A Taste Of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at The Edge Of the World
Winner (gold) of the 2016 Taste Canada Awards in the Regional/Cultural Cookbooks category
Winner (gold) of the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award.
Living on Haida Gwaii, “a remote archipelago” that lies equidistant from Luxor, Machu Picchu, Ninevah and Timbuktu, I have learned to fend for myself, and for my guests at Copper Beech House, in the culinary department.
Shortly after I took over Copper Beech House, in 2010, Nick Rundall, of Whitecap Books, and his partner, my old friend and a brilliant writer, Katherine Govier, came to stay. Nick convinced me that I needed to write a cookbook, and the idea for A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World was born. I tend to call it “a love story with recipes,” because much of the book revolves around my love affair with the land and the people who live here, whether by birth or by choice, or, in many cases, both.
Whitecap Press was eventually sold to Fitzhenry and Whiteside. When my friend Angela Long organized a launch in Toronto, I got the impression that my new publisher did not expect a cookbook about these remote islands off Canada’s northwest coast to do anything but simper on a back burner. The book is in its 9th printing, and has outsold my poetry, novels, children’s books and non-fiction put together.
“If it was up to me, it would be required reading for all would-be chefs as food requires lots of love and a great sense of humour.”
– Kathy Mitchell
“There is much to learn from the book, and not just about cooking. I would say it is a celebration of the people, and land and seascapes and the plants and animals of Haida Gwaii; in Susan’s words, it is a “testament to the people who live in the area and the wealth of food that’s there.”
— Nancy Turner in B.C. Studies
A question I was often asked, after my book hit the shelves, was, “What made you decide to be a cookbook author?” — as if somehow, I have taken up slumming. What qualified me to write about food gathering on Haida Gwaii? As a criminal lawyer once told me, “If you don’t have an area of expertise, claim one.”
My favourite section of the book contains a number of photographs of local dogs. They are incorporated in my lengthy chapter on making natural leaven bread. I had the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) of including photos of my neighbour’s dogs in the cookbook, knowing they would buy multiple copies as Christmas gifts. It worked, one of my closest friends bought 14 copies to give as Christmas presents in 2015, the year the book was launched.