It’s Canada’s Sesquicentennial (that’s 150th birthday in plain English!) didn’t you know? What are you doing to celebrate? How does a road trip sound? Sounds great, huh? But Canada’s a big country, right? Where are you going to find the time to cross the country from coast to coast? Well the good news is that you can do this from the comfort of your living room thanks to Lindsay Anderson and Dana Vanveller who, in 2013, did just that – a cross-Canada road-trip. Some 37000km later, they compiled stories about Canada’s food and culture from their trip and are sharing them in the recently-released FEAST: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip, the perfect way to celebrate Canada’s big birthday!
Two friends. Five months. One car. Ten provinces. Three territories. Seven islands. Eight ferries. Two flights. One 48-hour train ride. And only one call to CAA. The result: over 100 incredible Canadian recipes from coast to coast and the Great White North.
The book includes recipes from, and inspired by, all the provinces and territories Lindsay and Dana visited covering every meal (Breakfast, Starters, Appetizers and Snacks, Vegetarian Mains, Seafood, Meat, Salads and Sides, Desert and Baking, Preserves, Pickles and Sauces and even Drinks!). The recipes were collected from chefs, farmers, grandmothers, First Nations elders, bakers, producers, bloggers, home cooks and others they met along their travels and the accompanying stories are what really makes this book so much more than a cookbook. As well as a brief introduction to each province and territory, outlining where their travels took them and some of the highlights, Lindsay and Dana share the stories behind the recipes and for me, the person who always reads all the headnotes before I look at the recipes, this was quite a treat. So much more than regular chapter openers or headnotes, FEAST is like a mini road trip novel and cookbook rolled into one!
Flipping through the book, you’ll see a few ingredients you might not recognise or know where to find where you live (Birch syrup, Labrador tea, bison, elk, reindeer, moose to name a few) and you might wonder if this is a book you will be able to cook from. Fortunately, Lindsay and Dana have got you covered with a helpful list of more commonly-found ingredient alternatives. There’s a standard Pantry section which also outlines some basic techniques and includes a canning primer.
And then there are the recipes. Sure there are some classics that you might expect (butter tarts! Nanaimo bars!) yet there’s a lot of the unexpected too (in a good way!). The over 100 recipes are innovative and fresh, and highlight all that’s great about Canadian food – the produce, grains, meats and seafood grown, raised and produced here. It’s like a love letter to the food industry, the photography is beautiful and enticing and the stories rich and atmospheric. But at the end of the day, the essence of the book is simple… Per this line in the introduction:
If you take nothing else away from this book, please remember this: that there are many wonderful things to eat in Canada and Canadians are genuinely nice folks.
though Lindsay and Dana emphasize this book is not, “a comprehensive encyclopaedia of Canadian food”, rather, it’s a “celebration of the people, places and history […] of a country we think is unbelievably cool.” Humble and epic at the same time. Pretty Canadian, eh? 😉
Since I received this beautiful book, I’ve been a little busy (hello my own manuscript!) to cook much from it and, to be honest, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying reading the book like a regular bedtime read – it’s that kinda book. Just as at home on the coffee table, as the kitchen counter as the bedside reading table. I’ve marked a bunch of recipes “to make” (waiting for some spring produce to finally be available) but one recipe caught my eye – Wild Mushroom Toasts with Goat Cheese and Black Garlic Vinaigrette (basically a very fancy version of one of my favourite comfort foods, mushrooms on toast!). I’ve been getting a lovely local mushroom mix in my organic delivery box recently which were just asking to be oven-roasted, tossed in a black garlic vinaigrette and served on lovely toast spread with goat cheese…
- 2 pounds (910 g) assorted wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, morels, shiitakes, or
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
- ¾ tsp (3 mL) salt
- ¼ tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- Goat cheese filling
- ¾ cup (185 mL) firmly packed soft goat cheese
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) whipping cream
- ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Black garlic dressing
- 3 cloves black garlic or roasted garlic
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) sherry vinegar
- ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup (125 mL) extra virgin olive oil
- For serving
- Loaf of good-quality bread, such as sourdough or ciabatta
- Flaky sea salt (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Toss the mushrooms with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Drain the liquid from the mushrooms (you can reserve this for another purpose if you like—it’s a great vegan seasoning) and return to the oven (again, spread out evenly) until the mushrooms are golden and the edges are starting to crisp, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- While the mushrooms are roasting, make the goat cheese filling and the dressing. For the filling, add the goat cheese, cream, salt, and parsley to a small bowl and mix until combined. If needed, add a bit more cream until it reaches a smooth, spreadable texture.
- For the dressing, add the black garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper to a blender or food processor and blend well. Then, while the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil.
- Set aside until the mushrooms are done.
- Cut eight even slices of bread and place on a baking sheet. Once the mushrooms are out of the oven, turn the oven to broil and toast the bread slices until they’re golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Cut any especially large mushrooms in half, and toss them all in ¼ to ½ cup (60 to 125 mL) of the dressing. Add more dressing according to your taste. Use up any leftovers on a future salad. Spread the goat cheese mixture on the toasts, top with the dressed mushrooms, and finish with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt, if desired. Enjoy immediately.
If you love travel stories and recipes, you’ll really enjoy this book. If you’ve ever dreamed of taking a road trip across this great country of ours but can’t seem to figure out how to make that work, this is the book for you. Experience Canada from coast to coast from the comfort of your own kitchen (or couch!). And cheers! Here’s to Canada turning 150! Pick up a copy of FEAST and raise a glass (of Manitoba Mule?!) to our country’s milestone birthday.
Please note: This post contains product links from Amazon and The Book Depository which are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you) which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: I received a copy of “FEAST” from Appetite by Random House for review purposes. I was not further compensated for writing this post.