Summer is upon us and with warmer weather my thoughts turn to good food and reading on the patio. There is nothing more exquisite than relaxing in the sun with a crisp, cool glass of Riesling or a chilled lager and reading a book while your dinner cooks slowly on the barbecue. With this in mind, I offer up some pairings for your literary and gastronomic enjoyment.
Julia Child is one of the best known television chefs and one of the first to bring French cooking into the homes of everyday North Americans. In 1961, she published, along with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and volume two in 1970. These marvelous books provide detailed instruction on how to prepare classic French dishes from beginning to end. The book also offers instruction on kitchen equipment and knowledge of ingredients. Julia also had a long running (1962-1973) TV series called The French Chef in which she prepared many of the recipes from her books.
To accompany your French dining experience I suggest pairing with the novel The Two-Penny Bar by Georges Simenon.
Inspector Jules Maigret is a fictional French Inspector with the Paris Constabulary. Always with a pipe in mouth and hat on head, he roams Paris, France and sometimes Holland solving various crimes. While on his sojourns he takes time to sit down for a meal or drink whether it is oysters and white wine or a beer from a local pub.
Just before leaving for his holiday, Maigret visits a condemned man who tells him of a murder he witnessed six years before. He also tells Maigret of a bar the murderer liked to visit. This sets Maigret off on a chase that will have him meet an Englishman, haberdasher and coal merchant.
For those carnivores among you, I offer Beerlicious: The Art of Grillin’ & Chillin’ by Ted Reader. GQ magazine calls Reader the “Crazy Canuck BBQ Kingpin”. Each dish in his book is either paired or prepared with a good quality beer that adds flavour to or accentuates the dish as you eat. Try the Brooklyn Lager BBQ smoked pulled pork with green apple slaw.
If essential roughage is more to your liking, Canadian Living’s The Barbecue Collection: The Best Barbecue Recipes from our Kitchen to your Backyard and The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appétit both provide an excellent selection of tasty veggie recipes. From The Barbecue Collection comes barbecued stuffed tomatoes, a delicious mixture of diced tomato, croutons, Parmesan cheese and parsley all stuffed into a hollowed out tomato. The Grilling Book will wow your taste buds with dishes like onion steaks. Thick juicy slices of Walla Walla, Vidalia or Maui onions brushed with a mixture of olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, thyme and Worcestershire sauce.
To accompany the flair of a BBQ dish, I am going to suggest a novel by Carl Hiaasen. Many of his novels usually involve the seedier underside of Floridian life and, to me, are never boring. I discovered Bad Monkey by browsing the shelves looking for interesting book covers. Nothing says “read me like a monkey wearing a pirate hat on the front cover. I soon learned of a voodoo lady, really bad monkey, severed arm and former detective on roach patrol (health inspector).
For the last course I have a seasonal selection that comes a little early. I recently reread Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. I think this is one of his best and funniest novels. The story takes place in Pratchett’s Discworld universe and centres on the Hogfather, Ank Morpork’s version of Father Christmas. A group of beings, called the auditors, have hired an assassin, Mr. TeaTime, to inhume the Hogfather. Death, his granddaughter, and Death’s assistant, Albert, join forces to keep the Hogfather safe.
To help you with your seasonal table, Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities provides a wonderful array of easy and sinfully good recipes to make the season festive. Offering traditional choices such as puddings, roast turkey (my favourite), and plenty of vegetarian options, Nigella also gives advice on cooking ahead to make the holiday season a little easier. Like Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the recipes are straightforward, easy to follow, and (did I already mention?) sinfully delicious.