Our monthly visit to the welcoming environs of Kensington’s Good Egg bookstore, where Patron Mika Bareket gives us her personal recommendations…
Good Food Revolution: Hello Mika, I hope that the Spring is treating you well down at Good Egg in Kensington Market?
Mika Bareket: All is well. Just waiting for those adorable fiddleheads to hit the green grocer’s stand. Then it will officially be Spring.
GFR: So I see that you have chosen A Change of Appetite by Diane Henry as your book for March… a nice healthy option. So what makes this cookbook from 2014 so special?
MB: The art direction is top notch. The majority of “healthy” cookbooks are published in paperback which means that publishers rate them as less consequential. The publisher here, Mitchell Beazley, went all out with a hardcover binding, a ribbon marker and sumptuous photography. Cooking from this book feels luxurious, not health conscious, though it is that too. Recipes are organized seasonally and into menus, which is my absolute preference.
GFR: I really like her Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons book from 2002 and it still gets regular usage in our kitchen. What do you enjoy most about her writing style?
MB: Diana Henry writes like she’s talking to a friend whose success she feels invested in. She explains why a recipe calls for certain ingredients (i.e. to balance flavours), how to make substitutions (or completely omit particular ingredients), and warns the reader when a recipe may end up being expensive, for example.
GFR: Coming from the UK I obviously have a bit of a bias and so perennially purchase Cookbooks by UK writers, but they also get a fair bit of shelf space at Good Egg… how do you find they differ from north American cookbooks… gross generalisation here!
MB: My favourite question! North American cookbooks tend to be mechanical in design: a crisp picture of the finished dish on the verso, instructions on the recto, repeat, repeat, repeat. Book jackets depict either a bowl of food, or the author with her hands resting on a kitchen counter. And recipes tend to be as simplistic as possible, so as to not worry the reader of too many steps. On the other hand, publishers in the UK it seems, are not afraid to opt for artistic flair over formula. Cook books in the UK are more visually eclectic and even a little abstract, which I appreciate for the sake of variety and creative stimulation. Writing-wise, UK titles are wordier, that is, more instructive and chatty. More information means greater preparedness, which is the key to good cooking.
GFR: There’s definitely been a theme running through your last lot of book selections… a vegetables/healthy eating axis. Is this something you are cogniscent of? I’m guessing we are not going to be seeing a “Cooking With Lard” recommendation from you any time soon?
MB: I’m in love with a vegetarian, and enjoy the challenge of cooking sans beast. Of course I’ve been packing on the pounds from the transition. Turns out pasta, nuts and cheese have a lot of calories… Go figure. Hence the current interest in healthier eating.
GFR: As we move into Spring how does your own cooking style change? Or does it? I’m guilty of making hearty stews all year round…
MB: My cooking changes radically once the local produce arrives. Winter is soups and curries, Spring is composed salads and dips. I go bananas for fresh local produce and want to showcase them in all their unfettered glory.
GFR: Which recipes from A Change of Appetite really stand out for you?
MB: The Persian Salad which starts the book is a thing of beauty. I’ll be making it as soon as there are enough edible flowers to be had. But before then, I would like to try the Orange and Pomegranate cake from the Winter section which Ms. Henry describes as incredibly easy. I made the beet and carrot fritters with dill recently, minus the dill, and am looking forward to making them again WITH dill. They were nearly excellent.
GFR: Mika, thanks very much for your recommendation this month. I’ll be sure to pick up a copy the next time I’m by Good Egg!
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Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he needs more healthy cookbooks.