MY CANADA INCLUDES FOIE GRAS
A CULINARY LIFE
My Canada Includes Foie Gras is Jacob Richler's personal culinary journey that began at his mother's excellent table, was honed at the favourite restaurants of his father—Mordecai Richler—then spanned a two-decade-long career as a food columnist, restaurant critic, and cookbook writer.
It tells the story of Canadian cooking at its most definitively accomplished, whether it be fast food or haute cuisine. In the process, it profiles the chefs who created these dishes that contribute so much to our national identity. And it tells the story of their backgrounds and training, as well as exploring what makes them tick, perceived from the rarefied vantage of a writer who was always welcome in their kitchens. Finally, the book also explores the roots of our cuisine and the direction it is headed. It attempts to assess how we measure up internationally. And it does it all with a hands-on, personal approach that includes recipes that allow the reader to duplicate some rich part of the Canadian experience at home whether it be Marc Thuet's signature seared foie gras, Thomas Haas's legendary chocolate sparkle cookies, or the hitherto secret recipe for a real smoked meat sandwich as served at Schwartz's in its heyday. And perhaps most important, it undertakes all this with a sense of fun.
n Labour Day weekend, 2011, my mother, Florence, my brothers, Daniel and Noah, my sisters, Emma and Martha, and I gathered at our old family cottage on Lake Memphremagog in the Eastern Townships, near Montreal, for a bittersweet reunion. My father, Mordecai, had died ten years previous. Not long afterwards my mother lost her sight—and even before that sad day, she could not drive, and was far too scared of mice or the sound of twigs snapping in the woods at night to ever stay in that house alone. Meanwhile, it had been more than fifteen years since any of the rest of us had lived within six hundred kilometres of the place. The time had come to sell and pack up.
We had moved in on Canada Day weekend, 1974—the summer in which Duddy Kravitz made it to the silver screen, and his zeyda was spreading the word that “a man without land is nobody.” As it happened, my father’s new land was a very modest parcel of a couple of acres. It was the particular vantage that had so tidily manifested his boyhood dream of owning his own place on a lake in the Quebec countryside. In the peace and quiet of that private hilltop overlooking the length of Sergeant’s Bay, he would write his best books, and enjoy much treasured, uninterrupted reading time. And between those two habits he had accumulated many thousands of volumes that were scattered all over the house. My mother had a library, too. We had all done our share of accumulating, and then collectively used the place as a free storage depot for years after we had moved far away. Now it all had to go. My father’s vast library was to be packed up and dispatched to his new archives at Concordia University (his alma mater, if you still call it that when you drop out). Much of the rest of it had to be shipped to our various houses in Montreal, Toronto, Digby Neck (Nova Scotia), and London (U.K.). And a whole lot more would have to be given away or thrown out. The worst part of it all was that somehow—whether by draft or foolish volunteerism, I can no longer recall—I had ended up as principal liaison with the moving company that would be taking care of it all. So it was that a few months earlier, in an attempt to diminish the scale of the inevitable horror of that fateful weekend, I had tried to get started on the organizational front by asking all my siblings to send along lists of what they wanted to take away with them.
Reality has a nasty way of intruding on some otherwise excellent plans. There was, for example...
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“My Canada Includes Foie Gras is a great addition to the Canadian gourmand library.” Richler takes us on a passionate gastronomic journey across the country.”
—Daniel Boulud, Restaurant Daniel, NYC
“Jacob Richler's food-centric tales relate in rich detail a life full of adventure and belly-bloating joy. Through his patriotic curiosity and thoughtful research, we learn the intricacies of Canada's flavourful, but often overlooked culinary history. As a smoked meat deprived ex-pat, My Canada Includes Foie Gras made me long for the smells, sounds and tastes of my homeland.
—Gail Simmons, bestselling author of Talking with my Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater
“Witnessed in Canada’s most accomplished kitchens – including Richler’s own – this is the gourmets’ gospel, last testament of the golden age of eating. Read it when you’re very, very hungry.”
—James Chatto, award-winning food writer and restaurant critic
“A wonderful and highly personal account of what's good to eat in Canada, where to find it and how to cook it. His tales of the gastronomic habits and eccentricities of the Richler family are fascinating. Richler knows and has worked with the top chefs in the country. He is highly knowledgeable, acutely discriminating, loves controversy and takes no prisoners. A must read for all who care about what goes into their stomach.”
—Sondra Gotlieb, journalist and award-winning novelist