I’ve fallen in love with a cookbook. There, I said it. From the moment I layed eyes on it, I’ve barely let it out of my site. I’ve carried it with me practically everywhere I went, hoping to steal a few moments in times of inactivity to flip through its sumptuous pages of aspirational recipes.
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve succumbed to the ever-present fad that is gluten-free. Let me assure you that I have done no such thing. But for many people, living with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity is serious business.
According to the CDHF, more than 330,000 Canadians are believed to be affected by celiac disease (a condition where people’s immune systems react to gluten found in wheat, rye and barley). In the U.S., that number is a staggering 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population (according to the NFCA).
With the help of Williams-Sonoma, gluten-free expert and author Kristine Kidd released her eighth book, Gluten-Free Baking, featuring 80 recipes that are naturally gluten-free. Ms. Kidd is a gourmet chef and was the food editor at Bon Appétit magazine for 20 years. After adopting a gluten-free diet due to an intolerance, she set to work developing recipes in her own kitchen, exploring an array of gluten-free whole grains with the goal to create baked goods with great flavour and texture.
The nature/nurture debate ends right here. I’ve had a full-on obsession with Southern cuisine as far back as I can remember. It is my favourite food. If I ever have the misfortune of being on death row, my last meal request will be Leah Chase’s Fried Chicken, Patti LaBelle’s Over-The-Rainbow Mac ‘N Cheese, Lee Bros. Fried Green Tomatoes, James Villas’ Candied Sweet Potatoes, Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse-style Biscuits and some sweet tea with bourbon. I could then die in peace.
But where did I develop my admiration for Southern food? I mean, it’s a reasonable question and one that’s often asked. I’m a French-Canadian dude who lives far north of the Mason-Dixon line. I didn’t grow up under a cypress tree in Charleston nor did I visit any relatives in Augusta during summer break. I was raised squarely on escargots, soupe à l’oignon and Coquilles St-Jacques. Not a biscuit to be found for kilometers. So really, there is no explanation other than I’ve coveted fried okra and peach cobbler since my beginnings. I’ve long ago surrendered to the fact that I was just born with smothered chicken gravy running through my veins. And why should I fight it? There are worse fates than having an innate ability to cook fried chicken and shrimp & grits. When it comes down to it, I am drawn by the cuisine’s hallowed traditions and unique cooking styles, its use of fresh ingredients, but mostly to its ability to provide feel-good old-fashioned comfort.
It is for this reason that every year I play host to a group of friends who indulge me in my zeal to create a Southern tradition north of the border. And I’m more than happy to be their comfort food ambassador. Here are some pics from this year’s “Southern Dinner.”
Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken
Light, crispy, juicy, tender and delicious. This best describes Bon Appétit Skillet-Fried Chicken or as the magazine describes it, “the only fried chicken recipe you’ll ever need.”
Tart and brimming with brisk flavour and apple-like crunch, these fried tomatoes are topped with a refreshingly creamy butter-milk lime herb dressing. This dish is unusual and one that my friends clamor for every year.