“It really celebrates and highlights the Saskatchewan food and culinary scene.”
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When Naomi Hansen went looking for a book of popular Saskatchewan recipes and didn’t find one, she decided to create one herself.
Only in Saskatchewan: Recipes and Stories from the Province’s Best-Loved Eateries, is the Saskatoon writer’s first book and is published by TouchWood Editions. It’s set to launch May 3.
Recipes from the province’s best-loved restaurants, bakeries and cafés are paired with profiles of the chefs and businesses behind them, as well as landscape and food photography by Garrett Kendel.
“It really celebrates and highlights the Saskatchewan food and culinary scene … in a way that perhaps hasn’t been done before in the province,” Hansen said.
She spoke with the StarPhoenix about researching and writing her first book.
Q: What makes this cookbook stand out from similar books on the market?
A: It’s unique because there are spots that people will recognize, that people may have visited before. There is a bit of a connection just to people in Saskatchewan seeing something they recognize within the pages.
I would say as well, the photography really, really sets the book apart. I think when people think of Saskatchewan, they think of flat prairies, and we obviously do have a lot of that here. But I did want to highlight some of the other types of landscapes and that diversity.
Q: How did you decide which restaurants, bakeries and cafes to include?
A: The theme is “only in Saskatchewan,” so that was the guiding principle. Before I started writing, I spent six weeks doing a deep dive into Saskatchewan eating establishments.
I wanted to showcase some really historic, longstanding, well-loved spots. And then, because the food scene here has really seen such growth in the last 10 years, I wanted to include some newer places as well that were doing really interesting and innovative work in the kitchen and had that connection to local food.
Q: What is a memorable story you came across in your research?
A: In Saskatoon there’s Baba’s Homestyle Perogies. But what’s interesting is that there used to be another perogie drive-thru called the O&O. And that one was a separate business.
Saskatoon has this perogie history of drive-thrus going back to 1960, and we still have one today and it’s still the only one in Canada. The current owner of Baba’s Perogies often gets asked if there’s a connection between the two restaurants, or if they were the same, just because of the drive-thru connection.
Q: What was one challenge that came up while working on this book during the pandemic?
A: The pandemic did cause a few challenges for me in terms of some of the locations I wanted to include. For example, there is one spot in P.A., Amy’s on Second. Unfortunately, in November of 2020, that place closed down permanently. I was unable to include them and I don’t have a different one from P.A.
So, the pandemic did cause some geographic gaps in places that either closed permanently or chose not to participate because they were unsure what would happen.
Supporting local has been something that has come to the forefront during the pandemic a lot. Supporting local businesses has never really been more important, in my opinion.
Q: What one recipe in the book have you made the most?
A: The shakshuka from Free Bird in Lumsden. It’s got this tomatoey sauce with vegetables, and then there’s chorizo in it and you bake eggs on top and make it in a cast iron pan. It’s got green onions and parsley on top for garnish and it’s just so good. It’s a super simple, easy brunch recipe. And it’s great the next day for leftovers.
Q: What do you hope readers gain from this cookbook?
A: In the cookbook, I hope people will find a recipe that they really love, that they want to recreate at home. I hope people will feel inspired to visit some of the spots and actually travel the province and explore what we have here.
I hope that maybe people outside of the province will be interested in the book too, and see that Saskatchewan has so much to offer in terms of the food and culinary scene. We have so much worth celebrating.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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