Why I’ll (Probably) Never Publish Your Cookbook

It happened again. My own book is still a couple of months away from publication and already, I am getting pitches from people wanting me to publish their book. Specifically, their cookbook.

The first came via Twitter. (Incidentally – do not ever do this.) A public message asking if I’d be interested in a fun, quirky cookbook. Besides the fact that you destroy any credibility you might have as a serious writer by pitching to a publisher via Twitter, it helps to actually visit the website of the publisher and learn more about them and what they’re looking for, or if they’re accepting submissions at all. That you came across an indie publisher on Twitter and contacted them doesn’t get you points for taking the initiative, it makes you look like someone who is clueless, can’t follow protocol or written instructions, and who probably doesn’t really care about how professionally things are done.

Far moreso in the US than here in Canada, successful bloggers have been able to translate their blogs into book deals. But Canadian publishers have never had a lot of money to do such things and tend to stick with the more tried and true – TV chefs or chefs from restaurants with a strong customer base. And while there are many publishers who offer a lot of cookbooks and obviously do well with them, I don’t want to be one of them.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, March 5th, 2012

In Toronto:

The big food news this past weekend was that chefs Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth will be taking over the Niagara Street Cafe (169 Niagara Street) as of April 1st, renaming it Edulis. Caballo was the chef at Niagara Street until a few years ago when he and partner Nemeth (she was the chef de cuisine at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar) left Toronto to travel. After working at restaurants around the world, including in Tuscany and California, they’re returning to the city to run their own place.

Ici Bistro (538 Manning Avenue)  is closed until March 21st for staff vacations.

Dark Horse Espresso Bar has taken over the old Smokeless Joe’s location at 125 John Street and opens today.

Greg Clow got the scoop about Mill Street Brewpub opening a location in Pearson Airport. Basically, there will be no beer brewed onsite, but there will be a 130-seat pub with 10 Mill Street brands on tap. Get the full story at Canadian Beer News.

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Death by Turkey

I am spending this week watching holiday specials. Not the cartoons and tired old movies of yore (Come on admit it, It’s a Wonderful Life is three hours of tedious, sentimental schlock.), but holiday food and cooking shows, specifically of the UK variety.

As it turns out, holiday cooking shows are the big thing for UK chefs, and anyone with an existing series, or a cookbook, or a well-known restaurant, is there on the screen, setting fire to booze-soaked puds and making the holiday hassle look easy. But because there are so many shows, so many chefs competing for viewers’ attention, they’ve all got to do something different, to jazz up the traditional Christmas dinner in some way to make it unique.

Stuart Heritage of the Guardian sees the mass of holiday cooking shows as a as testament to gluttony in the “so… much… foooooood” vein. Because, he claims, it’s all about the watching and not about the cooking. But isn’t that really the saddest part? By which I mean, I bet that your Christmas dinner this year will be exactly like the Christmas dinner you had last year, and the year before that, and the year before that… there will be no trying of new dishes from Jamie or Nigella or Gordon. It’s fun to watch, sure, but hey, don’t fuck with Christmas dinner.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, December 12th, 2011

Rob Ford looks only to the here and now, and fails to look at the long-term viability of city programs set to be chopped. Such as the school nutrition programs that keep violence down, test scores up and that help to create responsible citizens who have jobs and pay taxes. [The Grid]

Dear Nigella, enough already. It’s just food. And the rest of us are laughing at you in the same way we laugh at people who buy cheap see-through lingerie. [Guardian]

Okay, so we all know we’re not supposed to eat raw cookie dough. But who knew that it might be the flour carrying the e.coli? Crazy! [NPR]

If you’re still suffering Bright Pearl withdrawal symptoms (I know I am), Dim Sum King Seafood Restaurant might fill the void.  [Toronto Life: The Dish]

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The Feminists Are Coming – And They Have Cupcakes

When I think of “feminism”, Nigella Lawson doesn’t really come to mind.

Not because I don’t think that she’s a strong woman, in control of her own career and destiny, but because the stereotypes that she plays to use a certain kind of femininity that puts women barefoot and back in the kitchen.

Most of the female chefs I know have had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to be taken seriously. Women who opt to make pastry for a living – whether because they genuinely enjoy it or because the hours and physical demands are easier – are considered cop outs. It’s utterly unfair, but it’s still a stupid stereotype of the industry. And even the women who do choose to make pastry for a living do so in a professional context – wearing a proper uniform, hair tied back, back and neck and shoulders aching at the end of a day bent over a cake doing hours of icing work.

Nigella sets these ladies back, if we want to be honest about it. Because even if she IS running her own empire and selling lots of books… she creates a stereotype of a woman and a bowl of frosting that the rest of us all have to live down (or up to, depending on how insecure you are). Nigella causes people to assume that real pastry chefs flit around sticking their fingers in the bowl, making sexy face as they test their new products. And for the home cook, Nigella creates food porn aspirations that can never be achieved, causing men to wonder why their wives and girlfriends don’t wear sexy sweaters over tight-laced corsets while they bake cupcakes (yes, Nigella, we can tell you’re wearing a corset… come on honey, let that belly hang out!), and causing women to compare themselves unfavourably to someone with a team of assistants that undoubtedly not only includes photographers and food stylists but hair and make-up people as well.

I’m not saying that you can’t be a pretty feminist. I’m not saying that feminists shouldn’t bake. Hell, I’m not even saying that feminists can’t/shouldn’t own their sexuality and use it to get ahead. But let’s not kid ourselves into believing that Nigella posing with a bowl of batter and a tight sweater actually helps move the cause forward at all, okay? That’s she’s out there representing all the women trying to break free of the sexist stereotypes. And let’s really not pretend that real female pastry chefs don’t cringe when her name comes up because of the imagery she employs to sell some cookbooks.

 

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Channel Surfing

Somewhere in the transfer of cable services from home A to home B, we ended up with a bunch of cable channels we didn’t have before. Besides the fact that we are cheapasses and refuse to pay for a bunch of channels that we mostly don’t watch, we made the well-thought-out decision to cancel all but basic cable a few years back for one specific reason.

I yell at the Food Network.

Honestly, I am flabberghasted that there are unsuspecting housewives out there, tuning in to the Food Network, thinking that they’re going to get decent advice on anything to do with cooking.

(NOTE – with the possible exception of Alton Brown. He’s an alright guy.)

Of course, the extra channels that we are now burdened with include the Food Network, and I have quickly gotten sucked in again. It’s been a few years, so many of the faces are new (although I see that BAM! guy is still there, mucking things up), but it’s reassuring to see that one can get a job hosting a cooking show without any damn idea of how to cook. Note that many of the people I mention below appear on the Canadian Food Network so you US folks might not recognize everyone. [1]

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