Tales from a wild boar farm in Enderby to a wine pairing from the Compost Queen at Tinhorn Creek Winery, The Butcher, the Baker, The Wine and Cheese Maker is truly an Okanagan cookbook.
But, don’t expect to find yet another cookbook slapped full or anonymous recipes. The Butcher, The Baker, The Wine & Cheese Maker — an Okanagan Cookbook, authored by food and wine columnist Jennifer Schell, is a love letter to her Okanagan farming roots and family. Inside you’ll find 200 pages with 53 recipes, but more importantly the story behind what goes into making each plate.
“The farmers in the United States are actually being called star-mers. It is a renaissance that is happening and people are realizing that the farmers are actually pretty important because they are the ones growing our food and feeding us. They work so hard and have such a passion it is so exciting to see them get the spotlight,” said Schell. “I am a food and wine writer and the editor of Food and Wine Trails magazine, so I travel up and down the valley and have had the opportunity to meet all these people. Hearing their stories all the time and how important their relationships are with one another really inspired me to write this book.”
Schell said she had always wanted to write a cookbook, and took a page from New York-based writer Mark Bittman and dinners he goes to where the chef would stand and speak about how the meal was prepared and the baker, butcher or rancher would stand and also share how the meat was raised. It tweaked something inside her and she came up with the idea of not only providing great recipes from top chefs in the Okanagan Valley, but their relationships that help them create the meals.
“I think people are more conscious of where their food is coming from and definitely the eating local campaign is getting stronger and farmers markets are getting busier. It is a pretty exciting time I think,” said Schell. “The Okanagan Valley wine world has been very publicized, but now our food world is too. We have amazing people from all over the world that are here farming and have restaurants — it is this melting pot of talent and it is exciting.”
With over 120 contributors from farmers to winemakers, the book has been called the foodie bible to the Okanagan. Touching on her family roots as farmers in the Okanagan, Schell ensured that stories were told from one end of the valley to the other. Her adventures even took her to Okanagan Game Meats in Enderby where she met the owner Richard Yntema, who also is one of the only licensed abattoirs in the Okanagan.
“You look to one side of his farm and he has this beautiful deer pasture, then he takes me walking down this dirt road to this little forested area where it is kind of dark. He whispers ‘Walk quietly behind me and if you hear a huffing noise don’t move.’ Then we see all these really cute little boars running around,” said Schell. “His story is so interesting because his animals lead such wonderful lives and get to die at home. The laws have most animals being shipped to Alberta and it can be very traumatizing for them. A lot of these farmers are really pushing for changes to these laws.”
Just like the many people Schell met during the course of writing her cookbook, the project has also been a labour of love for her. A portion of proceeds from the sales will be donated to FarmGate Foundation. These funds will be the seed money to launch this latest initiative in co-operation with the Okanagan Chefs Association. The foundation is focused on feeding the future with community gardens, an initiative for growing food for donation to the needy organizations, educational opportunities and more.
The Butcher, The Baker, The Wine and Cheese Maker is now available for purchase through www.OkanaganCookbook.com or at various outlets in the Okanagan including The Bench Market and Hooked on Books in Penticton. Schell will be appearing with her book for sale at Light Up the Vines on Silk Scarf Winery on Bottleneck Drive in Summerland on Dec. 1 from 3 to 7 p.m. and at the Naramata Artisan Faire on Dec. 2 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Naramata Heritage Inn.