On Nov. 14, Taste Canada announced the 2021 Gold and Silver winners for culinary writing by Canadian authors in English and French.
If anyone on your holiday gift list is interested in food and/or cooking, you might want to take a look at the top-rated books.
Books nominated for Taste Canada awards are studied and evaluated by panels of volunteer culinary professionals. In 2021, 73 books were entered in the competition, and in June shortlists of five books per category were announced. The judges then scrutinized the shortlisted books in even more detail to determine Gold and Silver winners in each category.
If you’ve looked in the culinary section of a bookstore, virtually or in person, you are aware that not all books about food are cookbooks. The Taste Canada Culinary Narratives category encompasses food- or beverage-related narratives by Canadian authors. This category cuts a wide swath, and while the books may contain recipes, the recipes are not the main feature. Authors of culinary narratives dive into topics such as culinary history, politics, social awareness, memoir or biography related to food.
This year’s Gold winner in the English Culinary Narrative category is The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook by Suzanne Evans (Between the Lines, Toronto, 2020). The book is a biography, told as a first-person account by Mulvany, of her Second World War internment as a prisoner of war in Changi Prison, where she and other POWs imagined recipes filled with luxurious baking ingredients that they could only dream of while incarcerated in Singapore.
The Gold prize in the General Cookbooks category, presented by Egg Farmers of Canada, went to Flavorbomb: A Rogue Guide to Making Everything Taste Better by Bob Blumer (Appetite by Random House, Vancouver, 2020).
Blumer, who has hosted Food Network shows and traveled the world learning about food and cooking, shares methods for building flavor and texture while cooking and applies those methods to the 75 recipes in his book.
Nuit Regular’s Kiin: Recipes and Stories from Northern Thailand (Penguin Canada, Toronto, 2020) received the Gold award in the Regional/Cultural Cookbooks category this year. The author, a Toronto restaurateur, grew up in northern Thailand and learned to cook in her mother’s kitchen from her. A book, as the title indicates, about the food of Northern Thailand, it contains not only recipes but also stories and pictures of the land where they originated.
Gold in the Single-Subject Cookbooks category went to Baking Day with Anna Olson: Recipes to Bake Together, by Anna Olson (Appetite by Random House, Vancouver, 2020). Olson is well known as a television personality, cookbook author and an expert on baking. Recipes are, of course, the essential elements in a book with the subtitle Recipes to Bake Together, and with each recipe, Olson includes difficulty level, necessary time commitment, required tools and modifications for allergies or dietary restrictions. She has selected both sweet and savory recipes for the book. Families and friends who like to bake together will find it easy to choose recipes that fit their interests and resources with this book.
Lee Capatina, a registered holistic nutritionist, took the Gold prize in the Health and Special Diet Cookbooks category with Eat Good Fats (Penguin Random House Canada, Toronto, 2020). Capitana makes a case for choosing certain fats as part of a healthy diet and presents more than 100 recipes that incorporate them. Photos of the finished dishes are reported to be beautifully done.
These are just the first-place winners at the 2021 Taste Canada awards. There are hundreds of excellent cookbooks, old and new, by Canadian authors. By visiting the Taste Canada website, www.tastecanada.org, you can find the Silver award winners for this year, as well as the 2021 shortlists in all categories and all of the French-language winners.
There is no reason to confine yourself to the most recently published books when deciding on cookbooks. Taste Canada lists, on its website, winning books from previous years as well.
You can also find cookbook reviews on websites, such as www.goodreads.com. Look for reviewers’ comments about aspects of books that are important to you, such as the quality of the recipes, writing or images.
A little research will help you to choose a cookbook the recipient will enjoy.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, writes this column for The Guardian every Friday. She can be reached by email at [email protected].