Not just another cookbook!

Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse is not just another cookbook as much as it’s a mission statement about what it takes to lead a good life in Montreal. Anchored as it is in both the city’s time and place, this is the kind of book that’s bound to become a well-thumbed classic with its own well-earned place on kitchen shelves throughout the city. While most cookbooks try to take on the solemn tones that remind you of the Larousse Gastronomique on a rainy day, the Joe Beef cookbook is a romp that has as much a place on your kitchen counter as it does for a bit of bedside reading at the cottage when you’re planning menus for the weekend.

“Before you need $6000 (worth) of food, maybe you need to learn how to cook,” writes Frédéric Morin. “Maybe you need to be skilled at living in tight quarters with people without fighting all the time. Maybe you need to be skilled at cleanliness, kindness …all of these things.”

Joe Beef: Surviving the ApocalypseAnd that’s what this book’s all about, insofar as it quickly transforms itself into a conceptual roadmap for anyone who wants to seek a bit of shelter from the storm with a few friends around the dinner table.  As opposed to being little more than a thematic collection of recipes, the book transforms itself into a scrapbook full of personal anecdotes , observations  and lessons drawn from past experience that defines both the spirit and technique that you need when you want to put good food on the table.

As both McMillan and Morin are kitchen veterans with decades of working kitchen experience between them, their book  also reflects a particular Montreal attitude that shuns the solemn and quasi-obsessive qualities that are supposed to define ‘serious’ food in favor of both pleasure and people that make it all worthwhile.  Above all, this was the spirit they shared with the late Anthony Bourdain who was one of the first so-called food celebrities who could appreciate what the ‘Joe Beef’ duo were doing with their restaurant.

Aside from their reliance upon tried and true French ‘terroir’ traditions, the conceptual basis for ‘Surviving the Apocalypse’ is not so much to be on lookout for death, disease and destruction as it is to make do with what’s all around you because that’s all you’ve got to work with. In other words, the book is a locavore’s bible, and the authors are only too happy to point out what happens when you combine the right attitude with the bare necessities. While a fairly standard recipe for a ‘pot au feu’ always works in any cookbook, this is a book that describes how you can cook up a rabbit stew with a bottle of Porter just as easily as you can a carbonnade made up of frozen bits of a deer’s neck, onions and a carrot simmering in a dark beer.

Throughout the book, both MacMillan and Morin play up their own immediate community made up of diners (including Prime Minister Trudeau and former US President Barack Obama) their employees, and their suppliers who all help to provide a culinary experience that’s far superior to the sum total of its parts. While their reference to the debt owed to the nation’s Amerindian communities is well-appreciated by those who know something about Canadian cultural history, the author’s reference to Québec’s traditional Sunday Lunch does a lot to define the spirit and the fun that’s to be had with this book.

“Don’t just research your menu and your flowers,” writes Morin. “Research your guests as well.

Because if it’s going to be the end of the world as we know it, you really must find the time you need to share the moment with good food, good wine and good company.

Joe Beef is at: 2491 Notre-Dame West, Montréal, QC H3J 1N6. 514-935-6504  
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: First service 5:30PM – Kitchen closes 10:30pm.
Published by Random House

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