Brown Eggs and Jam Jars
Published: February 2015
I still remember the first time I visited Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s pretty white and green home in a Montreal suburb, only a ten-minute drive from our house. In a move that surprised even her, Aimée had invited a group of “virtual friends” for a dessert get-together on a balmy summer night. My schedule all week had been so horrendous that I worked all through Saturday and had to drop by my favourite bakery on the way. I was the only guest who hadn’t baked her offering from scratch. In fact, as we were introduced around, many had prepared 2-3 types of bars, cookies and whatnots. Aimée herself, a trained chef and homesteading queen who can literally cook for a party of 70 people — my worst nightmare, let’s face it —, had baked multiple desserts. Despite truly indulgent smiles all around, as I handed over my store-bought lemon tart, it felt like the foodie equivalent of the walk of shame.
Fast-forward a couple of years. Aimée and I were invited by Cavalia to a special presentation of their new Odysseo show. As we sat around a low table in the restaurant lounge with her husband Danny and my son, Aimée leaned over and announced almost matter-of-fact that she had just signed her first two-book deal with Penguin books. I couldn’t have been more thrilled for her. Through Twitter and Facebook, like so many fans of her award-winning Simple Bites blog (she also blogs for Jamie Oliver, no less), I followed the making of the first book that’s just landed in bookstores.
Brown Eggs and Jam Jars is everything I imagined the book would be, and more. With her usual generosity, Aimée lets readers into her home and life, turning the book into an extension of the blog. Photographers Tim and Angela Chin follow her family and friends through the season, as she introduces us to seasonal cooking and entertaining, from sugaring off in the spring to cookie swaps at Christmas. Along the way, she shares her values and tips on how to talk to your kids about meat (yes, animals are raised and culled to feed us), how to prepare their own lunchbox, help in the kitchen or take care of the family garden. She also provides multiple primers on homesteading topics that run the gamut from building a greener kitchen to raising backyard chickens, tapping that maple tree in back of the house, composting and canning, or building raised garden beds. Word to the wise, you may start examining that backyard of yours to figure out where that fire pit could fit in, bylaws permitting. Usually interested in my newest cookbooks, Monsieur has been keeping away from this one, as if he fears the havoc to his to-do list of weekend chores. He’s not wrong.
Of course, central to the book are the recipes, simple, family-focused and, as one would expect, featured according to seasons. In the Spring, Aimée offers her favourite recipes for sugaring off and picnics. In the summer, she takes us to the backyard for some Grilling 101 classics. Autumn turns her kitchen into Jam Jar Central, a harvesting hub where comfort foods reign supreme. And for Christmas, she encourages us to cookie swap, batch cook and gather around the family table for traditional Sunday dinners.
Through it all, maple is given pride of place while familiar recipes get a fresh twist. Hot chocolate goes back to its Mexican roots, picnic sandwiches take inspiration from Vietnamese Banh mi, and pumpkin seeds dress up in trendy sriracha. There’s a sense of trust, tried and true, that emanates from the recipes, which any parent will understand and take comfort in. So while my groaning bookcases proffer the likes of David Thompson’s Thai Food or The Pigeon, books which challenge and intrigue but which I’ve never actually cooked from, I already know that Brown Eggs and Jam Jars will be the one going into regular rotation. To my family’s guaranteed gratefulness, needless to say.
As usual, I’ve cooked the book to put it to the test. Click below to link through to the two recipes that graced our family table, picked from the Fall-Winter section of the book, in true seasonal cooking fashion of course.
To buy the book from Amazon Canada: