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American Dreams

American Dreams

Portraits & Stories of a Country
edition:Hardcover
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Introduction

I still remember the voice, booming and sure, with an accent that was different from any I’d heard before. “Headed north,” it said. “Goin’ to see snow.”

It was the summer of 1979, and I was on my annual summer visit with my grandparents. We had stopped to fill up on gas on the way to the quaint Canadian town of Lakefield, Ontario. My sister and I loved these forays into simple country life, where we had a ritual of getting ice cream and eating it at the bakery or by the lake. It was a typical Ontario summer day: hot, sticky, and humid, with the sound of cicadas singing and the hum of lawn mowers in the air.

I couldn’t see the expression on my grandfather’s face from my spot in the back seat of his yellow 1976 Dodge Aries, but I imagine him smiling broadly as he responded. “Snow? You’ll be driving for quite a while until that happens.”

I strained to look out the window and observe the man with the booming voice—he was very large and stood beside a big car with a back seat full of kids and a trunk packed with bags and suitcases. After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, my grandfather got back in the car and we headed into town. He explained that the loud-voiced guy was an American from somewhere “down South” who had packed up his family to drive north to Canada—in the summer, no less—to see snow.

Granted, the internet hadn’t yet been invented, so it’s not as if the man could have googled it. But it was the late 1970s, so maps, books, newspapers, and television all did exist. And even though I was only in grade school, it seemed wildly presumptuous—and maybe even a little ignorant—to think that there would be snow in Ontario in the summer.

As we pulled up to the Lakefield bakery to get ice cream, my grandparents shared a good laugh. “Americans!” they said knowingly to each other.

The encounter with the loud man was the first time I understood that Americans were different. The voice, the tone, the accent, and the sureness with which he spoke made an impression on me. This man was certain that he was going to see snow, and he was willing to disregard the fact that he was sweating, the asphalt was searing hot, and the grass was brown. It was so intriguing, and made Americans seem particularly interesting to me. Who were they?

As the northern neighbor of the world’s most powerful country, Canada has a unique perspective on the United States. As former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said in 1969, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

The majority of Canada’s thirty-seven million people live within a hundred miles of the US border. We have all the same news sources, for the most part (Canada has their own stations, of course, but we tend to get our news from global sources), and anyone who grew up (as I did) in the 1970s and ’80s watched more American TV channels than Canadian ones. Living in Toronto, we got our US news feeds from Buffalo, New York. There was always something strangely fascinating about the number of fires and snowstorms that seemed to be reported on the Buffalo news. And Buffalo sports coverage was mostly about American football, while ours was mostly about hockey.

When President Reagan was shot in March 1981, I was thirteen years old, sitting on the living room carpet with my mom in an anxious hush, listening to the breaking news on the radio. It was around that time that I started to become aware that there were things going on in America that had little bearing on us in Canada. I also recognized that not much that happened in my country had much relevance in America. It was as if the border—only an hour and a half away from where I lived—was not just a boundary that separated the two countries, but a demarcation line that separated cultures and ideals. “Cross the border and it’s instantly different,” I recall people saying about visiting America.

My own travels to the United States when I was growing up mostly consisted of trips to Florida in the winter to visit relatives. We would fly down for school break and spend the majority of our time at the pool in a mobile-home complex of retired “snowbirds.” Up until then, I hadn’t really spent much time on the ground in America. My impression of the American landscape was formed from looking out the window of an airplane, and from watching movies and television, like much of the rest of the world.

As I grew older, I began to travel more. I spent a summer backpacking across Europe with virtually no money. I went back with even less money the following year, doing what was essentially a version of homeless traveling. Distance offers clarity, and each time I returned home, I felt acutely aware of the subtle differences that every culture and place present. Travel gave me an understanding of the ways in which we believe our circumstances and our way of life to be our “normal,” and how being exposed to different ways of being inevitably grows our capacity for empathy and compassion.

Sometime in the mid-’90s, while I was in my twenties, I ended up on a road trip through some of the Rust Belt towns of northern Pennsylvania and Ohio. Even then, it was evident that the manufacturing prowess of these towns was in decline. As we drove, I became increasingly distressed—I hadn’t imagined that there would be so many boarded-up shops, so many junked cars left to rot in fields. There was an edge, a sense of despair that I hadn’t thought I’d see in America. And yet, a few minutes’ drive from some of the blighted sites, we’d pass through a prosperous-looking strip of stores, then enclaves of huge, beautiful homes. The whole tableau would repeat itself again—areas of obvious struggle and decay abutting areas of prosperity and affluence. The disparity was striking.

Around the time of the 2000 American presidential election, I began to notice how the “American Dream” seemed to be referenced more frequently by politicians and the media. Think pieces questioned whether the American Dream was dead, politicians expressed hope for the reemergence of the American Dream, and advertisers and mortgage lenders sold things to people using their idea of the American Dream.

This idea of the American Dream has always been rooted in the fundamental mythology of American culture, despite the fact that it’s not written into the Constitution or any other important founding document. And, true to the mythological nature of the concept, it doesn’t have any one definition. At its most basic, the American Dream is understood to be the idea that if a person works hard enough, they’ll have an opportunity to better their life. Author James Truslow Adams was one of the first writers to popularize the phrase in his 1931 book, The Epic of America:

But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.

Though it hasn’t been formalized or legally encoded in any way, the American Dream is something that many people believe in, and that people around the world have heard referenced, whether or not they have ever set foot in the United States. Every American has, at some point, learned about the opportunity to live the American Dream, and likely grew up hearing that America is the greatest country on earth. Former vice president Dick Cheney wrote of America in his memoir: “We are, as a matter of empirical fact and undeniable history, the greatest force for good the world has ever known.”

The premise that a whole nation could be persuaded by the promise of a shared dream intrigued me. As a photographer interested in the human condition, I was taken by the idea that a model of success could be shared by—or imposed upon—the citizens of a whole country. It seemed like a really fuzzy concept to me, this idea that America, over any other country, is the best place to achieve your dreams. People all over the world aspire to build better lives for themselves and their families. But no one’s ever heard of the “British Dream” or the “Japanese Dream” or the “Canadian Dream” . . . It’s such a distinctly American idea, this notion that has been so tightly woven into the fabric of the national psyche, despite the distance between the mythology of the dream and reality for most Americans. Even in the richest and most powerful country on earth, there is such an abrupt division between wealth and struggle, and such a wide spectrum of deeply held ideals. The expectations, the hope, and the irony built into the American Dream became completely fascinating.

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Act Like a Lady

Act Like a Lady

Questionable Advice, Ridiculous Opinions, and Humiliating Tales from Three Undignified Women
edition:Hardcover
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Wanna Hang with the Gang?

Um, excuse us? Are you standing in a bookstore with a mediocre latte in hand asking yourself Am I That Bitch? and/or Do I need a book that speaks to me on a personal level?

Still questioning your life decisions?

Have you ever accidentally farted during sex?

Have you ever left a tampon in for way too long and lived to tell the tale?

Have you ever ugly-cried rom-com–style in the bathroom at work during your lunch break?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions (as they SHOULD BE) . . . AIN’T NO SHAME. . . . WELCOME TO THE LADYGANG!

We started the LadyGang with a simple mission statement: to make women to feel less alone. The three of us were individually fed up with the hyper-curated, bullshit-filled world around us. We were starving for something honest, raw, relatable, and a little messy . . . like women actually are. You know when you’re sitting around with your girlfriends, sharing your darkest, dirtiest, funniest, most cringeworthy stories, when one of you shouts with a mouthful of tequila and guac, “OMG! We should start a podcast!”? Well, that’s basically the idea behind the LadyGang.

Things started off remarkably smooth. Jac made a logo, Keltie created a layout for the show, and Becca called in ten favors with a smidge of blackmail from celebrity friends to come on as our first guests. But don’t get us wrong, we’ve definitely f***ed up along the way. Since our podcast launched in December of 2015, we’ve accidentally erased entire recordings, been in a legal battle that almost cost us all our savings, and unsuccessfully asked John Mayer to come on our show twenty-seven times. (FYI, this officially counts as twenty-eight, John . . . hello???) But with lots of hard work and some tough love with one another, the LadyGang has grown into quite the juggernaut. We have employees, a subscription beauty box, a merchandise store, a podcast network, a touring business, and a TV show! This is our first rodeo, and we’re constantly looking at each other thinking, How the f*** have we not been bucked off and kicked in the head yet?!

The truth is, the magic happens when the three of us sit in a room and just . . . talk. Much like the show Teen Mom, it was something we never planned for and definitely never expected. We all ran in a similar Los Angeles circle but were acquaintances at best and couldn’t be more different personality-wise. Keltie is the type-A workaholic whose idea of a good time is an afternoon at Home Depot preparing to DIY shiplap her own bathroom. Jac is the adventurous free spirit, an all-around “goodtime girl” who has never met a dartboard, cornhole, or Jenga game she didn’t like. And Becca is the cynical, blunt, and usually the most offensive cherry on top. Becca and Keltie had known each other while they were both professional dancers in New York City, and their paths continued to cross again and again. Becca accidentally became a pseudo-star on the hit TV show Glee and was interviewed by none other than Keltie on the Hollywood red carpet. Jac and Keltie share a mutual ex-boyfriend, and Jac will constantly remind everyone (and we mean EVERYONE) how Keltie “took her sloppy seconds.” But the driving force that brought us together was that all three of us felt stagnant in our careers. Our day jobs were not fulfilling us, not inspiring us, and, quite frankly, we were sick of working for the man.

And so the LadyGang was conceived.

Well, not quite. Before checking the trademark registry, we started the podcast with a different name. (Yes, that’s a thing. First piece of advice: don’t name a business without checking if someone else owns said business name.) We refuse to say the original name out loud now . . . it’s kind of like Voldemort. And after we made custom jackets, did a photo shoot, and launched the show, it became clear that even if we were to pool all our savings together, we would never be able to afford to purchase a trademark someone else owned. Speed bump number one: find a new name.

And so like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the LadyGang was born, again.

What started as a celebrity-driven podcast quickly turned inward to the three of us. Within the first few episodes, Becca admitted she dropped her dirty underwear, complete with a “snail trail” (use your imagination), in the parking garage to later be retrieved by her new boyfriend, now husband. And in that moment, Pandora’s box was ripped wide open. Nothing was too crude, gross, smelly, or inappropriate for our podcast. Our listeners thrived on our embarrassing stories about stumbling through womanhood, and seemingly overnight we had a worldwide gang of devoted ladies who celebrated our good weeks (like when Jac had a sandwich named after her) and cry-laughed at our bad weeks (like when Keltie was mistaken for Steven Tyler).

Since our show launched, we’ve had millions and millions of downloads, been nominated and lost both a Webby Award and a People’s Choice Award (which is great because losing is more on-brand for us). We’ve been featured in fancy magazines, walked red carpets, and even drank wine with Kathie Lee and Hoda on the Today show. We worked our asses off to make the podcast so radical that the E! network took notice and gave us our own TV show. We were “executive producers,” so not only did we have an important say in how our show was made, but we were also able to hire a staff full of radiant and smart women to produce us, film us, and reach down our shirts to mic us.

Although we would never agree on who has been our favorite celebrity guest on the show (Keltie says Ed Sheeran, RuPaul, and Jenna Fischer. Becca says Dorit Kemsley, Ryan Murphy, and Lea Michele. Jac says Nico Tortorella, Karamo Brown, and her mom), we all agree that the very best thing about starting the LadyGang has been meeting all our listeners out in the real world. Ladies stop us at concerts, on the street, and at drugstores while we are buying tampons, and we are constantly in awe of how f***ing awesome they are.

The LadyGang has become a community full of smart, accomplished, hardworking, caring, stylish, badass women who have their shit together but might also happen to be wallowing over a bad job, a bad breakup, or a bad spray tan. Maybe your guy does the dishes but won’t go down on you; maybe you just spent $2k to be in a wedding for someone you don’t even like; or maybe your parents, friends, ovaries, or boss are acting like f***ing jerks, and you just need somewhere to vent. The LadyGang has got your back.

This is “technically” an advice book, but we are well aware that we give pretty questionable advice. We hope that by being honest about our struggles, insecurities, breakups, divorces, leaked nude photos, and plastic surgery we can rip the veil off the bullshit that the world is currently selling you. Our mission is to help you feel more normal. You are not the only one who feels as if they have no idea what they are doing. When a f***ening is on the horizon, whether it be in a relationship, at work, or with a shitty friend, it’s really easy to feel like no one else has ever experienced the crushing pain you’re currently going through. But, in reality, everyone has gone through all of this shit and then some. We’ve all been full Natalie Imbruglia in the fetal position crying and lying naked on the floor, and all we ever needed was someone to talk to. If we didn’t have our ladies to lean on, womanhood would be completely unbearable.

For so long, it has felt like a woman’s success has been defined by whether or not she could achieve the “happily ever after” fairy tale. We have been sold this image of happiness as riding off into the sunset with a handsome prince, or living with a white picket fence, or having a dozen kids. Our value has been based far too much on things outside of us, and, frankly, we’re sick of it. Women are dynamic and real and messy and smart, and we have so much more to offer than society’s bunk-ass expectations of us. And don’t worry, we don’t hate men. We actually love them to death, but we also love our careers, our friends, sex, and, most important, we love ourselves (well, we’re trying to, at least).

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A Jane Austen Tarot Deck

A Jane Austen Tarot Deck

53 Cards for Divination and Gameplay
edition:Cards
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Q&A a Day for Travelers

Q&A a Day for Travelers

365 Questions, 3 Years, 1,095 Answers
edition:Diary
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Astrology for Real Relationships

Astrology for Real Relationships

Understanding You, Me, and How We All Get Along
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. This book isn’t just about relationships. Yes, that’s how I’ve lured you in, but this book is actually about you.

Astrology offers you a great way to learn about the people in your lives. But, more important, it also provides you with useful tools you can use to get to know yourself. Once you understand all the pieces of your own personal puzzle—who you really are and what you really want—you can become an actualized and an empowered participant in each and every relationship you decide to pursue.

Astrology is a vast and amazing system for understanding your insides and your outsides, and how to bridge the gap between the two. And when I talk about relationships and intimacy, I’m really talking about your mental, emotional, and spiritual health. How you feel in your own skin is directly related to how close you are willing to get to other people. And for those of us who have been discouraged from having agency around our feelings and our bodies, letting people in can be especially hard.

I hope you use this book as a resource for understanding how the placement of the planets in your birth chart relates to your intimacy issues with friends, lovers, and romantic partners. Astrology is complicated! So, let’s start at the beginning.

WHAT IS ASTROLOGY?
Astrology is a system of divination. It’s the study of the movements of celestial objects that has been used throughout cultures and time. Astrologers look at where the planets are in the sky and in relationship to one another to determine cycles and trends of experience.

Astrology isn’t a belief system; it’s a tool for understanding that has been associated with a wide range of belief systems for thousands of years. There are agnostic astrologers, Buddhist astrologers, anti-capitalist Radical Fairy astrologers, and Christian astrologers. There are those who believe everything is light and love, and others who believe we’re all doomed. You can apply any spiritual or philosophical viewpoint to the stars.

ARE YOU GOING TO TELL ME ABOUT MY SIGN?
Most popular astrology reduces a super complex, multi-planet system down to your Sun sign. Because of this, people have a tendency to categorize and pathologize individuals based on their Sun signs. That is not only narrow-minded, it’s also a missed opportunity. The Sun governs your identity and your sense of self—it’s important, yes, but it’s just one part of who you are. For instance, the placement of the Moon tells you about your emotions, the placement of Neptune tells you about your ideals, and where Mercury falls in your chart offers insight about your mind and your thoughts.

WHAT IS MY BIRTH CHART?
Your birth chart is a visual representation of the night sky at the moment and location of your birth. In Western astrology, a birth chart is always a circle. It provides you with information about your nature in the past, present, and future. This book won’t teach you to thoroughly read birth charts; these charts are a tool for astrology students and professionals alike to more deeply understand the relationship implications of planetary placement by sign and house.

In order to find out in which house a planet is found, you need to know your time of birth and to plug it into a chart-drawing tool along with your birth date and place. You can find one on my website. Your ascendant (also called your Rising Sign) is a key part of your identity and relationships, but this book will not cover the four major angles, the Ascendant (ASC), the Descendant (DEC), the Midheaven (MC), and the Imum Coeli (IC).

Like a pizza with twelve slices, a birth chart is a wheel divided into twelve parts; one for each zodiac sign. These pieces of the pie are called houses (see the list on page 4), and each house governs a part of your nature that gets expressed in different parts of your life. Each sign is governed by a planet and has a house that it calls home (see chart, opposite). All of these layers of information make up your nature.

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Dungeons & Tombs (Dungeons & Dragons)
Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Dungeons and tombs are places filled with adventure. Every door, a new mystery to be unearthed. Every encounter, a chance for victory or disaster.

This book is a tour through some of the most frightening and fatal places in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a guide to their masters and myths, their creatures and corridors. It will show you six lethal lairs, introduce you to the beasts that live within, and then teach you how to construct your own diabolical dungeon.

Read this book from start to finish, or open it to any spot, get entranced by the cool artwork, and start your journey there. The more you read, the more you’ll discover. The more you discover, the easier it will be to imagine your own heroic tales as you and your friends explore the unknown and gather hidden treasures.

Will your quest lead to fame, fortune, and songs sung of your deeds, or will your legend be lost in the shadow-filled crypts that have claimed countless other heroes? In the end, that’s up to you. Dungeons & Dragons is all about unique adventures, and yours is about to begin.

Be brave!

PREPARING FOR YOUR DUNGEON DELVE

Before you head into the darkness, ready to explore and fight creatures fearsome and foul, you’ll want to do a bit of preparation. Dungeon delving is a dangerous occupation. Adventurers with a bit of foresight and a plan tend to survive longer than those who charge empty-headedly into the unknown. Courage is good. Courage and the right tools for the job are even better. Think about these questions and then get ready for your journey.

• Who is in your adventuring party? Are you traveling alone or in a group? Check “Your Adventuring Party” on the facing page for some options, or build a more detailed set of characters using the Warriors & Weapons or Wizards & Spells books, which may also inform answers to the other questions.

• Where are you going? A cave, a castle, a swamp, a scorching desert, an undersea lair, a boneyard, or somewhere else? If the trek looks like it will be a long one, you’ll want to make sure you bring bedrolls, blankets, a tent, and a way to light a fire. Are you prepared to hunt for food and forage for your meals, or are you bringing rations?

• What climate might you encounter once you get there? Hot or cold, bright or dark, wet or dry? Each possibility requires different clothing to stay comfortable. Can you see in the dark? If not, do you have a light source you can count on?

• Do you have a map of, or other knowledge about, the dungeon you seek? Any information at all is better than heading into a complete mystery. Legends, rumors, or local gossip may all prove helpful as you delve into fortresses, ruins, caverns, or crypts.

YOUR ADVENTURING PARTY
In DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, you and your friends take on the roles of adventurers who have banded together to fight monsters and gather treasure. Each hero will have their own special skills, determined by their character class. Here are a few of the most common types of heroes and their unique abilities.

• Barbarian Fierce, primal warriors capable of entering a mighty battle rage.
Bard Magical entertainers who can inspire, heal, and create illusions through their performances.
Cleric Faithful warriors who wield divine magic in service of a higher power.
Druid Shapeshifting guardians who draw upon the power of nature.
Fighter Soldiers and mercenaries trained in a variety of weapons and armor.
Monk Masters of the martial arts who use mystic energy to empower their attacks.
Paladin Holy champions who combine divine magic with martial skill.
Ranger Scouts and trappers who blend fighting skills with keen knowledge of their surroundings to protect the wilderness.
Rogue Thieves, acrobats, and explorers who specialize in stealth and trickery to overcome obstacles.
Sorcerer Spellcasters whose power comes from their magical birthright.
Warlock Magicians who gain their power through pacts with otherworldly creatures.
Wizard Scholarly magic users who can manipulate reality itself.

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Effin' Birds

Effin' Birds

A Field Guide to Identification
edition:Hardcover
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Introduction

Have you ever listened to the melodic chirping of birds and wondered what they were trying to communicate?

Some of the world’s most brilliant scientists have spent decades studying birdsong to gain an understanding of birds: their society, their needs, their hopes and dreams. Are birds gripped by the paralysing fear that they’ll fail to provide for their families? Do they aspire to meaningful careers? Are they frustrated at the pace of social progress in the world? 

It turns out that these were the feelings of the scientists and not the birds at all. Advances in machine learning over the past ten years have allowed for detailed scenario analysis of birds and their songs, and multiple computer-driven studies* that compiled years’ worth of audio and video recordings came to an astonishing conclusion: most of the time, birds are just saying, “F**k off.”

Sometimes they’re saying f**k off to predators. Sometimes to other birds. In the studies, scientists found that the birds were disproportionately saying f**k off to the scientists studying them, which led to some sober re-examination of their birdhandling protocols.

This astonishing breakthrough has led to re-evaluations of historic recordings, including one analysis that showed US President Lyndon B. Johnson’s pet lovebirds telling British Prime Minister Harold Wilson to “f**k off and keep f**king off until your feet get wet” during a White House visit, and another in which Challenger the Bald Eagle told Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to “find a newer and more interesting way to f**k off” at the 1998 World Series. Most embarrassingly, computer analysis shows that the pigeons in the “Feed the Birds” scene of Mary Poppins are actually saying, “Just give us the f**king bread before we die of old age.”

While it would prove impossible to create a definitive listing of every way birds say f**k off, this book is an attempt to catalogue some of the most common, and to place them into broader societal context, along with identifying bird behaviours and characteristics. And while very few people will have access to the advanced computational power needed to understand birdsong precisely, the hope is that the knowledge contained in this book will allow you to look directly into a bird’s eyes and understand it when it tells you to f**k off with that s**t.

* I made these up because this book is fake—but keep that as a secret between you and me and the handful of other nerds who read footnotes.

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Alpine Cooking

Alpine Cooking

Recipes and Stories from Europe's Grand Mountaintops [A Cookbook]
edition:Hardcover
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Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

I was told by a station agent that the ski from Plan Maison station in Cervinia, Italy, to the Riffelalp hamlet above Zermatt, Switzerland, would take “about two hours, if that.” But what I should have paid attention to was the sign posted outside the lift ticket booth. “Weather conditions can change rapidly,” it said. “Please be particularly careful in event of wind, rain, fog, hail, or snowfall.”

And so, for the following hours as I made my way across the Italian border at an elevation of nearly 3,900 meters (13,000 feet), the winds increased, the sky turned black, and I couldn’t see my ski poles in front of me. I felt I was in the Upside Down, with little ability to orient myself. As I inched along, I encountered few people, which eventually turned into no people. The last person I saw was the Klein Matterhorn lift operator, who told me he was shutting down the lifts due to wind and even if I wanted to go back, I couldn’t.

I told myself to keep calm as I started the descent. What would normally take twenty minutes for an average skier like me took a lot longer, but I can’t tell you the specifics because I was scared, but also angry. Angry at the weather, angry because of the lifts, but mostly angry at myself for doing this—all for the purpose of eating Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (see page 212).

Alpine Cooking will take you from the Olympic glory of Italy’s Cortina d’Ampezzo, through the towering Dolomites to the northern Italian province of Alto Adige/South Tyrol, past Ötzi the Iceman’s place of discovery in Tyrol, Austria, down the slopes of Zermatt, Switzerland, and over to Mont-Blanc, ending in the twenty-one hairpin turns of the Alpe d’Huez in France. This book took six years to research, write, and travel . . . more if you count the incubating stages when I was trying to wrap my head around how to capture the enormity of these Alpine mountains and the food served within, alongside, and atop them. After completing a handful of Alpine trips myself, I wanted to share the experiences with my family and friends, who were inspired by the stories—often about food—I brought back home to Montreal. I yearned to buy books, or even a book, that combined the narrative of my past Alpine experiences with actual how-to tips and on-the-ground knowledge. I wanted a book about everything Alpine: from the best rifugios (mountain huts) to kitsch mountain films (it’s a genre!), Swiss folk art, mountain literature, hotels and the families who run them, history, and ghost stories. And, oh yes, recipes too. And maps. Lots of maps. Except that book didn’t exist.

Sure, there are Frommer’s and Lonely Planet and “just the facts” guidebooks. There are also haute cuisine cookbooks written by Alpine chefs. But that wasn’t my speed nor my vision. So, I decided to write this book; partly because no one else had done it yet—fit all of this skiable feast under one roof—and partly because I couldn’t resist the adventure of what lay ahead.

I remember early in my travels taking the chairlift in Alta Badia, Italy. As I ascended toward the church of La Crusc, with the alpenglow of the Dolomites behind it, I looked down, around, and behind me at the rifugios and huts all scattered in the snow like roasted chestnuts, and wondered what set one apart from another? Who served what? Could I ski to all of them? Were they open in the summer, and then could I hike to them? There was so much good eating in just one view.

I have skied and hiked mountains in Canada a few times, but rarely in the United States. The Alps are my first love, and they are all I really know. Upon seeing a photograph of my ski-day lunch, say, a Tiroler Gröstl (golden potato hash with local speck, and maybe cabbage and egg) with esoteric Alsatian bottles of wine sprouting out of the hills of snow behind me, my North American friends would comment about the lack of a Chef Boyardee facsimile served on a red plastic tray with a bag of Lay’s and a soda. As they recalibrated their idea of what mountain lunch could be, I realized how much of a story there is to tell. And so, I started keeping a journal of the people (chefs, hoteliers, helicopter pilots, winemakers, cheesemakers) I met, the best things I ate, the cultural observations, and the mistakes I made. (So many mistakes.) In trying to see, but moreover, eat as much of the Alpine range (200,000 square kilometers/77,000 square miles) as I could, I sometimes overlooked a detail. It usually included overestimating what is physically possible to do in one day without really considering weather conditions; for example, skiing to a hotel over a country boundary with my sleepover bag (and my laptop—how do you think I wrote this?) on my back through a blizzard. (And yes, those Zürcher Geschnetzeltes were worth it.) Or underestimating the amount of time it would take to drive from place to place, not counting the multiple stops for anything that looked remotely delicious.

Even after so much Alpine traveling time, this book is still only an Alpine primer—a two-dimensional account designed to inspire you. I came back from the Alps with approximately 175 recipes stuffed in my mind and proverbial snowsuit. Of those, I whittled down this collection to more than 75 must-haves, either because they are valuable and unique additions to any arsenal, or because the story of them was intrinsic to my Alpine trip. On the foldout pages, you will also find four country maps identifying the mountain-hut locations that inspired the corresponding recipes of my Alpine tour. And I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface here; indeed, I can imagine traveling the rest of my life, writing books of this size, and I still wouldn’t come close to capturing the magic of the mountains. Perhaps I’m just getting started.

I hope you cook from this book, sure, but the delicious and authentic recipes are just an excuse, really—a trail of little crumbs, and okay, fine, maybe some Reblochon too—to lure you into the mountains and to follow my journey, to encourage you to breathe in the mountain air. Many of these recipes are classics of mountain cuisine—dishes you’ll find in almost every inn of an area. Others reflect the talent and individual creativity of chefs I’ve met along the way. Still others were created at home, away from the Alps, and dedicated to the regions that inspired them. But all are rooted firmly in the Alps.

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