Water and Wood – BC Food History Network

Water and Wood is a cook book by Megan Cole that combines information on the history and natural resources of the Powell River area, published by the Powell River Public Library. The title of the book and the titles of its four sections (Ocean, Lakes & Rivers, Farms & Gardens, Forest & Mountains)  immediately caught my attention.  The titles illustrate the link between the food we eat and natural world that produces it. At the end of each section “The Locals” are profiled and these are some of the local businesses that contributed the recipes for the book. It contains 160 pages and 54 recipes. Each recipe includes a short paragraph with preparation and serving advice. Most recipes are coded with symbols that indicate whether it is gluten free, vegan or vegetarian. Recipes include a wide range of foods from Ginhat (a beverage), to soups, breads, cakes, wild fish and game, and foraged foods.

 

The organization of the book is complex. The colour tabs on each page help delineate the various sections but I read the whole book before noticing that the name of the contributor of each recipe was part of the running head at the top of the page! The Locals who contribute the recipes are not listed in the Table of Contents but most are in the Index at the back of the book. I couldn’t find any information on the authors of the introductions to each section.  Each recipe provides serving advice, but more about the story of each recipe – its origins, who has made it before and for what occasions – would make for more interesting reading. The book has many beautiful photographs from archives, of the natural landscape and of all the recipes. Strangely the one for Kale Salad (p. 78) looks like spinach rather than kale. There are some ingredients and terms that could use further explanation such as Meyer lemons and bladderwrack!

While Canada is officially metric, the recipes are written almost entirely in Imperial measures only. The recipe for Nanaimo Bars lists ingredients in grams and millilitres. There is lots of information online about cookbook writing and metric conversions for recipes and it would be more useful for Canadian recipe books to be in both metric and Imperial measures.

The author of this book can be applauded for a new approach to restoring the link between food and the natural and cultural history of an area. I would have hoped to learn more about the daily life and people of Powell River as is commonly found in a community cook book. However this book’s presentation is weakened by the inconsistencies and omissions in the text. While the recipes are interesting some are needlessly complex and the only one I immediately tried was for Scotch Scones, fried in a pan with great results!

The book is $30 and can be purchased at the Powell River Public Library.

Cole, Megan (Ed.). (2017). Water & wood, recipes from a coastal community. Powell River, BC: Powell River Public Library. ISBN: 978-0-9920031-4-2

 

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