The Cooking Gene – Michael W Twitty


The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South,  by Michael W. Twitty is another book that I picked up from the Millennium Library’s New and Noted Section. If you can get past all the latest and greatest diet and nutrition fad books, there are generally one or two worthwhile titles to pick up and read. I was particularly interested in this book after having recently read John T. Edge’s the Potlikker papers.

*Before I get into this post, for some unrelated, bonus, Dining with Donald content, here’s a link to an article I wrote on Feasting for The Rupert’s Land News, our Diocesan newspaper.*

I first heard of Twitty when I came across a link to a talk he gave on Culinary Justice. I was unfamiliar with his work, and when I went looking for some background information, that is I Googled him, I discovered that he first came to prominence when he wrote an open letter to Paula Deen. This letter came amid Deen’s firing from the Food Network over her use of racist language.

Twitty was already in the process of laying the groundwork for what would end up as The Cooking Gene. The book is a deep and complex look into Twitty’s family life and history, and how that family life and history is intertwined with the history of The Old South(he explains at the opening of the book his own definition of what The Old South means). Twitty identifies as a Black, Jewish, Gay man, and these three combine to

The Cooking Gene cover

The cover of Michael W Twitty’s The Cooking Gene.

I’m not sure how well qualified I am to review this book. Being a middle-aged, white, Canadian has kept me far removed from the outrages and injustices visited on Twitty, his ancestors, and his modern, black contemporaries. I will however give a few thoughts.
Continue reading

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Scout – Kid-Friendly Coffee Space


Coffee shops are great gathering places. They’re great for getting together for planning meetings, for small group idea sharing, or just for having some time to spent with a good friend or two. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t designed with children in mind. Scout Coffee + Tea on Portage Avenue has just changed all that.

Scout Coffee trailer.

A child’s camp trailer play structure is only one of many child friendly elements incorporated into the design of Scout Coffee.

Now, let me start of by saying, that in my experience, places such as Fools and Horses, Thom Bargen, Parlour, Strong Badger, and others are very open and welcoming of children. However, despite this openness and the friendliness of the staff, none of these places are particularly physically designed to allow for parents to visit with each other while their children are engaged in other activities. More often than not parental visits will be interrupted more than once or twice. Enter Scout Coffee + Tea.

Owner Katrina Tessier, is a Winnipegger who spent four years living out in Victoria, B.C. While there she became a mother, and during her parental leave spent a good deal of time in a coffee shop that featured a section dedicated to children. Continue reading

Jollibee – Northgate Shopping Centre


It’s been around a year since the first location for Jollibee, the iconic Filipino fast food restaurant, opened in Winnipeg. I was invited to the opening, and it turned out I couldn’t go. Missing the opening didn’t turn out all that badly, as the reason for missing was one of things that led to the Free Press feature on my blog last January.

Jollibee has been called the McDonald’s of the Philippines. Which would be true, if McDonald’s actually produced a product worth eating.

Jollibee pie

Peach Mango Pie, one of the dessert options available at Jollibee

When I heard that a second location had opened, I figured it was time for me to finally paid a visit. I chose the new location on McPhillips. I hopped on the 71, but then made the mistake of getting off to soon, and ended up walking quite a distant. On review this seems like it will be good preparation for when Transit cuts the 71 route.

Jollibee Well Prepared for the Crush

From what I read about the opening of the second location, I suspected that the restaurant would be quite busy even though it was closer to 7 pm when I showed up. Continue reading

Kitchen Counter Cooking School


The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, by Kathleen Flinn, is one of those books that I picked up from the discount bin, read the first few pages and then promptly forgot about. Then, about a week or so ago, I was looking for something to read while I ate my supper and decided to pick it up again. I’m glad I did.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices Into Fearless Home Cooks, begins with an encounter between the author and a shopper in a grocery store. The shopper has a cart filled with ultraprocessed foods. Flinn, gives her some guidance on ways to better shop and prepare foods. This encounter also starts the author out on a journey.

Kitchen Counter Cover

Cover shot of Kitchen Counter Cooking School

As a recent graduate from the Cordon Bleu School of cooking in Paris, Flinn still hadn’t found her place in the culinary world. Following this grocery store tutorial, she makes an appearance on a radio show where she talks about the encounter, and this in turn lead her into teaching a group of people how to shop and cook better. Continue reading

Lerman – My Fat Dad


I originally started this review over a year and a half ago. I found myself not able to complete it and therefore coming back to it time and again until I was happy with what I wrote.

Shakespeare wrote “If music be the food of love.” Yet for many people food is the food of love. We express our love for friends and family by eating together, and either cooking with or for each other. Dawn Lerman’s My Fat Dad: A memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes, takes us on a journey with the author

At the heart of My Fat Dad are two relationships. The first is between Lerman and her dad Al, an exceptionally gifted ad man (insert appropriate Mad Men reference here). The second is between Lerman and her grandmother Beauty.

Al Lerman was one of those larger than life people that your read about from time to time. This largeness was most evident in the way he ate. As brilliant an adman as he was, Lerman’s dad fought a constant battle with his weight.  In part this was caused by his desire to try all the items he was creating ads for. This was a solitary activity that his daughter was left out of.

On the other hand, his weight was a constant issue that needed to be dealt with as he climbed the corporate ladder in the advertising. As a result, he was constantly dieting, an activity which his daughter was forced to participate in.

These diets do provide a measure of the humour to the story. If there is a diet that developed int he United States over the last 50 years or so, chances are Al Lerman has tried it. My favourite being the Duke University Rice Diet, featured in chapter 8. Perhaps that’s how Coack K keeps so skinny after all these years.

One result of this was for food to create a certain distance between father and daughter. Lerman’s mom was no help in this area as her mother was about as disinterested in food as a person could be. In later years, here mother would also be heavily involved in promoting the acting career of Ms. Lerman’s younger sister.

While food created a wedge between father and daughter, it deepened the bond between grandmother and granddaughter, and it was in her grandmother’s kitchen where Lerman learned her greatest lessons about food, cooking and more importantly, love.

Lerman’s story with her father is bittersweet. He and her mother divorce and that removes her somewhat from the sphere of her father’s life. She does eventually get the opportunity to share her love of food, with her dad. Sadly, this sharing comes about only after here dad is diagnosed with the cancer. However the diagnosis means that they now have common ground in the world of food. This gives them good ground to rebuild and strengthen their relationship moving forward.

My Fat Dad Cover

My Fat Dad is an entertaining read, that will also get you thinking about your family relationships.

Each of the chapters has several recipes attached to it. So, if you like a book that is both memoir and cookbook in one, you will really appreciate My Fat Dad One added feature of the book is that Lerman presents the recipes as she learned them. Despite being a nutritionist she doesn’t present her eating history as different from what it actually was. However, she does allow her nutritionist a voice by providing at the back of the book a swap chart that allows readers to attempt healthier versions of the recipes is they so desire.

Baking with Lerman

When I get a book that includes recipes with it’s stories, I like to try at least one of the recipes as I write the review. This week getting ready for the production of Vicar of Dibley that I’m appearing in, I decided to go with the simplest recipe in the book. This is a three ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie:

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup brown sugar or sugar of choice

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a Baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir all the ingredients together until smooth. Roll into 1-inch balls with your hands. Press down with the back of a fork and then press again from the opposite direction, to form the criss-cross pattern on top. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove cookies from the oven and let cool before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. (page 234)

My Fat Dad cookies

The peanut butter cookies fresh out of the oven.

I made a triple recipe. That means that there was enough for rehearsal, and there were also a couple of dozen or so leftover, which I have frozen. They will be served at the St. Philip’s Sunday coffee time this week.

My Fat Dad and Dibley

The cookies piled on a tray ready to be served to my Vicar of Dibley class mates.

My Fat Dad, is the kind of book that will have you reflecting on your own family relationships. This may not be the easiest thing to do, but it will allow the reader to reflect on things and hopefully, give the opportunity to work to rebuild relationships. In those cases where the person we wish to rebuild the relationships with is no longer there, it may help us to resolve to put more time and energy into the relationships we do have, particularly when it come to finding time to share food together.