Q&A: Karen Ralph, author of “Calgary Eats”
Karen Ralph, author of the newly released Calgary Eats, is a freelance writer, food and wine instructor at The Cookbook Co. Cooks and organizer of the wine tours for its annual food and wine camps in the south of France (she has travelled to France 22 times—and counting). As well, she is a long-time contributor to City Palate, a self-titled roving ambassador for Metrovino, and co-author of Calgary Cooks.
How do you normally start your day?
My day generally starts early, when the cats patrol around the bed moaning for food. My husband gets up and takes over the kitchen. As soon as he’s out the door I make a delicious cappuccino and weather permitting sip it on the deck, just enjoying the coffee. After that I check emails, news etc. and get on with the day.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently reading Dancing in The Dark by Karl Ove Knaussgaard, the first of his series. There are always cookbooks open to whatever I’m making or researching. Herbal Celebrations Cookbook by Noël Richardson and her daughter Jenny Cameron is an favourite since I need ideas on how to best use my bumper crop of tarragon.
What’s your favourite go-to ingredient?
My go-to ingredient has got to be lemons. I love lemons and use them in almost everything to brighten flavours.
What food is your guilty pleasure?
We have a ton of sushi restaurants in Calgary and I love it but it’s not something we eat regularly. I worry about the blue fin tuna and how our voracious appetite for all things from the sea is decimating fish populations so it’s a rare treat.
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
There were several people who influenced my cooking. My mom is the quintessential farm woman who will walk into the house from the garden or driving a combine and whip up lunch and dinner for however many people may show up -without losing her mind. I think her motto has been “more potatoes and kill another chicken.” My friends Jenny and Sarah Cameron and their mom Noël Richardson who owned The Ravenhill Herb Farm in Saanichton were powerful influences with their focus on local, organic ingredients. My friend and co-author Gail Norton is truly an inspiration; she can casually create a multi-course dinner for 12 within two hours after working all day. Trisha Beavers, excellent friend and catering colleague who can cook with the best in the gnarliest of kitchens under intense pressure. Plus Julia Child, Nigella Lawson, Richard Olnay, Elizabeth David and many others.
Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat?
The only food I really don’t like is green peppers although I also struggled with intestines that were “full” and they were in a soup. They tasted fine, it was just the “full” part that concerned me.
The thing I love about Calgary is…
I love the adventurous, vibrant spirit of Calgary and our collective love of new flavours and cuisines that enhance, refresh, reboot and inspire our daily dining.
Calgary Eats: Signature Recipes from the City’s Best Restaurants and Bars is available now.