This memoir of a Canadian girlhood affectionately combines recollections with recipes.
In her debut book, Kerr—a former chef and restaurant owner—shares nostalgic memories of growing up in and moving around Canada and the special dishes she encountered along the way. After arriving in an ethnically mixed neighborhood in Montreal as a small child in 1938, Kerr learned to love kosher delis, cheese blintzes, and Newfoundland molasses taffy. Meanwhile, she experienced childhood pleasures that will ring familiar to Canadian readers and awaken new interest in the era for Americans, including reading the Eaton’s catalog at Christmastime, wearing Red River coats (“Everyone has a story about this famous coat”), and riding open-air streetcars for sightseeing. As an adult, Kerr wound up in Vancouver, but in her various stops, she experienced an intriguing variety of culinary traditions. Period photos help tell the story, and an epilogue provides background on Canadian history. Kerr’s culinary journey embraces home-style goodies such as poutine à trou and maple syrup pie in Montreal; fried fiddleheads and Acadian bread pudding in New Brunswick; “bakeapple” pie in Newfoundland; Mennonite onion pie in Manitoba; and coquilles St-Jacques à la Corbeille (Kerr’s restaurant) in British Columbia. In between anecdotes and recipes, the author traces the varied influences on Canadian cooking, such as patterns of immigration or expulsion, the importance of seafood in the Maritimes, and foods linked to special holidays. Kerr’s family’s stories and anecdotes are absorbing, but home cuisine is the star of this book. Its evocative prose, excellent photos, and luscious-sounding recipes will stoke readers’ appetites and spark their imaginations. The instructions are written clearly and aimed at readers who are experienced enough to have, for example, a favorite pastry-crust recipe; indeed, all the entries are based on tried-and-true family recipes. Another plus is Kerr’s emphasis on local food customs, which include ingredients such as fiddlehead ferns, Saskatoon berries, or Newfoundland cod and techniques such as boiling dinner in a gauze bag. The recipes may be old-fashioned, but they have timeless appeal.
Well-written, mouthwatering, and nostalgic—an excellent addition to the literature of North American cooking.