World of Words: Boreal Gourmet serves up storied fare

Every book needs a story, even a cookbook, and Miche Genest’s Boreal Gourmet, released this month by Harbour Publishing, is just that.

Boreal Gourmet presents the story of “the experimentation, the exploration, the tasting, and the testing” of local ingredients Genest harvests from the land, and her trials to prepare them in interesting ways.

“I wanted everyone to know I was no expert, but learning just like them.”

Drawings by Laurel Perry and photos by Cathie Archbould gives Boreal Gourmet an elegance worthy of a coffee table book.

“We knew we wanted a clean, contemporary look, with lots of humour and a familiar informal tone. The photos and drawings were key to creating that effect.”

Genest’s vision of her project is what drew her to approach Harbour Publishing at the 2009 Yukon Writers’ Conference. “I chose Harbour because of their interest in the Yukon, because they are a small publisher with a really interesting list that included James Barber’s cookbooks, and because both Howard and Mary White struck me as open, straightforward and approachable.”

From her pitch, came the signed contract in August 2009. The core of the book was to be 16 stories and 35 recipes, all previously published as magazine articles in Up Hereand Yukon, North of Ordinary.

From May to September, Genest worked on gathering ingredients and developing recipes.

“It was very intense, and worrying, when recipes didn’t work out, like the sourdough cinnamon buns.” Genest recalled, “It took five tries to get [them] right and nearly drove my husband mad and fed my friends, neighbours and visiting mother for weeks.”

Then came the task of presenting the material in a logical and approachable manner. “I was very lucky I had my editor Anna Comfort helping me, as a fresh eye and someone experienced in recipe-writing. She improved the sequence of events, combined two steps into one and got clarification where it was needed.”

As the finished book was travelling on a slow boat from China, Genest was invited by the Government of Yukon to be the featured chef at the annual Canada Media Marketplace epicurean night, which brings travel writers, editors and freelancers together from the United States to generate interest in Canada, create stories and increase tourism.

Genest admits is was an unusual experience to have the top two chefs of the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel asking her for advice as they prepared her recipes for moose ribs in espresso stout and blueberry-shaggy mane risotto.

“People loved the dishes, loved the book and now reviews are starting to appear on American on-line publications such as realfoodtraveller,” said Genest.

Along with her local launch at the Old Fire Hall, the Boreal Gourmet has also been featured on Canada AM.

The best thing though, said Genest, was the collaboration that went into Boreal Gourmet. “I discovered again that cooking, sharing good food and celebrating brings people together in the best possible way.”

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