TORONTO – Mairlyn Smith wants people to put Canada on their plates.
The professional home economist says it’s long been her dream to write a cookbook that features all-Canadian ingredients and champions the farmers, fishers, producers and manufacturers who grow and provide the food we eat.
“There’s only two per cent of Canadians who are farmers and the rest of us are eating all their food, so I just wanted to give them a shout-out,” Smith says.
She offers 160 recipes in her new cookbook, “Homegrown: Celebrating the Canadian Foods We Grow, Raise and Produce,” which pays tribute to such local ingredients as grains, barley, lentils, quinoa, flaxseed, duck, pork, mussels, lobster, mustard seed and maple and birch syrup.
The Toronto-based Smith plans her own menus around what’s available locally, including from her garden. She eats fresh fruits and vegetables in the warm months and the frozen equivalent in fall and winter. She buys local artisanal cheeses, drinks Ontario wines and Canadian beers, and reminds people that they’ll also save money by eating seasonally.
Choosing a Canadian product over an import can be less expensive and supports this country’s economy and producers, she says.
“I think that people understand the positiveness of choosing local, but I think we still think of local as being within a certain area around us, where I’m saying local is Canada.”
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Smith’s latest cookbook, her seventh, is the second she’s co-authored with the Ontario Home Economics Association after “The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook.”
She sent an email to professional home economists and students in the provincial association seeking quintessentially Canadian recipes.
Her main criterion: “If we don’t grow it, raise it or make it here, I don’t want it to be in the book.”
To give the book a national slant, members who had a connection with another province were encouraged to offer a recipe from that region. For instance, a member who grew up in Saskatchewan might present a dessert incorporating saskatoon berries.
Contributors’ stories, inspiration and sometimes photos were included.
“One of my favourite ways to read a cookbook is to read people’s stories and I thought this would be a great way for people to connect with our members who created the recipes, because they’re from different parts of the country as well,” says Smith, whose wit as an alumnus of the Second City comedy troupe helped keep the book’s tone upbeat.
“Homegrown” also includes tips on the shelf life of basic dried goods, serving sizes, food safety and how to store eggs, wasting less fresh produce, and shopping at farmers markets.
A nutritional breakdown has been provided in each recipe, including carbohydrate content that adheres to the standards of the Canadian Diabetes Association.