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Cookbooks are more than just books:

Celebrating 25 years of the Taste Canada Awards & Announcing the 2022 Winners

For 25 years, Taste Canada has been a champion of Canadian cookbooks, with a mission of promoting, honouring and celebrating Canadian culinary writing and inspiring readers to discover appetizing recipes and diverse food stories written from a Canadian perspective. Knowing that food connects us all, Taste Canada unites food and beverage writers, publishers, chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, industry, post-secondary culinary colleges, media and cookbook fans from across the country.

While the Awards have grown over the years, they’ve largely been supported by the passion and goodwill of culinary industry ambassadors and volunteers in addition to loyal sponsors. Executive Director Karen Baxter acknowledges the challenges the organization has faced in gaining attention and recognition for Canadian food writing. “Cookbooks are, if I dare say, more important than fiction books. They’re used every day, you pass them on to your children, you share with your neighbours. You go to them and find sustenance and comfort many times over the span of your lifetime. Other books spend the majority of their lifespan on a shelf, but cookbooks have a life of their own. They’re full of the splatter and smells of a lifetime. I think it’s important that Canada has its own national cookbook awards, because we’re proud nation. Why do we always hear about Martha Stewart’s cookbooks on CBC when our writers are just as talented, if not more?” 

Taste Canada has recently earned the vital of support from Indigo for their award-winners. The bookseller has agreed to apply Taste Canada Awards seals to award-winning Canadian cookbooks in stores across the country. “It’s excellent promotion for the authors,” says Baxter. “They’ll also be listed as award winners on Indigo’s website.”

This year, 87 cookbooks were entered into the Taste Canada Awards / Les Lauréats des Saveurs du Canada, Canada’s only national bilingual food writing awards, with authors from nine provinces represented. The shortlist was announced in June, narrowing the competition to 45 cookbooks, representing authors from six provinces. On November 7th, the 17 gold and silver award winners were revealed at the Taste Canada Awards Gala at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. 

The popular, chef-adjudicated cooking competition, Cooks the Books presented by Canadian Beef, took place the evening before with culinary students from across the nation competing to be named one of Canada’s Best New Student Chefs, with the winners announced at the Awards ceremony. Also announced were the inductees into the Taste Canada Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Canada. Celebrating personalities who have shaped Canadian culinary writing and made a lasting contribution to Canadian culture through cookbooks, the chosen authors made an enduring impact on demonstrating the evolution of unique Canadian cuisine through their writing.  This year’s inductees included the late Savella Stechishin (1903 – 2002) who for her cookbook – Traditional Ukrainian Cookery (1957) which is still considered the go-to English-language guide for Ukrainian cooking. She also received an Order of Canada for her work in preserving and sharing the treasures of Ukrainian-Canadian cuisine and folk art. The second inductee for 2022 was Micheline Mongrain-Dontigny, who published 14 cookbooks on contemporary and historical Quebecois cuisine. Her cookbooks celebrate traditional and contemporary recipes as prepared in both home and professional kitchens in Quebec. 

The Taste Canada Awards demonstrate why cookbooks are indeed more than just books – they are in fact important cultural artifacts; records that illuminate food habits. The ways different cultures procure and prepare food provides a lens for greater understanding of culture and people. For Taste Canada that means recognizing and sharing the best published titles as an important means of defining and preserving Canada’s food culture, trends, innovation, influences and history, elevating them to prominence in Canadian culture. “More than just the ingredients we consume, food is a symbol of our shared culture, varied traditions, unique history and heritage,” says Donna Dooher, past chair of Taste Canada’s board of directors. Taste Canada contends that “Food is at the heart of the Canadian identity”. Authors who successfully share personal stories within the pages of a cookbook elevate the work to a memoir shared through food.

There is no better souvenir of a trip, or gift to a loved one, especially during the holiday season, or memory of a great meal at a restaurant than a cookbook with a clear voice that expresses and amplifies the beauty of food, the people who grow it and eat it and the experience of eating as a communal act.  Cookbooks are a glimpse into a specific time and place and ultimately can signal our intentions for ourselves. 

While serving both a cultural and emotional need, cookbooks can also be very lucrative.  According to BookNet Canada statistics, 1.5 million cookbooks were sold in Canada in 2020 amounting to an estimated $54 million in sales revenue.  For chefs who own restaurants, a cookbook can be like a business card, building credibility and recognizing the work that’s been put into the restaurant. A successful cookbook can expand a chef’s reputation—and restaurant—to a national market.

The COVID inspired (yet lasting) resto-retail trend saw restaurants selling groceries, grab-and-go meals, pantry kits and other retail products, selling cookbooks and other resto-brand merchandise is another way of driving revenue and is a great addition to mercantile-style establishments and restaurant retail offerings. What better way for a customer to continue the in-dining experience than having a keepsake to take home with them, that they can refer to again and again and relive that unique moment. Regardless of why or how a cookbook comes to be, they all tell a story.  Whether it’s the story of the pandemic, the story of a chef and their restaurant, or the story of a culture and its people and traditions, cookbooks will always engage and delight their audience. There is something meaningful about cookbooks as carefully-selected, useful and constant reminders of dishes, places, people and experiences that only grow in value through repeated use.


2022 TASTE CANADA

AWARD WINNERS

Culinary Narratives

Best food or beverage-related narrative written by a Canadian author (or authors) that is not primarily a recipe book.

Bread & Water: Essays

GOLD (English-Language Book)

Bread & Water: Essays 
by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
University of Regina Press, Regina

L’érable et la perdrix
(L’histoire culinaire du Québec
à travers ses aliments)

GOLD (French-Language Book)

L’érable et la perdrix (L’histoire culinaire du Québec à travers ses aliments) 
par Elisabeth Cardin et Michel Lamber Les Éditions Cardinal, Montréal

SILVER (English-Language Book): Food to Grow On: The Ultimate Guide to Childhood Nutrition from Pregnancy to Packed Lunches by Sarah Remmer and Cara Rosenbloom, Appetite by Random House, Vancouver

SILVER (French-Language Book): Tout sur les gins du Québec par Patrice Plante, Les Éditions La Presse, Anjou


General Cookbooks

Best cookbook, written by a Canadian author (or authors), which covers a general range of topics, offering a variety of options to the Canadian cook.

Well Seasoned: A Year’s Worth of Delicious Recipes

GOLD (English-Language Book)

Well Seasoned: A Year’s Worth of Delicious Recipes 
by Mary Berg
Appetite by Random House, Vancouver

K pour Katrine : le livre de recettes

GOLD (French-Language Book)

K pour Katrine : le livre de recettes 
par Katrine Paradis et Margaux Verdier
KO Éditions, Montréal

SILVER (English-Language Book): Fast Easy Cheap Vegan by Sam Turnbull, Appetite by Random House, Vancouver


Regional/Cultural Cookbooks

Best cookbook written by a Canadian author (or authors), which best exemplifies the cooking of a specific terroir or region in Canada, or, the cooking of a specific ethnic group (in terms of race, nationality, or religious heritage) in Canada or around the world.

Eat, Habibi, Eat! Fresh Recipes for Modern Egyptian Cooking

GOLD (English-Language Book)

Eat, Habibi, Eat! Fresh Recipes for Modern Egyptian Cooking 
by Shahir Massoud
Appetite by Random House, Vancouver

Les filles fattoush - La cuisine syrienne, une cuisine de coeur

GOLD (French-Language Book)

Les filles fattoush – La cuisine syrienne, une cuisine de coeur 
par Adelle Tarzibachi
KO Éditions, Montréal

SILVER (English-Language Book):Macedonia: The Cookbook:Recipes and Stories from the Balkans by Katarina Nitsou, Interlink Books (Thomas Allen & Son), Markham


Single-Subject Cookbooks

Best cookbook written by a Canadian author (or authors), which features a single topic in the culinary world.

Jam Bake: Inspired Recipes for Creating and Baking with Preserves

GOLD (English-Language Book)

Jam Bake: Inspired Recipes for Creating and Baking with Preserves by Camilla Wynne Appetite by Random House, Vancouver

En Feu!

GOLD (French-Language Book)

En feu! 
par Manon Lapierre
Les Éditions Cardinal, Montréal

SILVER (English-Language Book): The Zero-Waste Chef: Plant-Forward Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen and Planet by Anne-Marie Bonneau, Penguin Canada, Toronto

SILVER (French-Language Book): Tout sur les gins du Québec par Patrice Plante, Les Éditions La Presse, Anjou


Health or Special Diet Cookbooks

Best cookbook, written by a Canadian author (or authors), which features content and recipes related to specific nutritional or health needs or lifestyle choices.

The Food Doula Cookbook: A Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and a Nourished New Mom

GOLD (English-Language Book)

The Food Doula Cookbook: 
A Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and a Nourished New Mom 
by Lindsay Taylor
Plumleaf Press, Oakville

Recettes véganes pour gens actifs

GOLD (French-Language Book)

Recettes véganes pour gens actifs 
par Xavier Desharnais et Nicolas Leduc-Savard
KO Éditions, Montréal

SILVER (French-Language Book):Bien manger, c’est tout simple ! par Marie-Ève Caplette, Saint-Jean Éditeur, Laval

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