Captions such as “Building a Garden in a Crack Den” or “I love red Burgundy wine so much I want to pour it into my eyes” may not be what you find in your grandma’s cookbook, but if you’ve dined at Joe Beef in Little Burgundy, the lines in The Art of Living according to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts start to make some sense. The restaurant is named after Charles McKeirnan, aka Joe Beef, a 19th century Montreal inkeeper who was famous for feeding and housing the working class, keeping pet bears in the basement, and providing a watering hole for old school Montreal. The restaurant pays homage to the original “Joe Beef”, and while the decor could be described as eclectic, ketchy, or even tacky, it provides a comfy atmosphere that is lacking in most high-end restaurants. The atmosphere and attitude of Fred Morin & David McMillan‘s eatery really comes through in the writing of the book.
The book boasts 135 recipes for the French market cuisine served at the resto but also succesfully attempts to give us a lesson in Montreal (and Canada’s) history and culture, provides instructions for building a smoker, start a garden, and gives us an insight into Chef Fred Morin’s obsession with trains. As described, it’s more than just a cookbook, its a life book that reflects not only the food, but the philosophy and cultural relevance of the restaurant.
The media’s reception of the book has been interesting, tending to focus on the wackier parts that add shock-value to the articles, while not really telling the whole story.
I’m a person who usually hates cookbooks and following recipes, but I’ve enjoyed reading this through and through for its impressive and hilarious content. I even made some ricotta gnocchi from a recipe with a pleasant result that didn’t suck! (A first for me…)
I would definetely recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of the restaurant, but also to those who care about unpretentious, culturally relevant cuisine. The authors obviously care about their trade, which comes through in the impressive writing, not to mention the faboulous photographs by Jennifer May. The book and the restaurant are truly an inspiration for people that love their city, and love good food that stands for something. Good reading, and good eating!