NOVA SCOTIA – January LOCAL TOP 5
NEW BRUNSWICK – JANUARY LOCAL TOP 5
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – JANUARY LOCAL TOP 5
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR – JANUARY LOCAL TOP 5
NOVA SCOTIA – January LOCAL TOP 5
NEW BRUNSWICK – JANUARY LOCAL TOP 5
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – JANUARY LOCAL TOP 5
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR – JANUARY LOCAL TOP 5
by Karl Wells
The Acadian Kitchen
The Kitchen Party Cookbook
Printed by Gaspereau Press
Rock Recipes Cookies
Barry C Parsons
These brief, cold, damp days of winter make us seek ways to counteract the gloomy emotional and physical effects of our maritime weather. When we’re not taking southern mini breaks under hot sunshine and azure skies, we often seek comfort in food: highly satisfying comfort food, like deliciously gooey macaroni and cheese or slow-cooked beef stew.
Comfort food is the culinary equivalent of a mother’s embrace, wearing a favourite woolly sweater or a cozy pair of slippers, snuggling up beside a crackling fire, wrapping yourself in a fluffy duvet or finally being able to sleep in your own bed after two weeks on the road.
Of course, each of us has our own idea of comfort food. Sometimes cultural or geographical differences are at play, as I was reminded last fall when I read a piece by Kimberly Pierceall of The Virginian-Pilot about the Mercy Chefs organization. These remarkable chefs prepare and serve comfort food to victims and first responders in disaster zones.
Pierceall wrote, “Depending on the disaster zone, Mercy Chef’s menu shave been Kosher, Halal, Tex-Mex and Cajun.” Most recently, in the Carolinas, Mercy Chefs served those affected by Hurricane Florence “clam chowder,ham-and-sweet potato biscuits and macaroni and cheese.”
No matter the recipe, there are certain qualities all comfort-food dishes share. They’re hot, rich and buttery. Ingredients are easily sourced. Flavours are robust, aromas intoxicating. Umami, the savoury fifth taste, is present. Textures are tender, cooking uncomplicated and, finally, comfort-food dishes are nostalgic.
We love comfort foods because they remind us of the first, wonderful time we tasted them, when we were young and contented. They’re dishes we turn to, time and again, when we want to feel better, to have our spirits lifted. For me it’s deep brown, molasses-flavoured baked beans enriched with salt pork. Mom would make them for Saturday supper along with her fragrant, warm, white bread.
When I make baked beans and white bread, I use the recipes from Edna Staebler’s classic Canadian cookbook, Food that Really Schmecks—which celebrated the 50th anniversary of its publication in 2018. The word “schmecks” refers to something that tastes incredibly good.
My mother never used recipes. She made baked beans and everything else from memory. Edna Staebler’s recipe is perfect. It tastes the same as my Mom’s,as does the recipe for basic white bread in Food that Really Schmecks, which came from Staebler’s friend, Clara May, of Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia.
In 1968 Staebler wrote, in her book’s introduction, about the first dinner party she ever gave. Fellow writers were visiting her cottage at SunfishLake (in Southern Ontario) from Toronto. The following passage sums up what Edna Staebler’s food was all about. I believe it’s as good a description of comfort food as you’ll find.
“My dinner would not be elaborate, or exotic, with rare ingredients and mystifying flavours; traditional local cooking is practical: designed to fill up small boys and big men, it is also mouth-wateringly good and variable.
My guests from Toronto arrived. I served them bean salad, smoked pork chops, shoo-fly pie, schmierkase (spready cheese) and apple butter with fastnachts (raised doughnuts). At first they said, ‘Just a little bit, please,’ but as soon as they tasted, their praise was extravagant–lyrical to my wistful ears. They ate till they said they would burst. They ate till everything was all (nothing left).”
I was curious what other people might choose as a favourite comfort food dish. So, I employed social media and asked my Facebook friends what dish they would pick. I received more than 100 responses. The five most popular choices were: macaroni and cheese, stew, lasagna, roast-turkey dinner and chilli con carne. Other choices ranged from risotto and biryani to pan-fried cod tongues and enchiladas. I was surprised that only one person chose meatloaf, which would have made my top three list: baked beans, mac ’n cheese and meatloaf—with ketchup of course!
Next, I asked some Atlantic Canadian cooks to name their favourite comfort foods, including recipes available in their books. (All have new cookbooks on the market.)
Alain Bossé is the affable Acadian known as“The Kilted Chef.” His cookbook, The Acadian Kitchen, celebrates the Maritimes cuisine that originated whenCanada’s East Coast and parts of the USA were called Acadie and occupied byFrench settlers.
At least 85 percent of The Acadian Kitchen’s recipes—including Cajun and French-Acadian fusion recipes—qualify as comfort food, beginning with seafood chowders and stews like oyster chowder and wine-braised beef stew, followed by a variety of much-loved dishes like cabbage rolls, chicken pot pie and meatloaf, ending with creamy rice pudding, blueberry grunt and old fashion jelly roll cake.
“We didn’t grow up eating any foods that could be classified as fancy,” Alain Bossé told me. “Comfort foods to me,” he continued, “are one-pot dishes such as casseroles, and one item that I’m a bit embarrassed to share. I would have to say shepherd’s pie, hamburger and macaroni (what my Mom called goulash), and pasta with Catelli meat sauce.”
The latter, as you may have guessed, is the source of Bossé’s slight embarrassment. Although, I’m sure Alain Bossé and all of us agree that apologies are never necessary when it comes to a personal choice in foods that comfort and gladden the heart.
Naturally, Bossé recommends every recipe in The Acadian Kitchen but he suggests two that stand out. “Chicken fricot, which is basically a chicken stew with dumplings and the jam-jam cookies. They’re a molasses-type cookie with a jam centre. But I think Acadian food in general ticks all the comfort-food boxes. It’s just basic wholesome food. So, maybe, that’s the real definition of comfort food.”
Jessica Mitton is a holistic nutritional consultant and author of Some Good, featuring many popular Newfoundland recipes she’s adjusted and classified gluten free, dairy free and refined-sugar-free. She says, “My definition of comfort food might differ from some. For me, comfort food isn’t only the food that satisfies your taste buds,but that also nourishes your mind and body … My favourite comfort foods are hot elixirs, warming soups or stews, and cookies.”
Bossé’s The Acadian Kitchen and Mitton’s Some Good are similar in that they feature the dishes of a specific region and each region’s locally sourced ingredients. Both authors believe that local ingredients are essential for taste and good nutrition. In fairness, these days most cookbook authors,cooks and chefs advocate using fruit, vegetables and protein from local farms and producers, or ingredients that come from as close to where you live as possible.
Some Good has Newfoundland’s unique tasting moose, bake apples, partridgeberries, cod, scallops, salmon and root vegetables. Bossé’s cookbook is larger, with more recipes, and taps into a wider variety of ingredients. The Acadian Kitchen, as its name suggests, focuses on much loved Acadian ingredients like oysters,herring, lobster, game and fiddleheads, often seasoned with the Acadian staple, herbes salées.
Jessica Mitton identifies several comfort-food recipes in Some Good.
“Seafood chowder is one of my favourites, as well as the smooth and warming curry lentil root stew. Others would be baked beans, roasted veggies,healthy hermit cookies and blueberry cottage pudding.”
While a comfort food main course can easily be found amongst the rib-sticking recipes of The AcadianKitchen and Some Good, hors d’oeuvres and appetizers occupy every inch of real estate in Jenny Osburn’s, The Kitchen Party Cookbook.
Osburn says that when she dines on comfort food she feels “like the luckiest human on Earth. My youngest daughter asked me, ‘Mommy, why do you close your eyes like that when you’re eating?’ She hasn’t noticed yet that I also breathe weird, so I can really taste the food. When it’s gone there is a feeling of sweet contentment, unless I’ve overdone it, which can be a real danger with comfort food.”
Osburn told me that her favourite comfort food is maki rolls, followed by her Mom’s seven-layer dip and “Italian-influenced cooking, the kind where the vegetables are soft, and you pour olive oil over everything.”
The Kitchen Party Cookbook has no photos but what it lacks in visual stimulation it makes up for in plenty of well-written recipes. Jenny Osburn claims many of them as comfort-food recipes, including the seven-layer dip.
“There are downright tasty meatballs, tiny donairs, coconut fried scallops, and snow-crab dip. There’s a recipe for the samosas I’ve made since I was 15 and the garlic-topped mushrooms I swooned over in Spain. I’ve tried to create recipes that taste amazing every time, which is key to the true comfort-food experience.”
If we were to put together a multi-course comfort food buffet, with appetizers from The Kitchen Party Cookbook and mains from The Acadian Kitchen and Some Good, then Rock Recipes Cookies by Barry C Parsons could be our dessert provider. It’s a cookie compendium of recipes that Parsons has posted on his website for the past decade.
Like many of the people who responded to my Facebook survey, Barry C Parsons chose a Newfoundland favourite as his top comfort food.
“A turkey dinner with all the trimmings is probably my favourite comfort food. In our extended family, this is often Sunday dinner, not just holiday fare. It takes me back to many a happy Sunday in my Nan’s kitchen.”
Rock Recipes Cookies, with its colourful, mouthwatering photos of cookies of every variety imaginable, can give you a sugar rush just skimming it. Parsons’s cookie cyclopedia has them all, including the Parkin, a “sticky oat spice cake” from Old Blighty, the Australian Lamington, “cake dipped in a decadent chocolate syrup and then rolled in coconut,” and the UK’s beloved Jammie Dodger, two vanilla cookies stuck together with jam. Raspberry jam is preferred, or so my British correspondents tell me.
As for especially comforting choices from his Rock Recipes Cookies book, Parsons admits, “Many are from my grandmothers and aunts. Nan Morgan’s snowballs and Aunt Marie’s date crumbles leap to mind, as do Aunt Aggie’s peanut butter cookies. I can’t count the endless numbers of those I must have eaten over the years, or the countless number of them I must have made for my own children. In our family, comfort food does not skip a generation.”
This intergenerational aspect of comfort foods is a fascinating point. After spending so much time with the cookbooks I’ve been telling you about, I noticed a strong, common theme: a warm, reassuring thread that binds the books together. It’s the devotion to treasured recipes devised—in some cases,generations ago—by close family members and friends. The evidence was in every bookI dipped into in my search for comfort food.
In Edna Staebler’s Food that Really Schmecks, her dear friend Bevvy, whose soups Staebler loved, is mentioned almost as much as the author’s mother. In The Acadian Kitchen, Alain Bossé refers to his mom’s delicious corn chowder, his vivid memories of selling fiddleheads as a Boy Scout and later making soup from the leftovers.
Jessica Mitton borrows from her parents and grandmother in Some Good, with recipes like her Mom’s baked beans, baked bread inspired by her Dad and her grandmother’s molasses cookies. Jenny Osburn’s The Kitchen PartyCookbook and Barry C Parsons’ RockRecipes Cookies contain similar references to parents, relatives and friends.
Parents, grandparents and others we care about, and who care about us,use a special ingredient in the food they cook for us. It’s why Mom’s baked beans and the authors’ family favourites tasted so good.
The ingredient, of course, is love. Love is what they poured into their pots and pans, along with everything else, and we could taste it. It’s why all other versions of our favourite comfort foods, including ones we make ourselves, never taste quite as good. Still, when we make them,long-held memories and the feelings we’ve stored in our hearts, are strong enough to make those comfort foods taste better than anything we will ever taste again.
The holidays in December are rooted in nostalgia, but perhaps none as strong as the desire to re-live flavours of holidays past: a mother’s baked good, a relative’s version of a holiday favourite. It’s like every year our taste buds are stuck in December mode and there are very particular things that please us. We want only those very particular things. Nostalgia is personal and occasionally regional.
In the case of Barry C Parsons’ Rock Recipes Christmas, the blogger from the Rock doles out a menu that tends to live quite comfortably in the past. That’s the thing about nostalgia – it doesn’t give a damn about updates or contemporary versions and visions. It wants things done the way they were always done, from recipe to ingredients.
This is especially true in the copious baking section of the book, littered with recipes that feature enough glacé and dried fruits to give you diabetes by the 12th day of Christmas. But it makes sense to have such an abundance of sugared staples in your pantry – historically much of the food sent to Newfoundland was preserved in one way or another and the need to be inventive was strong.
If I have one criticism for this book, it is that I wish there was a greater depth and breadth of knowledge surrounding the origins of many of these recipes. Familial notes bring a solid introduction but recipes like these deserve a greater history lesson.
Then again, this is easily forgiven, since the book includes recipes for Newfoundland dressing (stuffing) as well as a steamed patridgeberry (lingonberry) duff. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be stuffing my face with Tweed Squares.
There’s no need to stress about your holiday shopping — Atlantic Books Today has you covered. Looking for something for your sports-crazed cousin, foodie pal, or mystery-loving Secret Santa? Our curated suggestions will have you wrapping up local books for friends, family and more in no time. Maybe you’ll even find a read (or two) to add to your own wish list!
Our picks for mystery lovers both take a bit of a detour from the path of traditional whodunits. Our first pick, The Dead Letter, returns readers to PEI and its reluctant private detective, Anne Brown. When she receives an 11-year-old letter addressed to her late uncle and finds out the letter’s author is now also dead, she must decide whether to delve into crimes past. For a more humorous and satiric take on murder and mayhem, we suggest One Hit Wonders. When Lila turns up dead, the motley crew of men in her life are among the prime suspects in this no-holds-barred crime caper.
The winter months are a prime time for sports in Canada and these new releases focus on two of the hottest sports on ice. Nathan MacKinnon: The NHL’s Rising Star charts the career of the Nova Scotia-born NHL first-overall draft pick. From his minor hockey days in Cole Harbour and leading his hometown Halifax Mooseheads to a Memorial Cup win to being named the NHL’s top rookie, this book has all the inside information, interviews, facts and figures to score with any hockey fan. If curling is more their game, world champion curler Colleen Jones’ new memoir, Throwing Rocks at Houses, gives an intimate look at her life in and out of the rink, including how her battle with a serious illness changed her perspective on sports, work, and life.
We all know someone who’s always in the kitchen whipping up something new. These Atlantic Canadian cookbooks will provide more than enough inspiration for the foodie in your life. Known as a champion of the local food movement, Craig Flinn’s latest cookbook, Out of New Nova Scotia Kitchens, offers modern twists on classic and popular East Coast recipes, like donairs, lobster rolls, and seafood chowder. With Rock Recipes 2, food blogger Barry C. Parsons is back with even more Newfoundland-inspired dishes. This cookbook offers real food from a real Newfoundland kitchen for home chefs everywhere, including photos of each recipe and helpful tips.
Though Atlantic Canada has a rich history going back hundreds of years, our picks for those who love the true stories of our region shine the spotlight on the people and events that shaped the place we call home in the 20th century. Aftershock: The Halifax Explosion and the Persecution of Pilot Francis Mackey explores the aftermath of the blast and how Mackey, the pilot of the munitions ship Mont Blanc, became an unfair target of blame among citizens and federal officials. Celebrating 50 years as a federal port, A Beautiful Sight: Stories from the Port of St. John’s tells the story of this important cultural and economic terminal directly from those who work its waters.
For those who can’t get enough culture in any form, we have book picks for the visual and musical arts enthusiast. Nova Scotia’s Rich Terfry may be better know as music-maker Buck 65 and as a CBC Radio host. But it’s his talent for storytelling that’s on display in our music pick, Wicked & Weird: The Amazing Tales of Buck 65, a boisterous look at the unbelievable adventures of his musical alter-ego. Any patron of the arts would love to receive John Greer: retroActive. This comprehensive tome contains more than 300 representations of this sculptor, conceptual artist and unconventional art maker’s moving reflections on the human environment. A must for the art collector!
An intriguing story is always exciting for any young reader to receive and these adventures are sure to please. Egyptian artifacts, a curious disappearance, and high school combine to thrust teenager Nefertari “Terry” Hughes into the spotlight and into the heart of an ancient mystery in Asp of Ascension. In our other pick, Small Bones, Dot has a different kind of mystery to solve. Searching for the truth about her parents, she investigates the past and learns more than she bargains for about the legacy of love and lies.
Barry Parson’s is back with the sequel to his best-selling cookbook: Rock Recipes 2: More Great Food From My Newfoundland Kitchen. Today he shares three amazing blueberry dishes perfect for those berries you stocked away during the summer.
I first heard of blueberry buckle in a restaurant in Maine many years ago while on vacation. Acting like a typical tourist, I asked where the name originated, but the server seemed to have no idea. “That’s what we’ve always called it” was her only response. It’s hard to fault her lack of knowledge on the origin of the name, especially when references to “buckle” as a dessert dish can be dated back to colonial times in the US. With that long a history, it certainly qualifies as a well-loved, old-fashioned comfort food. A little research does indicate that the name comes from the crinkled or “buckled” appearance of the streusel crumb topping as the cake batter rises.
I developed this Blueberry Buckle recipe on my own, and I’ve since used it with other berries and chopped fruit in season and even used frozen berries on occasion, so it really is a versatile year-round recipe.
Makes 12 servings
Blueberry Cake Base
Streusel Crumb Topping
Blueberry Cake Base
Streusel Crumb Topping
When you want all that luscious cheesecake flavour and creamy texture without making an entire huge cheesecake, these perfectly portioned little bites of lemon blueberry cheesecake are just the thing.
These are a quick way to make small servings of a delicious cheesecake, which I especially like to have on hand in the freezer during the holiday season. I either pre-cut them into bars and freeze them in airtight containers with each one nestled inside a paper muffin tin liner or I freeze an entire batch, uncut, in case I need larger servings as a decadent dessert for unexpected dinner guests. Either way, you will always be prepared to serve something utterly delicious to serve family or guests.
Blueberry Lemon Cornmeal Pancakes
This original photo accompanied the first pancake recipe ever published on RockRecipes.com back in the spring of 2008. It has remained the most popular pancake recipe I’ve posted. Back in the original post, I mentioned that I rarely made pancakes at our house because my ten-year-old daughter, Olivia, had taken on the duties of expert pancake maker. Not much has changed in the years since, but in the times when I still get up early on the weekends, before the kids, I like to whip up a batch of these, my personal favourite pancakes. There are never any complaints from the teenagers, either, when they wake up to the scent of blueberry and lemon wafting up from the kitchen below.
NOVA SCOTIA – MAY LOCAL TOP 5
1. I Owe It All To Rock and Roll and the CBC by Frank Cameron (Local Interest)
2. Lexicon Volume 16 by Theresa Williams (Local Interest)
3. Lexicon Volume 15 by Theresa Williams (Local Interest)
4. Frontier Town: Bear River Nova Scotia by Mike Parker (Local Interest)
5. Tides of Honour by Genevieve Graham (Romance)
NEW BRUNSWICK – MAY LOCAL TOP 5
1. Wildflowers of New Brunswick by Todd Boland (Local Interest)
2. A Measure Of Light by Beth Powning (Fiction)
3. The Great Atlantic Canada Bucket List by Robin Esrock (Travel)
4. Waterfalls of New Brunswick GD by Nicholas Guitard (Local Interest)
5. Irving VS Irving by Jacques Poitras (Business)
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – MAY LOCAL TOP 5
1. Wild Island by John Sylvester (Local Interest)
2. Charlottetown Then and Now by D. Scott MacDonald with W. Blair MacDonald (Local Interest)
3. The Pup From Away by Shaun Patterson (Local Interest)
4. Those Splendid Girls by Katherine Dewar (Local Interest)
5. Prince Edward Lullaby by PL McCarron (Local Interest)
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR – MAY LOCAL TOP 5
1. Rock Recipes by Barry Parsons (Local Interest)
2. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War by Frank Gogos (Local Interest)
3. I Want to Know if I Got to Get Married by Miles Frankel (Local Interest)
4. Hikes in Eastern Newfoundland by Mary Smyth (Local Interest)
5. Creatures of the Rock by Andrew Peacock (Biography)
NOVA SCOTIA – APRIL LOCAL TOP 5
NEW BRUNSWICK – APRIL LOCAL TOP 5
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – APRIL LOCAL TOP 5
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR – APRIL LOCAL TOP 5
NOVA SCOTIA – MARCH LOCAL TOP 5
1. Lexicon Volume 16 by Theresa Williams
2. Big Book of Lexicon Volumes 123 by Theresa Williams
3. What I Learned About Politics by Graham Steele
4. You Might Be From Nova Scotia If… by Michael de Adder
5. Relative Happiness by Lesley Crewe
NEW BRUNSWICK – MARCH LOCAL TOP 5
1. A Measure Of Light by Beth Powning
2. Irving VS Irving by Jacques Poitras
3. You Might Be From New Brunswick If… by Michael de Adder
4. The Great Atlantic Canada Bucket List by Robin Esrock
5. Waterfalls of New Brunswick GD by Nicholas Guitard
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – MARCH LOCAL TOP 5
1. Elora Of Stone by Jaime Mann
2. Charlottetown Then and Now by Scott D MacDonald
3. The Little Book of Prince Edward Island by John Sylvester
4. Prince Edward Lullaby by PL McCarron
5. Wild Island by John Sylvester
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR – MARCH LOCAL TOP 5
Have you read any of these? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Barry C Parsons is a food blogger with a mission: to get people into their kitchens and cooking. It sounds easier than it is, but Parsons keeps this in mind with his selections in Rock Recipes: The Best Food From My Newfoundland Kitchen.
In his introduction, Parsons acknowledges his lack of culinary training – and even equipment – as he tries to set home cooks at ease. But the real comfort for readers comes in the recipes themselves: clear, packed with useful tips, all delivered in a tone that liberates rather than intimidates.
These are recipes geared towards home cooks who want to make the food they see in magazines and on blogs, and delivers then in a manner that excites the reader to stop reading, and start cooking.
Parsons includes recipes for dishes that most home cooks would want in their repertoire. Simple recipes –both for the cook and the diner– such as Chicken Souvlaki with Lemon Mint Tzatziki, or a Mediterranean Quinoa Salad convince the cook that they can make satisfying meals out of ingredients they can access easily with great flavour. The great thing about these starter recipes is that they can inspire the home chef to try standouts like the Tomato Braised Leg of Lamb with Spinach Feta Stuffing, or Cod a la Empire.
Rock Recipes: The Best Food From My Newfoundland Kitchen
By Barry C. Parsons
$24.95, paperback, 312 pp.
Breakwater Books Ltd., October 2014
While many are finished their holiday shopping, there are more than a few of us still wandering wide-eyed from store-to-store seeking the perfect gifts. To take the pressure off, Atlantic Books Today curated this holiday gift guide, packed with local reads for everyone on your list.
Read on to discover gift suggestions that will look great under the tree –that is– if they don’t land on your bookshelf first!
For the Mystery Lover
The Mystery Lover is known to curl up with a novel on a dark and stormy night. Our first pick, Walt, is a psychological thriller narrated by a janitor who collects discarded grocery lists and obsesses over their authors. When St. John’s cold case squad reopens his wife’s disappearance, they discover that Walt is more than he seems.
Walt, Russell Wangersky, $22.95 (pb), 9781770894679, 304 pp., House of Anansi, September 2014
For those seeking a lighter whodunit, Bodies and Soles returns the reader to The Shores, PEI, a tiny community as besieged by mysteries as Cabot Cove, Maine. This time amateur sleuth Hy McAllister must convince Mountie Jane Jamieson that the town’s newest resident is up to no good.
Bodies and Sole: A Shores Mystery, Hilary MacLeod, $22.95 (pb), 9781927502310, 300 pp., The Acorn Press, September 2014
For the Hockey Fan
Canada’s game figures prominently in this year’s new releases. We recommend a local story, They Called Me Chocolate Rocket. It tells the courageous story of John Paris Jr., an African-Nova Scotian who rose through the junior leagues, was scouted by Scotty Bowman and became the first Black professional hockey coach.
They Called Me Chocolate Rocket: The Life and Times of John Paris, Jr., Hockey’s First Black Professional Coach, John Paris, Jr., with Robert Ashe, $22.95 (pb), 9781459503311, 272 pp., Formac Publishing Company Ltd., September 2014
For some NHL flavor, try Newfoundland-based author and lobster fisherman David Ward’s new book. In The Lost 10 Point Night: Searching for My Hockey Hero . . . Jim Harrison, Ward sets out to find his boyhood idol. The result is part memoir, part biography and examines the personal impact of the politics that, all too often, come with pro hockey.
The Lost 10 Point Night: Searching for My Hockey Hero . . . Jim Harrison, David Ward, $17.95 (pb), 9781770411555, 160 pp., ECW Press, September 2014
For the Animal Admirer
If your best friend loves man’s best friend, we suggest Phoebe’s Way. This slim novel follows a St. John Ambulance dog through the rooms and lives of the residents and staff of a Nova Scotia nursing home, and offers touching reflections on aging.
Phoebe’s Way, Pamela Ditchoff, $14.95 (hc), 9781770411951, 96 pp., ECW Press, September 2014
For those on your list with more philosophical bent, try In the Company of Animals. This 37-story collection examines our relationships with animals, be they salamanders, beloved pets or creatures encountered in the wilds. It features a host of Atlantic Canadian authors including David Weale, Charlotte Mendel and David Adams Richards.
In the Company of Animals, Edited by Pam Chamberlain, $22.95 (pb), 9781771082242, 288 pp., Nimbus Publishing, September 2014
For the Foodie
The Atlantic region has plenty of creative cookbooks that your favourite home chef will hunger for. For those with a traveller’s palate, try The Chowder Trail Cookbook: A selection of the best recipes from Taste of Nova Scotia’s Chowder Trail. This picture-filled volume presents chowder recipes from prominent seafood eateries across the province, each with its own story and special local ingredients.
The Chowder Trail Cookbook: A selection of the best recipes from Taste of Nova Scotia’s Chowder Trail, Elaine Elliot and Virginia Lee, $16.95 (hc), 9781459503243, 96 pp., Formac Publishing Company Ltd., June 2014
For those seeking a little more variety in their fare, try Rock Recipes: The Best Food from my Newfoundland Kitchen, food blogger Barry C. Parsons’ collection of his most popular recipes. Who knows? This gift might even land you a dinner invitation.
Rock Recipes: The Best Food from my Newfoundland Kitchen, Barry C. Parsons, $24.95 (pb), 9781550815559, 312 pp., Breakwater Books, October 2014
For the Short Story Lover
For the busiest bibliophile in your life, we suggest short stories with regional flair. Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome introduces readers to a character driven world populated by people craving a human connection, packed with dark humour and smart dialogue.
Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome, Megan Gail Coles, $19.95 (pb), 9781771030526, 130 pp., Creative Book Publishing, October 2014
And for true book collectors, don’t miss Goose Lane Editions’ 60th anniversary set six@sixty. This limited edition collection features six individually bound short stories meant to be savoured, and includes stories by award-winning authors Lynn Coady, Douglas Glover and Alden Nolan.
six@sixty, Various, $30.00 (pb), 9780864928535, 40 pp. each, Goose Lane Editions, October 2014
For the Crafter
The Crafter has a creative spirit and understands the thought that goes into a handmade gift. But you needn’t be handy with a needle or hook to give Celtic Threads: A Journey in Cape Breton Crafts. This thoroughly researched book shares the island’s textile heritage and offers practical tips for weavers and other fibre artists.
Celtic Threads: A Journey in Cape Breton Crafts, Eveline MacLeod & Daniel W. MacInnes, $24.95 (pb), 9781897009796, 170 pp., Cape Breton University Press, June 2014
Simply Modern: Contemporary Designs for Hooked Rugs reimagines another enduring craft: rug hooking. Photos of Deanne Fitzpatrick’s bold designs and her Amherst, NS, studio-shop fill this book with eye-catching colours and inspiration that even first time rug hookers can put into practice.
Simply Modern: Contemporary Designs for Hooked Rugs, Deanne Fitzpatrick, $34.95 (hc), 9781771082167, 135 pp., Nimbus Publishing, October 2014
by Emily Deming
Barry C. Parsons’ recipes are masterpieces of accessibility. The meals featured in his Rock Recipes: The Best Food From My Newfoundland Kitchen (Breakwater Books) are easy to make, adapt and enjoy. His perfectionism is that sly brand that works behind the scenes to make his colourful family recipes happily casual yet foolproof. The sheer bulk and consistency of his creations make him saleable and effective. Without any particular dreams of grandeur, he has built the foundations of an empire one dish at a time.
Though his recipes are often quick to make, nothing about Parsons is slapdash. The perfect example is his kitchen. It is tidy, well kept and well used, unadorned by a single impulse buy. Though he has wanted a make-over for it for years, a little more counter space and custom counters for his tall frame, he has never rushed into it. After all, he says, “How can I be without a kitchen during renovation?” This ingrained way of both making do and just doing day in and day out has produced 1,400 recipes viewed by an average of 20,000 daily visitors to his blog, rockrecipes.com.
Parsons and Lynn (his wife, the grocery shopper, kitchen cleaner, note taker and general “unsung hero”) have always been meal planners. They prioritized gathering their family around the table to share freshly made each night. They don’t buy or cook in bulk and almost never eat the same meal reheated the next day. Not that food gets wasted, thanks to a combination of good planning, and friends and neighbours who are happy to help. When food is left over it is reinvented, as Chipotle Chili Sloppy Joes or Meatloaf Marinara Panini, rather than reheated.
His pantry and spice drawer are filled with simple building blocks. His recipes call for short lists of ingredients that can be found without a trip to a specialty grocer. In this way, he has turned the regional food security challenges that Newfoundlanders face into a shared connection with rural households across North America. You may not have off-season access to fresh figs, artichokes and persimmons, or any access to saffron and sumac, but Rock Recipes proves you can still make hundreds of meals with what you have at hand. Parsons knows what food is available in a range of communities as he and his family have taken what they call “diners, dives and drives-style” vacationing along “every mile of the Eastern seaboard from St. John’s to Key West, FL.”
Canvas printed photographs from these vacations hang in their dining room. This is where all the eating, writing and documenting of the chicken pies, the beef stews and stir-fries, the cakes and baked goods takes place. Natural light comes in through large glass doors opening on to a terraced yard, filled with snow in the winter, herbs and flowers in the summer. Here he works, pulling together both handwritten and online notes, photographing desserts and editing. To optimize his blog for searches, he has rewritten almost every post made since 2007. While working at this Herculean task of indexing, Parsons realized what a chronicle of his family’s life he had made. His (now teenaged) children were just eight and nine when he began. With a second cookbook in the works, a freshly organized and hugely popular blog, and freelance and commissioned requests for more recipes coming in, his memorializing of family life through meals looks like it will continue for many more years.
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