Tasty return to Canadian life
After years of travelling, food writer Laura Calder’s new cookbook brings home a world of experience
You know you’re holding a good cookbook when you flip through the pages and want to prepare every recipe. It’s an added bonus when it’s also filled with delicious text that brings as much enjoyment as the dishes you cook from it.
That’s how I felt when spending a lazy afternoon on the couch with Laura Calder’s recently published
Dinner Chez Moi (HarperCollins, $31.99).
In the 354-page book Calder, a gifted writer, shares the menus enjoyed at food-rich gatherings she hosted or had been to recently. At the beginning of each menu, she offers delectable musings on the occasion and/or the dishes served.
“I’ve always seen food as a conduit to getting to talk about the other things, other times, other places,” Calder said.
Calder has a lot of other places to talk about. She has lived a nomadic life that started out in a place perfectly suited for someone who would one day write about food.
“I grew up in rural New Brunswick, the Kingston peninsula,” Calder said. “We weren’t on the 100-mile diet, we were on five-mile diet.”
Calder’s family had a large vegetable garden, ate just-caught seafood and homemade bread, drank a neighbour’s unpasteurized milk and enjoyed other local foods.
“I don’t think I was in a grocery store until I was in high school,” Calder said.
Calder has been collecting recipes since she was a little girl.
“I won first prize at a fair when I was six for my chocolate cake with peanut butter icing,” Calder writes on her website, lauracalder.ca. “A few years later I pulled off my first multi-course dinner for my family. I got my little brother to serve it and every dish on the menu contained cheese.”
In Dinner Chez Moi, her recipes, of course, are more sophisticated, but they’re still fun and friend- and family-friendly. Examples include endive spoons, root vegetable ragout with herbed dumplings, chocolate duck, and coconut cake with marshmallow icing.
As she grew up, two of her other passions, languages and travel, set the course for her initial career path. She was in a French school program from age 12, went to university in Montreal, visited Paris and then went to Germany for a year to study German. She travelled for a couple of years, decided it was time to take schooling that would lead to a job, studied linguistics in Toronto, and then did her master’s at the London School of Economics.
She found employment in print and broadcast journalism and public relations, but soon realized the corporate environment was not for her. Her globetrotting had further developed her passion for fine food; she attended cooking school in Vancouver and that sent her career in a new direction.
Her culinary degree led to a job in Napa, California, where she met Anne Willan at a food writers’ conference. Willan, an author and founder of École de Cuisine La Varenne in Burgundy, hired Calder to work for her on her cookbooks and help run the school.
“She was very technique oriented and what she really taught me was French home cooking,” Calder said.
Calder stayed in France 10 years, travelled the country, became obsessed with French food. She master- fully displays what she learned on her Food Network show, French Food at
Home, and in one of her previous books of the same name, which won gold at the Cuisine Canada Cookbook Awards. Calder also received an award from the French government for her work in promoting French cuisine.
Her television show was shot in Toronto, where she now lives. Calder says writing Din
ner Chez Moi was therapy for adjusting to yet another change in direction.
“It is my diary, written over a period of two years. It was a way of me finding my way back into Canadian life,” she said.
With so many tasty food stories and recipes, purchasers of the book will be grateful that Calder shared that journey.