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Academics’ cookbook celebrates the taste of the islands

Edited and published at UPEI, book includes recipes and essays from around the world.

BY KAREN BIRCHARD | MAR 13 2013

What do bamboo rice, grilled wallaby, poutine and kid stew have in common? They’re the signature dishes from four of the islands included in a cookbook, A Taste of Islands, written mostly by academics with ties to many of the world’s islands.

This foodie book is edited by Anna and Godfrey Baldacchino at the University of Prince Edward Island and published by its Island Studies Press at the Institute of Island Studies. Godfrey holds the Canada Research Chair in Island Studies and is an associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology. Anna is an educator who specializes in early childhood education, teaching at Holland College and doing research at UPEI.

The chance to work together on a book appealed to both of them. “I love to cook,” said Anna. “And I love to eat,” adds Godfrey, “so it was the perfect match.”

The 264-page cookbook features 60 recipes, each accompanied by a full-page colour photo and a short essay about how the dish fits into that island’s history and contributed to its culture. All the continents are represented, as are a mix of large and small islands. Some are part of a country – like Montreal, home of poutine – while others are island nations like Malta, where rabbit is a national dish. Other locales include Pitcairn Island, with its Baked Banana Mash dessert, and Heard Island with its penguin pie. The latter island has no permanent population and this peculiar dish was created and eaten by visiting seal hunters.

Anna has explored the cooking on various islands where Godfrey’s research and academic appointments have seen the couple take up residence over the years, so she’s familiar with using local foods that might be hard to pick up in Canada. However, interest in international cooking has grown in Canada, so exotic ingredients are quite often available with a little searching. Often someone from an island can suggest a substitute. As for penguin, she suggests duck since both are fish-eating birds.

The cookbook took just over a year to go from idea to print. The Baldacchinos were visiting Taiwan and dining with a colleague when the conversation turned to the importance of food, the “social jelly of our lives,” according to Godfrey. The colleague suggested the couple put together a global island cookbook. UPEI’s Institute of Island Studies agreed and they emailed their extensive global network, looking not only for signature recipes but also the essays.

The book sells for $32, with all profits staying with Island Studies Press to defray the costs of other publications. The Baldacchinos haven’t ruled out another collaboration involving their far-flung network. “Maybe a cookbook of island beverages,” suggests Godfrey.

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