Vancouver Island Must-Reads

A great way to acquaint yourself with a culture is through its food and culinary customs. These three recently published books shine a light on Vancouver Island’s food culture and the unique individuals that make it one delicious place to live.


Chef Bill Jones, based at Deerholme Farm in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, is surrounded by lush forests. It’s a fitting landscape for his continued studies on wild edibles, a subject which he has been doggedly pursuing for many years. He is a confirmed mycologist, chef, culinary instructor, consultant and author – with 11 cookbook titles to his credit – including the recent The Deerholme Mushroom Book.  But his latest, The Deerholme Foraging Book: Wild Foods and Recipes from the Pacific Northwest (Touchwood Editions) digs deeper into the edible landscape of the Island from forest to field to seashore with lush colour photography, an identification guide and what to forage through the seasons appealing to both novice and expert. The book includes a section on survival skills in the wild, potential hazards and sustainable ways to harvest; how to create an exciting pantry of wild foods covering everything from drying to freezing to preserving to infusing and even making salt. The inspiring recipe section entices with dishes from appetizers to mains to desserts: consider smoked salmon with honey and grand fir needles or wok-fired crispy spot prawns with garlic and chilies followed by rosehip pannacotta. Jones’s book is comprehensive and creative in scope and confirms him as an expert in the field.

Author Don Genova‘s Food Artisans of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands (Touchwood Editions 2014), uncovers, in his first book, the passionate food artisans, chefs, bakers, breweries, coffee roasters, chocolatiers, wine makers and farmers that make the Islands exciting places to live and visit. Genova, a CBC journalist, has lived on Vancouver Island since 2003, and was drawn here by its laid-back lifestyle and amazing ingredients. “I’m so happy to be able to drive down to the docks on Cowichan Bay and purchase fresh shrimp right off the boat, or chat to the person who baked my bread, or grew my green onions at the farmers market on Saturday morning,” says Genova. Through mini profiles, Genova introduces the reader to the people behind a vibrant food network, their history, passion, skill and dedication to their craft. Peppered throughout with recipes, maps, website info, cooking suggestions and taste profiles, the book is an easy reference and essential guide for both resident and visitor, and is light enough to consider carrying with you on a road trip.

From the wilds of Tofino comes chef Lisa Ahier with her long awaited, The Sobo Cookbook: Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the End of the Canadian Road (Appetite by Random House). Both chef and storyteller, Ahier shares her most beloved recipes that have made her restaurant Sobo so successful alongside heartfelt stories of her history, how she became a chef, how she and husband/business partner Artie met and came to Tofino, and the relationships they have both nurtured with the many farmers, fishers and purveyors that supply them with exceptional ingredients. Sobo started out in 2003 as a food truck parked behind a surf shop and despite its remote location in Tofino, it attracted media attention across Canada and the US. They raved about the “killer” fish tacos and the polenta fries, and Sobo’s increased popularity spurned bigger locations, and finally a bricks and mortar location to dish up their democratic menu that appeals to everyone from surfer to foodie to families to hungry locals. The book is lushly illustrated with food photography and images of the restaurant’s stunning natural surroundings. Fans of Sobo will relish over 100 recipes including the famed fish tacos, polenta fries with Caesar dipping sauce, and Hippy chicken, a moreish recipe that sees chicken thighs first marinated in a mix of chipotle, cider vinegar, soy, garlic and lemon juice before being rolled in crispy, crunchy coating of nuts and seeds – including hemp – and deep fried! Wow! Ahier’s cookbook is a welcome addition to any food lover’s book shelf and a perfect souvenir from a place – and Lisa and Artie, two of the most amazing people – that we wish was closer. Oh, and don’t forget those “killer” margaritas. (Limit two!)

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