Archive for Non-fiction

The Art of Living according to Joe Beef

The Art of Living according to Joe Beef by Frederic Morin, David McMillan & Meredith Erickson a cookbook of sorts – is a feast for the senses… it’s beautiful to look at, fascinating to read, and it’s full of delicious food. I don’t usually recommend cookbooks, but at this time of year if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for someone who loves food (they don’t even need to love to cook, – just eat), and who loves Montreal, you won’t score higher points with any gift. Trust me! The recipes are almost secondary here, it’s the joie de vivre feeling that comes across for Montreal that is uppermost in the writing, photography (yes! gorgeous photos) and even in the recipes. I’m not sure whether this book belongs on the coffeetable or in the kitchen, it’s that type of book. It’s part travel log, history lesson and biography as well as cookbook. And how could I not recommend a book, a cookbook no less, that has a chapter called Trains! Even the chapter on how the name Joe Beef came to be is an interesting read. The menu and wine list are written on blackboards, the dishes are mismatched, the clientel a hodgepodge of  Montreal cultures, and the food deliciously prepared by chefs who, up to the writing of this cookbook, never had written recipes. And the menu changes daily so you can imagine how many recipes they have. The restaurant is located in Little Burgundy, in the southwest part of the city. It’s an area that has seen better times, but those in the know realized the potential of this neighbourhood and are now flocking to this area not only to eat, but to live there as well. Yes, everything old is new again. Reservations are definitely required , and I think you should reserve a copy of this fantastic “cookbook of sorts”, for your favourite foodie this Christmas. It’s delicious!

On Monday Dec. 5th Shelagh Rogers interviewed David & Fred on her show The Next Chapter on CBC radio. You can listen to the interview if you checkout her show online. It’s a great interview – a bit quirky, just like the guys and the book.

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The Boy in the Moon

The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown (published by Random House) is a truely touching book. It isn’t new, it was published in 2009, but I decided to read it when I noticed a recommendation for it on the Canada Reads website. This is the story of  Walker Henry Schneller Brown. He’s Ian’s handicapped son. Ian, as you know, is a wonderful writer and journalist and his ability to create the picture of life with a handicapped child is exceptionally well drawn. You can feel his tiredness and his frustration, but also his compassion and love. You know the expression “it takes a village to raise a child” well, when you have a handicapped child it’s more like an entire city. Plans need to be in place, schedules have to be adhered to, and there needs to be a constant supply of caregivers to keep things flowing as they need to be. In addition to which, there’s always the constant overwhelming tiredness. I don’t know where Walker’s family got the energy to carry on as they did. But they made it work. And finally when Walker was too old, and too big to deal with on their own, they made the heartwrenching decision to put him in a group home with other handicapped children. There, much to their surprise, he adapted really well and even fluorished. This is an amazing book. It highlights the negatives (dealing with the social services, the doctors, the school, and the unbelievable expenses) and the positives (being able to communicate in their own special way with Walker, and realizing how much he loved to be outdoors). Everyone should read this, especially those who know someone with a handicapped child. You’ll come away with a better understanding of the hardship and sacrifices the families make, as well as the immense joy that these children bring to their families.

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Blood, Bones & Butter

Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of a restaurant called Prune in New York City. Blood, Bones & Butter is the story about her lifetime involvement with food and becoming a chef. Having a French mother who loved to cook certainly set her off in the right direction to pursue a career in the food industry, and probably tweeked her desire to buy a run-down, decrepid, filthy restaurant, and eventually turn it into one of New York’s finest. Her early days, as a dishwasher, busser (there’s a word I’d never heard before), and server are a bit of a shocker – she certainly got into her share of mischief on the long road to recognition. Even her marriage makes you wonder about her sanity… but I won’t give that part away. I hate it when a review gives away too much of the story. Anyway, there are certain passages, even entire pages, where her descriptions of what it means to be a chef, or why she loves a certain restaurant are enough to make anyone want to head out and follow her path. She is an extremely good writer – she has an MFA in fiction writing and her work has appeared in Bon Appetit and Food & Wine to name a few places. The book is full of humour, she’s very funny and frank (a little to descriptive in one spot for my taste), but it’s totally engrossing. Even if you’re not a foodie like me you’ll find it thoroughly enjoyable.

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Everyday Food

For a change of pace –I’m going to recommend a cookbook. And I don’t usually gravitate to anything by Martha Stewart, but she’s written a great book so who cares if it’s by Mrs. Perfect (is there anything this woman can’t do?!).  Everyday Food: Great Food Fast has so many good recipes, they’re easy to make, use only real ingredients (no fake food like yolkless eggs) and they taste terrific. A few of my favourites – sauteed chicken in mustard cream sauce… curried zucchini soup… pureed butternut squash soup… shrimp, tomato and basil pasta… creamy broccoli soup… chicken curry… curried carrot soup (yes, I like to make soup)… beef bulgogi. And there are oodles of ways to do veggies that are really fast, practical and delicious. This book is a winner. It’s soft covered – something that I think all cookbooks should be (who needs to pay all that money for a hardcover when it’s only going to get stained and tattered… or at least it should if it’s well used). Another must for the avid cook.  Check it out and bon appetit!

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The Yoga Back Book

And now for something completely different. I never recommend any kind of “self-help” book, but if you’re like millions of others out there who suffer from any kind of back problem, and even if you don’t and just want to keep your back healthy, you might just like to take a peek at The Yoga Back Book by Stella Weller. She’s a registered nurse who has taught yoga and stress management to people of all ages. It’s a yoga book, but it’s not just about yoga poses. She discusses everything –  essential back exercises, strong legs for strong backs, abdominal support, as well as breathing techniques, and even relaxing for a pain free back. It’s illustrated, well written, and not difficult to follow. She even shows alternative poses if you’ve got back issues already and find the traditional poses too difficult. Even if you never do a single sun salutation it’s worth reading for all the other stuff. Winter’s here, and I’m positive people have more problems with their back at this time of year than any other. Before you shovel – read this first.

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The Globe 100

I’m not the only one making lists…  check out The Globe & Mail’s 100 best books for 2010. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to buy someone a great book. They usually have a good book section in their weekend paper so I respect their choices and I’ve kept this section – from the PAPER edition I will add!! – to consult when looking for a good read. But you can definitely find it online.

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I Feel Bad About My Neck

Nora Ephron is who I call the “author of the month”. We all know she’s a fantastic screen writer, but she’s also an author who’s book I Feel Bad About My Neck is well worth reading. It’s not new. I read it a few years ago. It’s a small book and I completely devoured it on a train between Toronto and Ottawa. It’s thought provoking, funny as hell, and you will recommend it to everyone after you’re finished. Guaranteed. It becomes like a chain letter, on and on the recommendation goes. The reason I’m telling you to read it now is that she has a new book out called I Remember Nothing and this book is the reason that it’s everything Nora Ephron right now. It’s on my winter reading list and I only hope I can hold on long enough to enjoy it when the snow flies and the temp falls. It will require real effort on my part. But I think you should read I Feel Bad About My Neck first. She wrote this book when she was 62 I think, and time has passed and she’s now 69. Read them in chronological order to get a real feel for the woman and her take on aging. We need more women like her who are willing to tell it like it is. Cheers Nora!!

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My Stroke of Insight

This is a really powerful book. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor (published by Penguin Books) is an amazing story. Jill Taylor wakes one morning in 1996 and discovers that she’s having a stroke. She’s 37 years old and is a Harvard trained brain scientist. Within hours she couldn’t walk, talk, read, write or remember any of her life. This is her story. The amazing part is that she fully recovers (but it takes many painful years), and she says the stroke was a blessing and a revelation to her. Not many people would think this, but she tells how she discovered feelings of well-being that she never experienced before. There is a very interesting chapter called “Finding Your Deep Inner Peace”… it well worth studying. She underwent brain surgery, and had to relearn everything. I can’t begin to tell you the obstacles this woman faced… talk about courage and determination! This is also a great book to read if you know someone who has had a stroke. She lists 40 things she needed the most after she had the stroke that everyone should pay attention to, such as “come close, speak slowly, and enunciate clearly”. The book isn’t large (under 200 pages) and it certainly is well worth reading.

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C’Mon Papa

This book is amazing.   C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark by Ryan Knighton (published by Random House) is a really fascinating read. Knighton discovered at age 18 that he suffered from a condition called retinitis pigmentosa. This meant that slowly, very slowly, he would go blind. This book is about him and his newborn daughter Tess. How he coped, or didn’t, and how he learned to bond with his daughter without being able to see her. In otherwords, how he learned to be a Dad. There was a huge amount of trial and error, and a huge dose of creativity too. Imagine trying to put a diaper on a baby when you don’t know what’s where and most importantly, what you’re going to find where! Imagine trying to stick a soother into a wailing baby’s mouth without sticking it in her eye. Try crossing the street with her in the baby carrier strapped to your chest with just your white cane. It’s a story full of humour, love, courage, exasperation, and frustration. The best line in the book for me was when Ryan went to a convention for stay-at-home Dads and some guy asked him if he had a picture of his daughter with him and he thought to himself  that he barely had one in his mind, let alone in his wallet. He said “Sorry, blind guy thing. I forgot.” This book isn’t meant to be a pity-party. Knighton is a wonderful writer. His one-liners are fantastic (he teaches English at Capilano University). If you’re looking for something different to read this summer, this is a good choice.

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Anyone interested in the whole local food movement or the 100 mile diet philosophy should add Sarah Elton’s new book Locavore From Farmers Fields to Rooftop Gardenshow Canadians Are Changing the Way We Eat (published by Harper Collins) to their reading list. It’s a really good read, full of interesting info about the food industry in Canada today. I was especially intrigued by the story of the giant Toronto Food Terminal and how management from Los Angeles, New York and Chicago’s food terminals (which are significantly larger than Toronto’s) come north to learn about Toronto’s operation. It produces a mere 10 million kilograms of waste a year (a mere!!) thanks to it’s fantastic recycling program. Amazing when you think of the size of the city and the amount of food the terminal sees on a daily basis. I loved the chapter on local cheese in Quebec (yum), and what’s happening with wheat in Saskatchewan and how farmers, growers, and even ordinary citizens all across the country are trying to create a more sustainable food system. If you’re a “Foodie” this is definitely a book you’ll want to read. And if you’re not, read it anyway… we really need to get moving and changing the whole food industry in Canada for the better and this is a “feel good” book about what’s happening all across the country.

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