Today begins an exciting week. After about two years of research, travel, photography, writing, editing and editing some more, the book I co-authored with my friend Matilda (Tilly) Sanchez-Turri, Food Artisans of Alberta, is for real and is starting to hit the shelves of bookstores, cafes, cooking schools, food artisans and even the odd gas station around the province. It’s even for sale nationally through Indigo/Chapters.
Articles about the book have started to appear. Dan Clapson of Eat North published a piece called “One Day” where Tilly and I talk about all the fabulous food places we’d hit up on a road trip between Edmonton and Calgary (if we had four stomachs) in one day. We were on CBC radio’s Alberta at Noon and The Homestretch today. Tomorrow there’s an interview with Grains West in the morning and a launch at The Cookbook Co. Cooks in the evening. Thursday we travel to Lethbridge to Mocha Cabana to hopefully meet lots of our friends from Southern Alberta. Friday, we’ll be at the Calgary Farmers’ Market from 10 am to 2 pm to sell and sign books. Throughout the summer we’ll pop up at a few farmers’ markets. In October, we’ve been invited to appear at the Edmonton Litfest.
Alberta Food Tours, Inc is promoting the book with an Instagram contest. Just post a photo of your favourite Alberta food artisan (or their food) on your personal account between June 26 and July 3 and you could win a signed copy of the book. The contest rules are here. You can also save on all nine food tours in Alberta with that company by using the code FAA2018 as a preferred rate promo code when you book.
Promoting the book is definitely the fun part. The writing part was a lot of work and a lot of driving on top of the demands of running my company and being part of my family. I drove over 10,000 kilometres and Tilly did as well. I knew I’d spend a lot of time on my butt writing last year, but I really hadn’t reckoned on all that time on my butt in a car. Alberta is close to 700,000 square kilometers. Time in a car driving is time not spent writing. It’s seems obvious now, but I really hadn’t factored that fact in from the outset. Still, we made it through and I’m happy. It was worth it. This is truly one stunning place to drive around and I have incredible memories.
In early October, driving from Mayerthorpe to Jasper, the aspens and larches were golden and the sky a crisp blue. In summer, in Lake Land county in the north east, the hills and dells were lush green and I thought I could’ve been in Scotland or Ireland. Driving back from Rosemary along the Trans-Canada on a hot Sunday evening last summer, I pulled off the highway to see Blackfoot Crossing and I ended up watching the sunset over the Bow River from the burial cairn of Chief Crowfoot. I felt profound peace as my eyes traced the Cottonwoods along the river banks into the peachy pink afterglow of the day. I saw a few of Alberta’s “giant roadside attractions” in Beaverlodge and Vegreville and I stopped at farm stands to buy things and roadside pullouts to soak in the beauty. I drove across the lands of the Blood Nation on my way from Fort McLeod to Mountainview and had Big Chief mountain to guide me as it has done for the Bloods for thousands of years. I got to stay in Jasper at Beckers’ cabins and with ranchers like Jerry Kitt in Goodfaire and Ian Griebel in Castor. I got to eat wild boar cooked to perfection, bison cooked over a wood fire and grilled beef steaks with curls of yellow fat crisp around the edges and rich creamy haskap cheesecakes, ice cream and muffins. I drank vodka, apple betty hootch, moonshine, gin, and whisky. I drank beer and fruit wine and mead. I drank mint tea by a lake with a rancher so wise I never wanted to leave his side. I drank tons of coffee. I made so many friends. I would not trade any of it. Not for anything.
Tilly and I were willing to write this book, because of our deep desire to support local farmers and food artisans and to connect people with healthy food. We realize the challenges of Alberta’s food producers and what they are up against and we wanted to make a difference. We wrote about 200 people. We list farmers’ markets. We list watering holes (breweries, meaderies, fruit wineries and distilleries) and our editorial team at Touchwood Editions laid out clear maps to make it easy for people to connect with Alberta’s genuine taste of place.
I hope you’ll go out and get a copy. Tilly and I will never get monetarily rich from this project but if the book helps Alberta’s food artisans thrive, that will be a wealth we’ll all enjoy together. I’ll leave you with some of my favourite photos that did not make the book. I hope it whets your appetite.
These photos above are all by my talented friend Neil Zeller. He teaches photography now and is especially famous for his ability to capture the night sky and aurora borealis. Please check out his workshops here.
You never know what you’ll see when you head out on the road in Alberta.
But you’ll always find delicious food and a definite taste of place.
The towering Rockies are never far away and…
…the most important part of any travel, you’ll find the nicest people in the world right here in Alberta.