|A Review of: Wish: Market to Table, a Food & Entertaining Guide
by Brian Fawcett
If Emily Richards may not be all that exotic, but her multicultural credentials are impressive. Of Italian descent, she grew up in Sault St. Marie, Ontario, has a Portuguese maiden name (Fernandes), and is married to an Anglo-hence the WASP surname. She's actually of Calabrian descent, which isn't quite the same thing as being Italian. Not surprisingly, most of her recipes reflect the Calabrese palate, which uses more tomatoes and less dairy, leans more toward simplicity and quality of materials and steers clear of the sometimes overwrought complexities of northern Italian cooking. She's also a long-time contributor to the lifestyle magazine, Canadian Living, and a co-host of Canadian Living Cooks, which appears on the Food Network Canada.
That connection is likely the source of the book's chief flaws, and there are several: Aside from the built-in difficulties of trying to set recipes for "average" Canadian women who shop for food at some theoretical supermarket concocted by Canadian Living's market research department, Richards tends to treat her readers as chronic dieters who've just fallen off the proverbial turnip truck and are perpetually in danger of falling off the dieting wagon. What I mean by this is that she goes into sometimes pedantic but utterly unhelpful detail with the recipes and culinary advice. At one point, for instance, she counsels readers to have "a variety of pots and pans" and sharp knives. Then, to prove that the obvious can't ever get obvious enough to suit television-think, she backs off on the sharp knives by saying that, well, it's more important to choose a knife that's "comfortable". This advice will probably send more than a few safety-crazed suburbanites to carving roasts with butter-knives, but there's an element to it that isn't quite so funny. It leads to the implicit suggestion that substituting inside her recipes is just fine.
This is a shame, because her sense of Calabrese cooking is accurate and thoroughly refined, and if taken seriously, many of the recipes are excellent representatives of one of the world's undervalued cuisines.