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Food books make perfect, useful gifts

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If you’re looking for a useful, meaningful gift for someone on your list, it’s very hard to go wrong with a good food book. Books are such perfect, useful gifts. And everyone needs to eat! These are a few of my recent favourites.

The Buddhist Chef’s Vegan Comfort Cooking

By Jean-Philippe Cyr, Published by Appetite by Random House Canada, 2021

Jean-Philippe Cyr is a Canadian, a classically trained chef, a Buddhist, a vegan and a bestselling cookbook author. From a lentil-based Bolognese Rigatoni to Onion Bhajis, and from Korean Inspired Pancakes to homemade vegan doughnuts, to the stunningly beautiful Leek Rolls (cover image), this book will be a boon to vegans and vegetarians and anyone looking to include more simple, delicious plant-based recipes in their culinary repertoire.

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Antoni: Let’s Do Dinner

By Antoni Porowski, Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021

If you’ve seen the Netflix series Queer Eye, you’re likely familiar with Antoni Porowski, the show’s charming “food and wine guy.” Porowski is a proud first-generation Canadian and a very relatable, self-trained cook. From vegetarian to “breakfast for dinner” to Sheet Pan Chicken with Rosemary and Grapes, this book is full of straightforward, healthy, delicious, achievable and interesting recipes with fabulous food photographs.

Maman: The Cookbook, All-Day Recipes to Warm Your Hearts

By Elisa Marshall and Benjamin Sormonte, Published by Penguin Random House Canada, 2021

Toronto native Elisa Marshall and her life and business partner, Benjamin Sormonte, are the co-founders of the smash hit Maman cafe/restaurant with locations in Toronto, Manhattan and Brooklyn. From the Heirloom Tomato and Sausage Breakfast Casserole to the Nutty Chocolate Chip Cookies that (thanks to an endorsement by Oprah Winfrey) put Maman on the culinary map, this elegant book contains page after page of classic recipes you’ll want to make for everyone you love.

Tunes and Wooden Spoons: Recipes from a Cape Breton Kitchen

By Mary Janet MacDonald, Published by MacIntyre Purcell, Canada, 2021

Born and raised in Cape Breton, N.S., Mary Janet MacDonald has spent her entire life fully immersed in Cape Breton culture. From fiddle music to singing and stepdancing, to learning Gaelic and cooking traditional Cape Breton food, Mary Janet lives, eats and breathes Cape Breton. Recipes include all the Cape Breton classics: Teddy’s Salt Cod Fish Cakes, Homemade Beans, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Mama’s Caramel Sauce, Raisin Pie and so many more. This book is a beautiful ode to all that wonderful Cape Breton has to offer.

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The Zero Waste Chef

By Anne-Marie Bonneau, Published by Penguin Random House Canada, 2021

Canadian Anne-Marie Bonneau, who now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has spent a decade learning to drastically reduce food waste and live plastic-free. This book will appeal to anyone who cares about the future of the planet. This is both a how-to-live-more-sustainably guide and a cookbook, chock full of useful and wonderful advice and recipes that will help you cut waste in your own kitchen. From bread to condiments, from Use-All-The-Vegetables-Frittata to Empamosas with Cilantro Chutney, to homemade ricotta and homemade tomato paste, and so much more, this book belongs in every kitchen on the continent.

Tables & Spreads: A Go-To Guide for Beautiful Snacks, Intimate Gatherings, and Inviting Feasts

By Shelly Westerhausen Worcel with Wyatt Worcel, Published by Chronicle Books, 2021

This book by the bestselling author of Platters & Boards will be useful for those who could use a little help with the artistic side of entertaining. Complete with menus, recipes and ideas for making it all work AND look beautiful, this is a great primer on how to get back into the entertaining game when we are all finally ready to do so.

The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook

By Susanne Evans, Published by Between the Lines, Canada, 2020

This powerful historical biography, written in the style of a novel, is based on the true story of Ontarian Ethel Mulvany, who spent years as a prisoner of war in Singapore’s infamous Changi Prison, during the Second World War. ⁠When food became scarce, Ethel and the other prisoners began recounting their food memories and planning imaginary meals. Ethel collected the recipes and compiled a Changi cookbook. Evans’ heartrending but ultimately uplifting book includes the original recipes.

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My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life

By Ruth Reichl, Published by Random House, 2015

For anyone seriously interested in food, Ruth Reichl needs little introduction. Reichl was the editor-in-chief at Gourmet magazine before it was suddenly and inexplicably shut down. Facing the loss of her career, Reichl retreated to her own kitchen, where she found solace in home cooking. I’m including this book in this list, despite its 2015 publication date, because it remains a standby: an interesting and compelling story ultimately about the power of food with simply outstanding recipes that work perfectly, over and over again.

Lindy Mechefske is the award-winning author of Ontario Picnics: A Century of Dining Outdoors; Out of Old Ontario Kitchens; and Sir John’s Table. Contact her at lindymechefske.com.

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