I heard about Joe Beef through the food blog grapevine, but as a gluten free vegan I didn’t think it would be quite up my alley. Then David Lebovitz went and blogged a round up of his favorite cookbooks, and I could no longer stay away. That is his power.
As promised in every review, The Art of Living According to Joe Beef is filled with beautiful photography of food and locales around Montreal. As I expected content-wise, the book had little to offer me in terms of anything I could actually eat short of a cucumber salad. But that’s not really why we read these hybrid of cookbook-slash-memoiry type books, is it? I have a little peeping Tom in me, and while I’m not interested in scaling your house to plant my face against your window, I am interested in what you’re eating right now. Food is intimate. It has a story to tell, and some people have a gift for telling that story while others have a gift for creating the food and continuing the story. To me, Joe Beef falls in the second category.
The owners’ ideas about food are at the heart of this book. They have a clear vision of who their customers are and the type of restaurant they want to run. Besides a flair for cooking and building nick knacks like meat smokers, their success comes from a determination to live their lives the way they want to. I think it’s this message that resonates most, but my favorite parts of the book were the slices of history about the Canadian rail and the origin of some of Montreal’s traditional dishes that are vanishing from menus. And the wine section ought to come with a warning that you will be overcome with an insatiable craving for a glass of Burgundy.
While you really can’t beat spending a few hours with people who love their life and work, I would only recommend this book to people who are really into their meats and seafood. What I gained most from this read is a travel to do: ride the Canadian rail from Toronto to Vancouver with wine and maybe a friend.