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COLUMN: Reading list for growers and gardeners

Food Matters by columnist Margaret Peill
Columnist Margo Peills shares her top 10 reads when it comes to growing and understanding food. (Natalia Balcerzak/Terrace Standard)

By Margaret Peill

The new year season always seems to bring an onslaught of lists: lists of resolutions, lists of your top Spotify songs, lists from the “best of” and “worst of” the year that’s coming to an end.

And this year, as we wrap up a full decade, the lists seem to be more prolific than ever. I’m not big into writing my own list of resolutions (or even having resolutions for that matter) but if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! So I’ve put together a little list of my own.

Winters are long here in the Northwest and reading and cooking are two of my favourite ways to get through the long, dark evenings. If you’re a grower or a backyard gardener, winter is also the most excellent time of year to reconnect and reflect on your passion for growing, get inspired by the stories of others, learn new ways to improve from the season before and plan and daydream for the season ahead.

So, in honour of reading and dreaming season ahead, I give you the top ten food books that you might want to check out this winter. Most of them didn’t come out in 2019, but there’s a good mix of non-fiction, cookbooks, anecdotes, how-to manuals and everything in between.

Coming in at #10: The Stop by Andrea Curtis and Nick Saul. This is the true story of the transformation of a Toronto food bank into a thriving community food centre, that has changed peoples lives and the way that we think about and approach hunger and poverty.

#9 is: Half Baked Harvest: Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard. This is the second book from the popular Colorado-based food blogger. This book is filled with all the kinds of recipes you’ll want to make after powder days at Shames!

Why You Eat What You Eat by Rachael Herz is the #8 book on the list. This one is on my own reading list for the winter and explores the science and psychology of eating in North America. It also promises to help you understand why so many people drink tomatoe juice on airplanes…

At #7 we have: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. It’s really hard to make a food book list without including at least one Michael Pollan title. If you haven’t got around to this one yet, I’d say it’s just about the perfect time to understand a little more about food systems and reconnect and celebrate true food.

The #6 book is: Heirloom by Sarah Owens. This book was released in 2019, and follows the authors’ other two books Sourdough and Toast and Jam, promising “time-honoured techniques, nourishing traditions and modern recipes”.

Keeping up with the cooking techniques theme, we have Salt, Fat, Acid and Heat by Samin Nosrat taking the #5 spot. You’ve maybe watched the Netflix series with the same title, but the book is definitely worth borrowing from the library too.

#4 is The New Farm by Brent Preston. Full disclosure — I’m in the middle of reading this right now, but so far, it’s been a humorous and honest telling of a couple starting a farm in Ontario after abandoning their urban life.

For my #3 choice, we have The Food Explorer by Daniel Stone. This book tells the true story of David Fairchild, who through his adventures around the world brought North Americans mangoes, avocados, kale and hops (among other things) and changed the way we eat.

The #2 spot goes to: The Flavour Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenberg. This isn’t your usual cookbook, it’s more of an encyclopedia of matching flavours to what you want to make. You just look up the food item you have, and then it gives you a list of all the flavours that go with it. Let your creativity do the rest.

Finally coming in at #1 we have Cooking Scrappy by Joel Gamoran. This book is filled with ingenious ways to use foods you thought were ‘scraps’. If reducing your waste or saving money is on your resolution list this year, this book has got your back.

Misty River Books already has many of these titles and I’m sure they would be happy to order you in any they don’t.

The Terrace Public Library also has many of these books on their shelves. Stay cozy, and happy reading in the New Year!

Margaret Peill is the Skeena Valley Farmers Market manager with a B.Sc in Health Promotion, working to improve sustainable food systems in Northwest B.C.