Bread, Sri Lankan Coconut Roti, Brazilian Black Bean and Chickpea Salad … the list is endless.

The photographs, shot by Anita herself and Robert Wigington, are delectable. A feast for the eyes, but not only. No, some images ooze jam, trickle honey and drip gravy so deliciously, you even feel reluctant to read on for fear of getting your fingers sticky.

Anita Stewart, a culinary activist and gastronome, has long been a friend of Slow Food and a regular contributor to the movement’s publications. She has been described as ‘Canada’s coolest food intellectual’ and ‘the patron saint of Canadian Food’. Her mission is to actively promote the growth and study her country’s food culture in all its distinctive facets.

Anita Stewart
Anita Stewart’s Canada
The Food The Recipes The Stories
Photographs by Robert Wigington and Anita Stewart
Hardback
322 pages
HarperCollinsPublishersLtd
Toronto, Canada 2008
$ 34.95

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