Author Tags: Cookbook

Eve Johnson was born in B.C. and studied history at UBC. In 1973, with her colleagues Alice Niwinski and Anne Kloppenborg at the Vancouver Social Planning Department, Eve Johnson co-produced five issues of the Urban Reader pertaining to local history and photographs that became the basis for a bestselling coffee table book, Vancouver's First Century: A City Album (Douglas & McIntyre, 1977). Royalties from that title, revised and reprinted in 1985 and 1991 as Vancouver: A City Album, have helped to finance the City of Vancouver Book Award.

A former food editor at the Vancouver Sun, Eve Johnson wrote about food for the Sun from 1987 to 1997 and produced two books in the process--Six O'Clock Recipes and Five Star Food. These were followed by Eating My Words (Whitecap, 2003) with a foreword by Arthur Black, with whom she was heard on his national CBC Radio program called Basic Black.

[BCBW 2003] "Cookbook" "Local History.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Vancouver's First Century: A City Album
Vancouver's First Century: A City Album, 1860-1960

Eating My Words (Whitecap $19.95)

FROM ARUGULA TO ZABAGLIONE: Eve Johnson figured writing a food column for The Vancouver Sun would be straightforward, but recipes continually led her to the intersection of food, sex and religion.

Johnson’s appetite for meaning has led to Eating My Words (Whitecap $19.95), a collection of essays and recipes that examines everything from the social evils of gin in 19th century London to the number 40 in Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.

“Forty, as anyone who has had a 40th birthday knows, is a number vested with magical significance. “The Bible is full of forties. My 1965 edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable has this list: “Moses was forty days in the mount: Elijah was forty days fed by ravens; the rain of the flood fell forty days, and another forty days expired before Noah opened the window of the ark; forty days was the period of embalming; Nineveh had forty days to repent; Our Lord fasted forty days; He was seen forty days after His resurrection... Forty can be read as either four tens or ten fours. There are four directions, medieval science knew four elements—earth, air, fire and water. There are four suits in our deck of cards, and ten cards in each suit.”

In Famous Pigs in Literature (Wilbur of Charlotte’s Web, Piglet of Winnie the Pooh) we learn the author’s mother once raised a baby pig. “Even when he got big enough to be in the barn, he was still allowed in the house. He was so much a favourite of the children that they took him out on family drives in the Model-T, which he dearly loved. On the last day of his life, he rode away to town very happily, with his paws up on the back windowsill and his snout taking in the smells.”

In Ginger, Johnson quotes from Ginger East to West to recall how the lusty Elizabethans gave way to the Puritans and the Victorians, until the unabashed use of aphrodisiacs was frowned upon. “It’s amazing, when you think of it,” says Johnson, “what exquisitely sensitive creatures the Victorians must have been, to grasp so surely the connection between gustatory pleasure and sexual pleasure, the dangerous proximity of receptors in the brain’s pleasure centres, the dread possibility of spillover.”

Through it all, Johnson never has her nose in the air as an elitist. “Everyone who cooks with any sense of adventure fails regularly in some way, major or minor. I bake bread, and I can assure you that it’s far easier than keeping your sense of direction inside buildings, or filing your tax return on time. All you really need to learn to bake bread is attitude.”

According to Johnson, cooking is an unrecognized art. Any masterpiece should be celebrated. “The cook’s just rage over lack of appreciation reaches its highest pitch when the ungrateful wretches we cook for don’t even do us the courtesy of sitting down at the table while dinner’s still hot.”

As a kid, Johnson had the nightly task of rounding up the family. “My father was always late for dinner. He was not making a statement about my mother’s cooking. He was even-handedly late for everything. Two hours with a carburetor passed for him like ten minutes.” Johnson’s solution for Johnny-come-latelys is never prepare meals that need to be eaten right way, unless there’s company. “For the rest, I make food that can be served at any temperature. As far as I’m concerned, antipasto plates are Italy’s major contribution to world peace.” Johnson’s other cookbooks are Six O’clock Solutions and Five-Star Food.

[Jeremy Twigg/BCBW Winter 2003]