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Book Reviews

The Flavours of Canada: A Celebration of the Finest Regional Foods

by Anita Stewart, Robert Wigington, photog.

A minor but long-lingering bookselling problem has finally been solved. The question of what to offer gift shoppers looking for attractive yet authoritative books on Canadian cuisine has long been met with helpless shrugs. But shrug no more. Anita Stewart’s The Flavours of Canada is perhaps the best coffee-table book ever published on the subject.

What’s Canadian cuisine? Stewart, a food journalist who has written many other cookbooks, answers that question here with a pan-Canadian culinary tour, devoting chapters to food from B.C., the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. (The book’s one major flaw is the omission of the North.) Such regional focus has limited others to clichés about smoked salmon and maple syrup, but Stewart thrives, visiting the nation’s chefs – famous and otherwise – and collecting dozens of recipes as interesting and diverse as Canada itself.

A few samples: whole-crab pot from Vancouver restaurateur John Bishop; sautéed wild amaranth (pigweed) from Anne Musey’s Saskatchewan B&B; roast duck with duck confit from star chef Michael Stadtländer’s Ontario restaurant, Eigennsen Farm; chow chow (pickled green tomatoes) from the residents of Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia; and stuffed halibut from the Hibernia oil platform’s kitchen. Numerous sidebars about these people, the places they live in, and the ingredients and cooking methods they use, combine with Robert Wigington’s inviting photographs to elevate Flavours toward the realm of exquisite cookbooks like The Natural Cuisine of Georges Blanc, about Blanc’s three-star Burgundy restaurant.

Canadian cuisine, of course, is the food we cook – in restaurants and homes – every day, and while Flavours is not quite the tour de force of, say, Blanc’s book, it is still an excellent showcase of that cuisine, certain to make both shoppers and booksellers happy.