Two of Joe Beef’s owners drop a new cookbook-and-more today, with Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse now available in the US and Canada. (The French-language edition has been out for a couple of weeks already.)
This is book number two for Fred Morin and David McMillan, owners of the immensely successful restaurant in Montreal’s Little Burgundy, and it comes over seven years after their last release, The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. (Third owner Allison Cunningham was not involved with either book.)
Given that McMillan and Morin are culinary, rather than literary guys (as any followers of McMillan’s Twitter would probably be aware), so the pair are joined by professional author Meredith Erickson, who also worked on the Art of Living and is a former Joe Beef server. A Canadian author, Erickson also co-wrote books for two prominent Portland, Oregon dining institutions — French restaurant Le Pigeon, and charcuterie big-hitter Olympia Provisions.
The book has been in the works for a few years now — back in 2014, McMillan proposed that it would be “a kind of field guide for family men who think outside the box”. It has since evolved, yet is still a field guide of sorts — now, it’s billed as a how-to guide for surviving the apocalypse — complete with a section to canning and preserving goods for one’s fallout shelter.
As the intro notes, Erickson and team are fully cogent of the timeliness of the book’s angle, between extreme weather and various extreme elections around the world. But the theme isn’t taken literally — with a dash of survivalism, it’s more about recipes (and life advice) for making it on one’s own, and, of course, making things from scratch.
Subtitled “a cookbook of sorts”, Surviving the Apocalypse is only part-recipe book; it’s loaded up with anecdotes and asides that provide insight into Morin and McMillan’s lives and thoughts, as well as their restaurants. With wide-ranging chapters from one focused on Joe Beef itself, to Sunday dinners, to a section in praise of public television network PBS.
It should come as no surprise that the book’s culinary tone is woodsy — the much-overused term “rustic” truly does fit, with no shortage of meaty dishes to be stewed up over a long period, perhaps in a Dutch oven, from stroganoffs to pots-au-feu or even a moose stew. But despite Joe Beef’s well-documented predilection for intensely meaty items, the book is well-rounded in its 150-odd recipes, and some odds-and-ends extras such as recipes for cough drops, Worcestershire sauce, or even soap.
Given that McMillan and Morin extoll the virtues of Quebec’s local produce so much, it’s only fitting that the book also has a section inspired by Indigenous cuisine, compiled with the help of Mohawk professor Taiaiake Alfred, originally from Kahnawake, near Montreal.
It bears mention that the book is certainly no casual cookbook. It shows that Erickson, Morin, and McMillan have not taken the easy route of simplifying their ideas for the cookbook-buying crowd. On the flip side, that means the recipes are in many cases quite involved, and with quite particular ingredients, be it birch bark, whelks, or multiple varieties of mushrooms in one dish. It’s not inaccessible, but readers without ample time to say, stuff their own sausages — or readers hailing from someplace geographically distant from Quebec — may not have the easiest time nabbing ingredients like Montreal smoked meat.
That said, there’s still ample more approachable recipes to work with — and it’s bolstered by an impressively-presented array of visuals to boot.
Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse is out November 12 on Les Editions La Presse (in French only) and November 27 from Random House Canada and Knopf Doubleday Publishing (USA).