Calgary journalist Gwendolyn Richards want you to join her in an acid trip. Her new book Pucker: A Citrus Lover’s Cookbook is one of the hot Canadian titles of the new year. With good reason: it’s beautifully designed and laid out with photography Richards did herself; a clear indication that the book was a true labour of love. It ranges from cocktails through soups and salads, mains and all the way the way to desert. Every recipe features a twang of lemon, lime or grapefruit. Is Pucker getting so much notice because we all need a hit of vitamin C about now? To find out, I had a coffee with Richards, who was in Toronto this week, and conducted the interview below.
This interview has been edited for clarity and style…
GFR: I love your book because there is always a lemon in our bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. But in this age of the locavore, I feel like nobody’s been giving it any attention!
Gwendolyn Richards: Pucker is definitely not a locavore book! [Laughs.]
GR: No. I think because we do always make an exception for the lemon and the lime.
GFR: And there have been lemons, limes and oranges in Canada for a hundred years or more, right? And yet, I am not aware of another book like this.
GR: Yep. I believe a French language book on citrus came out last year or the year before, and it may have been just about lemons.
GFR: So where did the idea for Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers come from?
GR: I worked as a crime reporter for a long time, but started doing some food writing for the paper I worked for a few years ago. Every month I’d tell the editor what I wanted to write about and I would do a recipe column. And, I guess without realizing it, I was always pitching her a recipe with lemon. So, then, she banned me from writing about lemons! She literally banned me! When I decided to write a book I knew where my passion lay. I did expand to limes and grapefruit, but no oranges: it’s only about the citrus that make you want to pucker.
GFR: Is that because you’re reserving oranges for next book?
GR: It’s because I don’t really like oranges!
GFR: So it’s got to have acid, it’s got to be sour to get into the book?
GR: Yeah. When I was thinking about the book, I decided I really didn’t want to recipe develop for oranges. I just wanted the ones that make you pucker, so I had my book title ready for the pitch!
GFR: And it’s everything from appetizers to mains to deserts. I mean it’s not just a baking book.
GR: I think there’s a common misperception with the book. When people hear about the book they think it’s all about baking. So I have to say, ‘No: it’s got cocktails and salads, soups and main dishes.’ I think a lot of people will be surprised that citrus is so versatile.
GFR: Can you give us a favourite recipe? Or something you cook all the time?
GR: I am proud of all of the recipes, but I am quite proud of the burger. Who would think that there would be a burger in a citrus cookbook? It’s a Vietnamese bahn mi burger with citrus in the patty and topped with a spicy lime mayo. So you get that tang, and the heat of the chilli and the umami of the pork: all those flavours that make Vietnamese cuisine so great are all packed into a handy bun.