A Cookbook Collection

A Cookbook Collection

I was honoured last week to receive a large addition to Bite-Sized Kitchen’s cookbook library. My colleague and friend Dennis Johnston - whom I’ve worked with for years, at his former restaurant fid and with his current ventures fid kitchen and Dragon - is handling his late father’s estate and asked if I would like to take some of his dad’s cookbooks. Of course, I agreed.

What treasures- and such a range! Everything from Susur Lee, Julia Child and The French Laundry Cookbook to volumes printed locally by churches and coil-bound books focusing on casseroles and the like. I found all of them fascinating. One of particular interest is called Kim’s Cookbook for Young People (published 1971). The fanciful drawings hearken back to an earlier age, and the recipes are very much of their own era.


As you can see from the recipe for Lollypops, the author didn’t hesitate to include a recipe with boiling sugar, without so much as an accompanying warning. And note that this recipe is in the Snacks category. That said, the Popcorn recipe below is exactly how I make popcorn today - a simple method I learned while cooking at fid resto!

I love this picnic image

I love this picnic image


Many of the books are very era-particular; the 1970s and 80s are well-represented. I loved perusing them for that fact alone.


One book, published locally by Nimbus in 1987, is a restaurant guide of Halifax. It’s fascinating to see what the food scene looked like in my city in a very different time. I was a small child when it was printed - I recall my parents going to Fat Frank’s, and on special occasions we were taken to Le Bistro for French crepes and profiteroles. Many of these places are still going strong 30 years later!


So many of these books will serve as great inspiration and resources for the menus I use in my cooking lessons and workshops. Just last weekend I made hollandaise sauce with an 11-year-old, and I used Julia Child’s foolproof recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I was equally excited to find a copy of Indian cooking master Madhur Jaffrey’s 1985 book A Taste of India. She devotes several pages of essays to each region of the country, providing an entrancing look at food traditions across India. This passage about enormous family picnics was particularly appealing:

Grandfather loved to lecture his grandchildren on Delhi’s history and his best opportunities came at family picnics. These were held in winter or the monsoon season, not in some glorious wilderness but in the well-tended garden of an eighteenth-century tomb or a twelfth-century palace. The entire family went on the picnic...Preparations for the picnic would begin in the wee hours of the morning. All the short ladies of the house - and they were all short - would begin scurrying around in the kitchen. One would be stirring potatoes in a gingery tomato sauce; another, sitting on a low stool, would be rolling out pooris (small, puffed breads) by the dozen; yet another would be forming meatballs with wetted palms. Pickles had to be removed from pickling jars, fruit packet in baskets, and disposable terra cotta mutkainas - our tea cups - given a thorough rinse.
— Madhur Jaffrey, A Taste of India
“artefacts in a typical Indian kitchen”

“artefacts in a typical Indian kitchen”

I look forward to years of use with these books!