Carrie Perreault had made it through her entire adult life without having to navigate the kitchen, but at some point in 2019, she decided enough’s enough. It was time she learned to cook.
There are any number of ways a grown-ass person might approach that challenge: read a book, take a class, search “knife skills” on YouTube. But Perreault, who describes herself as a curious type, pursued a more personal approach. Her method of her? Email strangers — artists specifically — and ask them for advice.
Perreault is an artist herself, and though she’d never met the notable names on her contact list, she figured if enough people obliged, she’d compile everyone’s recipes into a DIY cookbook, the sort of spiral-bound anthology that’s been self- published by schools and churches—and even the Museum of Modern Art—for generations.
An artist can make something out of anything.– Carrie Perreault, editor of The Artist Cookbook Vol. 1 and 2
“I reached out to people and I just said hi,” says Perreault. The gambit worked. Patrick Cruz, the 2015 winner of the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, sent her chicken adobo. Winnie Truong recommended spaghetti alla puttanesca, a reliable dish for many lazy home chefs, though her version of it comes with a warning: it’s “a little bit on the stinky side.” Mariam Magsi shared her family’s favorite daal de ella. Micah Lexier, a recipient of the Governor General’s Award, suggested fried plantain. A few artists, Perreault says, confessed that they were no more gastronomically gifted than she is. (Those folks sent recipes for toast.) But altogether, Perreault was able to crowdsource 58 recipes from 52 artists, meals that she kitchen-tested and photographed for The Artist Cookbook Vol. 1take which sold out of its first printing before the end of 2019’s holiday season.
This November, she is publishing a new installation: The Artist Cookbook Vol. 2. A fresh group of Canadian artists has been gathered, and this time around, the collection is all vegetarian.
In part, the project had an entirely selfish motive. “I needed new material,” jokes Perrault, who’d spent nearly two years subsisting off the recipes in Vol. 1. “I’m going to do Volume 2 because I’ve gotta eat!” But in launching the book, Perrault will also be raising funds for FoodShare Toronto, a non-profit dedicated to solving food insecurity issues in the community. Participating artists from both volumes have contributed illustrated plates that will be auctioned online to benefit the charity. Bids start at $35 for small side plates and $45 for dinner plates, and the event kicks off on Nov. 7 at 10 am ET.
By working on the project, Perreault says she’s built a community of art world colleagues that she didn’t have before. Though she finished an MFA at the University of Waterloo this year, Perreault says she didn’t begin her career by going the art school route — which is how a lot of folks first build their networks. As for schmoozing at galleries and other industry functions? “That’s not really my jam either,” she says. But food can be a great equalizer. “Like, a salad is not threatening,” she laughs. “There’s no pretense. There’s no competitive nature. There is no, like, kind of weird art politics. It’s just really basic, primal — food and community building.”
Is there anything unique about a cookbook authored by artists, though? Is there something about the profession that lends itself to food? Perreault isn’t so sure about that. The books do reflect a certain “use what you have” ethos, she says. “An artist can make something out of anything,” says Perreault. “There’s a real spirit of ‘just use whatever you have in your fridge.'” But if there’s any common theme running through the cookbook, Perreault says it’s this: the contributors all share a collaborative spirit.
Maya Fuhr is one of the artists featured in Vol. 2. She sent Perreault her recipe for spanakopita, a favorite childhood comfort food. “I wanted to be a part of this project because anything that involves community and art, I’m intrigued by!” Fuhr says in an email to CBC Arts. Terrance Houle, another cookbook contributor, was equally game to take part. “My Instagram is full of my cooking and my art,” writes Houle, and his followers frequently ask how he makes his bannock. That “secret” recipe is now a part of Vol 2. It’s “easy to make in a pinch,” he says, which is why he learned how to make it in the first place. “Good for artists, right?”
And good for anyone in need of something quick and delicious. Here are three more examples of the easy recipes you’ll find in The Artist Cookbook Vol. 2.
Sara Graham’s Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Tacos
“I love tacos,” says Perreault — and she’s not alone. This isn’t the only taco recipe in The Artist Cookbook Vol. 2, but it’s become one of Perreault’s favorite go-to’s. “I had no idea it was so easy to make. It’s like, throw that shit in the oven for 45 minutes and you’re done. You’re done!” she laughs. “It’s just tasty and super easy.”
Sheri Osden Nault’s Dandelion Fritters
Perreault learned a bit of dandelion trivia this summer: turns out the flowers only bloom twice a year. “Bet you wouldn’t know that unless you were trying to make this recipe,” she says. Summer feels like a billion years away right now, but according to Perreault, you’ll definitely want to save this recipe for later. “[The fritters] are so sweet and so delicious. When I’m walking through the park my eyes are now constantly scanning for them so that way I can pick them.”
Eve Tagny’s Easy Creamy Avocado Kale Salad
There’s a variation of this salad for every season, but Perreault especially recommends the winter version, which is paired with some marvelously salty grilled halloumi cheese. “Delicious!”
The Artist Cookbook Vol. 2, edited by Carrie Perreault. Contributors: Alexis Dirks, Amanda Schoppel, Andrea Oliver Roberts, Andrew Mcphail, Barbara Lounder, Bev Pike, Catherine Heard, claude wittmann, Derek Sullivan, Diane Borsato, Erika Lincoln, Eve Tagny, Geoffrey Farmer, Giorgia Volpe, Gunilla Josephson, Gwen MacGregor , Ilyana Martínez, Jinhan Ko, Kate Wilson, Kate Wivell, Kristine Moran, Kuh Del Rosario, Larissa Tiggelers, Laura Grier, Laura Marotta, Lee Henderson, Libby Hague, Linda Duvall, Lisa Neighbor, Liz Parkinson, Lucien Durey, Luke Maddaford, Maria Simmons, Maya Fuhr, Milutin Gubash, Natascha Niederstrass, Panya Clark Espinal, Patrick Howlett, Pavitra Wickramasinghe, Racquel Rowe, Salima Punjani, Sara Graham, Sheri Osden Nault, Shogo Okada, Suzie Smith, Terrance Houle, Todd Gronsdahl, Veronika Horlik, Yann Pocreau. www.theartistcookbook.ca