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Q&A: Leanne Brown, author of “Edmonton Cooks”

Leanne Brown is the co-author of Edmonton Cooks, a sumptuous sampling of Edmonton’s thriving food scene from its top chefs and restaurants. She believes everyone deserves to eat good food every day and that cooking is the key. Most recently she wrote the award-winning, bestselling, Good and Cheap cookbook.

How do you normally start your day?

I am not much of a breakfast person. I love breakfast foods, just later in the day. I start by grinding coffee and then making a delicious pour over pot of coffee in our chemex. Then once food seems doable I reach for a piece of fruit, berries and yogurt or a bowl of oatmeal.

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished the wonderful Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West and absolutely adored it.

What’s your favourite go-to ingredient?

Oh man, this is impossible. I go through obsessions with ingredients and currently I am obsessed with honey and ginger as a pairing. Before that it was gochujang, before that zataar. But I guess the one thing that is always there and will never go out of style for me is garlic.

What food is your guilty pleasure?

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Own your tastes! Like what you like and who cares! So long as you eat in moderation it’s just fine. But there are certainly many unhealthy or trashy foods that I love. Potato chips are probably my main squeeze. Living in the US, I miss dill pickle potato chips so badly and bring back as many bags as will fit in my suitcase when I return.

Who has influenced your cooking the most?

A huge number of people, from my parents to the many chefs and cookbook authors I have adored and learned from over the years. This may sounds like a cop-out, but I am lucky enough to get to travel around the country and talk to people from a ton of different backgrounds about food, cooking and the barriers that keep them from cooking and eating the food they want to enjoy. I learn so much from people generously sharing their experiences and fears and the amazing people who write to me as well. I’m a home cook first, and I create recipes for the home cooking experience. The recipes I am always the most proud of are the simplest ones that create something delicious out of ingredients you’ll already have in the house. Those are the recipes that become a part of people’s lives and routines and that is what can really make a difference.

Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat?

I was a vegetarian for years and only started eating meat again recently, but now I will eat anything. I still don’t eat much chicken honestly, as I can’t stand the way the average chicken is raised, but when I can get good heritage chicken raised on a farm nearby it can be wonderful. Ditto for all meat really. Until the factory farm system is completely reformed eating meat will always be a fraught subject. The environmental impact as well as the obvious cruelty to animals and even people (in terms of unfair labour practices) in some cases is too much. Aside from the obvious endangered species I don’t think there’s anything I wouldn’t try once.

The thing I love about Edmonton…

It’s no longer my home, but it will always be home, you know? My favourite thing when I’m home is just spending time with friends and family, eating and laughing and sharing. There’s nothing better than a bike ride with a crew of your friends on a warm summer evening, the wind in your face, the sun just beginning to set. Aaaah.

Edmonton Cooks by Tina Faiz and Leanne Brown is available now!

September 12, 2016
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