Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Interviews, Recommendations, and More

Food and Farming Books (by Margaret Webb)

"Saving our local food systems may well be the most important thing we do for future generations."

Book Cover Apples to Oysters

In 2008, I wrote a book about Canadian food and farming called Apples to Oysters: A Food Lover’s Tour of Canadian Farms. It captures the craziest, most delicious journey of my life – exploring Canada’s food regions by visiting farms, working alongside farmers and eating at their tables. That adventure, along with my favourite Canadian books on food and farming listed below, made me realize that saving our local food systems may well be the most important thing we do for future generations.

Anita Stewart’s Canada by Anita Stewart: I first discovered Anita Stewart’s work in a remainder bin. That book -- The Ontario Harvest Cookbook, which she co-authored with Julia Aitken in 1995 – changed my life in a couple of ways. Stewart wrote about local food well before The 100 Mile Diet became a book and locavore a word, and she was talking about recipes and farmers from my farm roots in Ontario. I fell in love with making soup from a squash soup recipe in that book, and the vignettes about Ontario’s food regions that accompanied the recipes struck me in the way that Atwood writing about Canadian themes influenced other writers – wow, this is possible and important. She cofounded Cuisine Canada (a network of Canadian culinary pros) and the Cuisine Canada national food book awards. She followed that Ontario cookbook with a slew of must haves for the Canadian cook’s bookshelf, including The Flavours of Canada and Anita Stewart’s Canada.

Book Cover No Nonsense Guide to World Food

The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food by Wayne Roberts: Wayne doesn’t know this, but I adopted him as my dad around the time I read this book. My biological father, a farmer, lost his mind when I was about 15, likely brought on by exposure to farm chemicals. I have been looking for a smart, kind, funny and inspiring guy to fill my dad’s big work boots ever since. Wayne’s writing on food in his Now magazine column gives me my dad fix every week. World Food put me, a neophyte food writer, on Wayne’s worldly knee as he explained how the international food system works – or rather doesn’t. As a No-Nonsense Guide, it’s supposed to be a fast easy read, but I pored over it for days, rereading and underlining passages because Wayne’s brain is so big, you want to sit back and marvel at his ideas. He headed up the Toronto Food Policy Council until he retired last year to write about food systems full time. Lucky us.

Book Cover 100 Mile Diet

The Hundred Mile Diet by Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon: MacKinnon has long been a personal hero of mine as Canada’s premier nonfiction stylist and adventure travel writer. His co-author and partner in life brings the deep narrative hooks to this story about their year of adventures in local eating. You might think the title explains the whole concept so why read the book? Well, because you’d be denying yourself some serious reading pleasure as well as critical knowledge about why local food is so important. This is a book that puts the “culture” back into agriculture.

Book Cover Locavore

Locavore by Sarah Elton: Oh, heck, why don’t I just give you what I blurbed for the back of Sarah’s book: “Lively, compelling and warm-hearted journalism with a generous helping of rigorous research, Locavore dishes up an insightful look at Canada’s food system: how it once worked, why it fails us now and, most importantly, what we can do to create a sustainable, delicious future.”

City Farmer by Lorraine Johnson: Johnston was writing about organics, guerilla gardening and backyard chickens long before any of this stuff was cool. The “punk earth mother,” as she has been called, is always hoeing a few rows ahead of us. In this book, she explores the theory and everyday acts of city farming, which is gardening with a serious focus on food production. The book has a great list of resources, and packs practical tips and inspiration into entertaining stories about urban food production.

Book Cover the End of Food

The End of Food by Thomas Pawlick: Don’t confuse this lively read with The End of Food, by Paul Roberts, who borrowed the title for his leaden and oddly dispassionate look at the world’s broken food system. Pawlick, on the other hand, writes like a man who’s royally pissed off about how corporations have squeezed the nutrition out of food, bankrupted farmers and gotten stinking filthy rich by making us fat and sick. If you’re not pissed about that, you should be and reading Pawlick will help. He followed up with an equally and justifiably angry rant, The War in the Country, about how we must all fight to save our local farmers and food systems.

Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe: Grescoe does a Michael Pollan on seafood, taking us to the source of various seafood meals – fish sticks, pan-roasted monkfish, Bluefin tuna sashimi – to explain how we can eat ethically from oceans straining under the pressures of unregulated fishing, pollution and global warming. The book won a slew of awards and for good reason – this is a pretty depressing topic, but Grescoe is a hugely entertaining writer and he offers practical and well-researched advice on how to eat seafood ethically.

Margaret Webb

Margaret Webb is the author of Apples to Oysters: A Food Lover's Tour of Canadian Farms (Penguin, 2008), which won a silver at the 2009 Cuisine Canada/University of Guelph National Culinary Book Awards and was shortlisted for a 2009 Evergreen Award.

Comments here

comments powered by Disqus

More from the Blog