Five reasons why I like Jennifer McLagan

Working at a bookstore dedicated to everything epicurean is a dream come true. One of the reasons why I started working there was because I had amassed an unspeakable number of cookbooks and was cut off from buying anymore. But I had a scheme…by working at the shop, I would have access to thousands of titles and I could read to my heart’s delight.

I had a feeling that working at the shop would be enriching and educational, but I had no idea that I’d have the opportunity to meet well respected authors and chefs and learn so much about the culinary world. Every so often I’m going to share the joy and introduce you to some of my favourite authors who inspire me to read, cook, eat and write.

Today I’d like to introduce you to Jennifer McLagan, award-winning author of titles such as Bones, Fat and Odd Bits. Yes, Jennifer tackles topics that are not fashionable but she does so with such conviction that it shreds away any preconceived notions you may have about them. Of these three books, my favourite is Odd Bits as it reminds me of many foods I grew up eating and loving such as tripe, tongue, oxtails and gizzards. And it supports the “waste not, want not” philosophy of nose-to-tail eating.

Five reasons why I like Jennifer McLagan (in no particular order):

  1. She’s smart. Jennifer’s research into her topics is more in depth than any I’ve ever read. She not only spans history, she covers a breadth of cultures and ties it all to current food issues.
  2. She’s funny. This woman has wit to kill. She writes with humour yet respect and doesn’t downplay her topics.
  3. She writes well. Extremely well. Jennifer writes with integrity and in a style that is informative and authoritative yet approachable and engaging. I want to write like her when I grow up.
  4. She’s gutsy. Well, you have to be to devote entire books on unfashionable single subjects like bones, fat and offal.
  5. She’s not on the Food Network. Jennifer is understated, diminutive and a bit geeky (Jennifer, I mean this in the best of ways, coming from a self-professed geek myself!).

Check out Jennifer’s books: have a good read, enjoy a little chuckle, learn a lot and eat well. You will be pleased.

Where to find her books? At Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks, of course! Tell the lovely folks there that I sent you.

Favourite Small Kitchen Tools Revisited

Resurrecting VanEats has been an interesting and fun process. It’s been a very reflective time and I’ve enjoyed seeing how much I’ve evolved into a “food enthusiast” from my early “foodie” days.

One of the interesting pieces I shared way back in 2003 was one on my favourite small kitchen tools. Surprisingly, these still are my favourite small tools! Especially after having a child and being overwhelmed by stuff, I don’t feel the need to have a drawer full of gadgets that at one time I found nifty. Good quality basics suit me just fine.

If I were to update my previous list of tools, I’d add only a few (although I realize they’re not truly considered “small”):

Digital kitchen scale: After a stint as a small batch cookie dough purveyor and from trial and error, I’ve learned that baking by weight is far more accurate than baking by volume and is now the norm. I can’t imagine not owning and using a kitchen scale. And it’s handy for weighing yarn for knitting projects.

Baking pans: I love professional half-sheet aluminum baking pans. They’re thick enough so they don’t warp at high heat and they don’t have a gimmicky non-stick surface that will rub off, scorch and inevitable get sticky.

Chantry: Originally designed by butchers in Sheffield, UK, the chantry houses two precisely angled blades that hone the cutting edge of a knife. This doesn’t replace getting knives professionally sharpened every few years but a swipe or two gives a good working edge without taking too much metal off the blade.

What are your favourite small kitchen tools and what important roles do they have in your kitchen?