Food and cooking can bring people together, and that’s caused two Edmonton-based artists and one chef to team up with local producers to create a cookbook called “We Eat Together.”
The cookbook tells the stories of nine Alberta producers, and features recipes using products grown by those producers. Among the Alberta-made products featured are beef, pork, vegetables, oils, honey, wild rice and organic wine. Many of the producers contributed recipes to the cookbook as well.
The project began when Gabe Wong, an illustrator, contacted Edmonton chef Julianna Mimande to ask her to do a cookbook. Once he talked about the idea with Mimande, the project gained a local focus. “Actually, the idea formed itself before we’d even decided to do it ourselves,” says Wong.
Wong, Mimande and photographer Zachary Ayotte began the project in August 2009 and visited all the farms listed in the book between August and October of that year. The cookbook was published in November and the launch event was attended by numerous Edmonton foodies, chefs, artists and producers.
Wong knew Mimande as the co-owner of the Edmonton restaurant, “Bacon.” Mimande was interested in sourcing local foods and had already built up relationships with several producers around the local region since she got a lot of her food from the City Centre market in downtown Edmonton.
She says her connection to individual farmers changed her perspective on foods. The project was a learning experience for the city-based artists and showed them the disconnect between the market and the farm. “The book was meant to bring the farms to people who wouldn’t have a chance to visit them,” says Wong, who had never been to a farm before he began the project.
Mimande created recipes based on products given to her by the local producers. “Most of the recipes had stories behind them that harkened back to tradition,” says Wong. He says many of the producers involved saw the project as a good marketing opportunity and were happy to be part of it.
Emily Superkoski of Mighty Trio Organics was one of the producers featured in the book. She and her husband produce cold-pressed flax, hemp and canola oils near Redwater. Since appearing in the cookbook, sales of Mighty Trio oils increased in the Edmonton locations of Planet Organic.
“Lots of people have discovered us as a result and they’re excited,” says Superkoski. “The book has helped create community and awareness. There’s lots of support for markets but not a huge connection and the book helped create community and showcase food and why people are doing what they’re doing.”
Superkoski says the project helped people put faces to the names, brought people together and helped make people more aware of the food they eat,” she said.
Patty Milligan, owner of Lola Canola honey near Bon Accord, agrees. Two of her recipes were included in the book. She thought the launch and book allowed the message about local foods to reach a completely different segment of people. She thinks the book appeals to young urban people because it was put together by young urban people. “This project was important because it reached a different demographic. It reached people in a different way and it has made its way into venues like the Alberta Gallery of Art. This book was so clearly reaching out,” Milligan said in an email.