After moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia — a beautiful maritime city in the heart of Atlantic Canada — almost a decade ago, I have come to love this place like no other. There is a certain magic living by the sea and, before coming here, I assumed a homogeneousness in the culture and cuisine. One of the things I’ve learned is that there is much more to the menu here than just seafood (although if you ask my family from “out west,” lobster is always at the top of their list when they come to visit). And the diversity in what is grown on these fertile lands, is ever present when I buy food from the local farmer’s market. So, when I was offered a copy of DL Acken and Emily Lycopolus’ A Rising Tide: A Cookbook of Recipes and Stories from Canada’s Atlantic Coast, I double checked with the publisher to see if the recipes would be showcasing more than seafood. To my delight, the recipes would be a broad offering of ingredients found in these beautiful Atlantic-Canadian provinces.
While there are other cookbooks such as: Marie Nightingale’s Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens, Jeremy Charles’ Wildness, Pantry to Plate by Simon Thibault, as well as Elizabeth Bailey’s Maritime Fresh and Taste of the Maritimes, A Rising Tide takes the home cook through each of the four Atlantic Canadian provinces while offering recipes in a modern context. Each province (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador) gets their own chapter full of recipes using ingredients specific to that province or which are common across the region. While some of the recipes have been contributed by local chefs, Acken and Lycopolus have included their own recipes and ones inspired by their journey through Atlantic Canada. For home cooks concerned with being able to source ingredients, the authors have helpfully provided a list of East Coast ingredient substitutions so that you can successfully cook any of the recipes even if you can’t get some of the ingredients. Can’t find Haskap berries? You’ll be fine substituting a mix of blueberries and blackberries. Additionally, Acken and Lycopolus offer drink pairings for most of the recipes in the book, with all the selections coming from the regions wine and spirit producers.
When delving into what comprises the taste of Atlantic Canadian culinary scene the authors beautifully explain: “A rising tide floats all boats” is a saying common to all four of the Atlantic provinces. It’s a reflection of individuals coming together to form a community, the whole being stronger than the sum of its parts. Here — in this land that produces uniquely Atlantic flavours, where provincially rooted chefs marry creatively to tradition — we see the power of individuals working together to strengthen and redefine the East Coast culinary identity.(5) So, throughout the book, Acken and Lycopolus offer a fascinating exploration of the region, giving home cooks recipes which complement the explanations and stories from the farmers, producers and chefs. Not least of which are the amazing photographs throughout the book, which show the renowned beauty of the Atlantic provinces.
One of the best things about living in Nova Scotia are all the farmers markets — my market of choice being the Wolfville Farmer’s Market (which I am conveniently able to order from via Wolfville Farmer’s Market to Go). I was able to use some of the beautiful market produce that I buy weekly in the recipes from A Rising Tide. Earlier in the spring when the rhubarb was first offered at the market, I chose to bake up the recipe for Rhubarb Buttermilk Cake. Homey and delicious, this cake with its gorgeous crumble topping is a great way to enjoy this spring vegetable. Keeping with the dessert theme, I recently churned some delicious Haskap Sorbet from fresh market Haskap berries (the authors aptly describe their flavour as an herbaceous bumbleberry pie). The deeply jewel-toned scoops tasted as good as they looked and, if I am being honest here, I don’t care for eating these berries fresh. So, I found this recipe to be just the way to enjoy the flavour of these Nova Scotia treasures without enduring the texture.
The market beetroots are one of my favourite ingredients to cook with because they are so versatile — raw or roasted there are many ways to eat them. On a dull spring day, I made a pot of the Golden Beet and Apple Soup drizzled with honeyed yogurt for myself and my husband. It was sweet, earthy, and such a lovely mellow orange colour. Then for supper I made the Tricolour Beet and Lentil Salad. Roasting beets is such a great way to draw out their flavour and, paired with the French lentils, it was a hearty meal.
When I moved to Nova Scotia, I tasted dulse (a type of seaweed harvested in the region) for the first time. And, luckily living here, it’s as easy to buy as a trip to my local supermarket. The type I buy comes in a shaker full of tiny dulse flakes which can then be sprinkled into any number of dishes. In A Rising Tide, they give a recipe that’s now my favourite way to use dulse — as a popcorn topping. Here, the Dulse-Spiced Popcorn combines Parmesan cheese, dulse flakes, garlic powder, and melted butter making for the best tasting popcorn.
I don’t think a cookbook about Atlantic-Canadian cuisine could be published without having a recipe for oatcakes. From the deep connection to Scotland, oatcakes are a mainstay in Nova Scotia kitchens. While there are many different recipes for oatcakes, the recipe given in A Rising Tide is one that is prevalent in Cape Breton — the crisp and buttery kind (if you want to know more about the oatcake then head over to Eat This Town). This recipe is easy to make, and even easier to clean up from since the dough is mixed in the same pan it’ll be baked in. Once they are baked and cut into squares, each oatcake is dipped into melted white chocolate. White chocolate and winter spice go well together — especially when enjoyed with an afternoon coffee.
Even though the world is getting back to travelling now that the pandemic restrictions are beginning to lift, there is still something to be said for vicarious travel. A Rising Tide provides home cooks with a way to experience the Atlantic Canadian region through stories, recipes, as well as breathtaking photography. I know that I certainly enjoyed being guided by Acken and Lycopolus through these provinces. And I appreciate that the recipes use a variety of ingredients from the region.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Appetite by Random House for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.