I'd never heard of Joe Beef until shortly after the Montreal restaurant's cookbook The Art of Living According to Joe Beef came out this fall. The cookbook published by Ten Speed got so much buzz early on that I felt like I had to at least pick it up and see what the talk was about. I knew it had a foreword by David Chang and all sorts of big name, glowing blurbs from Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern and Alice Waters and wondered if it was as good as they claimed it was.
There are very few cookbooks that I've read cover to cover but a few that I have include Vij's Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine, a couple James Beard Cookbooks, At Home on the Range and Wild Fermentation. I'm reading the Joe Beef cookbook essay by essay and recipe by recipe. I'm learning a lot. I love the narrative and voice and how the book goes well beyond the template that most cookbooks follow and gets to the heart of the matter -- why cook and why Joe Beef?
One of my favorite parts so far is the book's third chapter on trains. Joe Beef co-owner Frederic Morin has a deep and loyal love for trains and as a reader you get to take a 17 hour train ride from Montreal to Moncton on "The Ocean" -- the oldest continuously operated train route in North America -- with Joe Beef chef-owners Morin and David McMillan, Joe Beef cookbook writer Meredith Erickson and the book's photographer Jennifer May. They drink from Fred's "traveling-salesman bar kit, complete with bottles of vermouth, gin, Johnny Walker, and Fernet Branca." They listen to Neil Young and eat all sorts of delicious food including Black Forest Cake and Canadian wine. The recipes follow the essays -- "The following recipes are inspired by and meant for train travel..." including Tiny Sausage Links, Chicken Jalfrezi, Beer Cheese and Dining Car Calf Liver.
I've only cooked a couple things from the book so far -- the hot Daube de Joues de Boeuf Chaude (page 246) and the Kale for a Hangover (page 202) and they were both super tasty. I'm looking forward to cooking more and reading more. I hope that future cookbooks follow suit with deeply personal and complicated narrative and essays (and Smorgasbord centerfolds! That's right.) that push the envelope of what a cookbook can be.
The Art of Living According to Joe Beef By Frederic Morin, David McMillan & Meredith Erickson fall 2011 292 pages $40 Ten Speed Press