By Mack Male
A new cookbook launching in December captures the stories of how Edmontonians redefined comfort through food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our Stories Our Food: Edmonton's Comfort Foods is an initiative of Converse and Cook. It features more than 50 recipes and stories from people who took action in their kitchens to provide comfort and hope to others.
"That's what is so special about this cookbook," co-founder Mishma Mukith told Taproot. "It holds these stories that you can keep, kind of like a time capsule."
It also reflects a diversity of experiences, added co-founder Juanita Gnanapragasam. "There are contributions from doctors, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, and so many others," she said. "It really hits home how isolating the pandemic was."
Georgette Popoff is among the people featured in the cookbook, with a recipe for sweet and sour ribs. She launched the "Happiness is Homemade" initiative on the YEG Community Response to COVID-19 Facebook page with a simple offer to cook a homemade meal for anyone who wanted to drop off their groceries. The initiative took off, and eventually, Popoff and her team of volunteers were preparing more than 100 meals a week.
"During the pandemic, I was honoured for my humanity efforts in doing my part to help others in so many ways, but THIS is an absolute honour, as I am one of 60 featured," Popoff said of her inclusion in the book. "It is a true homage to my mother, who raised me to be who I am."
The cookbook also features contributions from local chefs and restaurants, including Matt Phillips of Northern Chicken, The Hallway Café, King Noodle House, and even Blue Plate Diner, which closed last summer.
"Everyone's definition of comfort is very different," Mukith said. "It isn't a one-size-fits-all, so that was interesting to capture all these different stories about what comfort food means to Edmontonians."
The cookbook launch will take place on Dec. 4 at the Strathcona Community League's hall. Registration for the free event is encouraged, and there is an option for a $20 ticket that includes a copy of the cookbook.
"There's a story for everyone in there," Gnanapragasam said. "It's a cookbook by the community for the community."