Cookbooks tend to be practical guides, manuals to help you prepare a traditional meatloaf or cook with less salt or diet your way to a slimmer waistline. But cookbooks can be so much more. Regional cookbooks and cookbooks with recipes from your favourite restaurants are recipe guides, too, but they can also be souvenirs of a wonderful night out or a fabulous vacation, of a great meal enjoyed with close friends, of the flavours that remind you of home.
I love collecting local cookbooks; I also think they make killer gifts. Last Christmas, I wrote about the Top 5 Vancouver Restaurant Cookbooks as a great Vancouver gift idea; the list includes the latest offerings from Vancouver culinary stars like Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar and West Restaurant.
Weighty, gourmet tomes like the ones I just mentioned do make wonderful gifts for big occasions, but I recently (and belatedly) discovered an even better option for cookbook collectors who, like me, love the memories associated with local recipes: the Cook the ‘Hood series of Vancouver cookbooks.
Cook the ‘Hood is the brainchild of author and entrepreneur (and Vancouverite) Wendy Walsh. Started in 2009 with the first Cook the ‘Hood book, Cook the ‘Hood: Commercial Drive, this hyper-local series of cookbooks has versions from three of Vancouver’s best-loved neighbourhoods: Commercial Drive, Kitsilano, and the West End. In each book, Walsh collects over 20 recipes from the popular restaurants and shops that embody that particular neighbourhood. For example, Cook the ‘Hood: West End has recipes from The Boathouse, Raincity Grill, O’Douls, and Cloud 9.
Aside from the awesomeness of having recipes from local favs like Kits Beach’s Watermark and Commercial Drive’s La Grotta del Formaggio, there’s another reason to love these cookbooks: a portion of the proceeds from each book goes to a food security charity that helps people in each neighbourhood who need food. Plus, at only $12 a pop, these slim cookbooks are a lot less expensive than a high-end restaurant cookbook.
According to the West End BIA, Walsh is planning new editions from Gastown and Whistler Village; I can’t wait!
Ever tried a recipe from the Cook the ‘Hood books? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.