Vagabond Cookbook

The best you ate on vacation? Make it at home tonight.

Kou shui ji, ready to eat

Kou shui ji (or, ‘are you a breast man or a leg man?’)

Call me a creepoid, but Russ Meyer never gets the love he deserves. The King of the Nudies himself. He’s dismissed, jeered, chided as a peddler of mindless smut (as if that’s such a bad thing). Say what you will, but this visionary director of ‘60s B movies made a stack of classics. Vixen! Supervixens. Beyond the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. You name the flick, he was behind it (at least if it had “vixen” in the title). Not only that, Meyer performed one especially tricky feat. He made chicken seem interesting. Be honest – you know chicken is boring. It’s up there with sitting in traffic and discussing last night’s dreams as a regular ol’ snoozefest. Fry it, grill it, turn it into nuggets – there’s not much you can do to a chicken that hasn’t been done (just ask Subservient Chicken). It’s usually fine, but it’s rarely a […]

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Don’t listen to your family, smoking is great!

Every family’s got one. A jackass uncle. A quippy sister-in-law. A snot-nosed little boy playing with himself at the kid’s table. Every time you’re gathered together for a hearty feast, one of them is going to crack wise about the host’s cooking skills. “When’s dinner ready? WHEN THE SMOKE ALARM GOES OFF! HAR-HAR-HAR!” Hilarity ensues. Hacky jokes aside, there’s a fundamental flaw in that line of thinking. Everyone thinks if you set off the smoke alarm, you’ve done something wrong. I’m here to set you straight: If you’ve set off the smoke alarm while cooking, chances are you’ve done something very, very right. Not always, of course. When thick black clouds billow out of your cake-filled oven, there’s a problem afoot. When the fire department joins your Sunday morning bacon party, it’s time to turn down the heat. But if you’re roasting chicken? Charring poblanos? Stirfrying some pad Thai? Smoke […]

Image of carrot soup

‘I want to make food I’d stab a baby to try’

Thank god that’s over! Maybe it’s just me, but there’s only so much holiday merriment I can handle. By the time week two of egg nog and Burl Ives settles in, I’m ready to break Rudolph’s Bambi legs and get back to my usual routine. For me, that means eating better. We all treat our guts like landfills during Christmas. That’s part of the fun. But, as we kick off this 11-month reprieve from Elf on the Shelf, chances are you’ve set a resolution or two. Why not make eating well one of them? That was my thinking a few years ago, when I started cooking for real. The way I saw it, I had to eat anyway. Shouldn’t I eat something good? I was tired of sitting in the lunchroom at work jabbing my half-frozen Pizza Pops with a fork. I couldn’t take another overpriced, underflavoured salad from the […]

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Devon’s Top 10 Raddest Shaz of 2015

Can you feel that magic in the air? We’re now deep into that special season when everyone – no matter their race, colour, creed – can join together, share a cup of cheer, and freak the fuck out about holiday gifts. Admit it. December’s more B-A-N-A-N-A-S than Gwen Stefani. From office potlucks to seizure-inducing decorations to new “traditions” involving the stuff of nightmares, it’s easy for year’s end to take its toll. We’re so busy baking three gross of shortbread or scrambling to grab gifts for people we hate, sometimes we forget the real point of this season – best-of lists. For a pop culture and trivia dork such as myself, the waning weeks before New Year’s are a treasure trove of listicles covering the best of the best. The Top 50 Albums of 2015. The 10 Most Likely Contenders for Oscar Gold. The 15 Most Read Articles. Throw a […]

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Let’s consider some facts about birds

Can we talk? Let’s cut the crap here a minute and say what we’ve all got on our minds – turkey’s a bitch. Everyone’s favourite holiday bird is one whopping pain in the ass. Typically, you buy a frozen turkey and, after days of defrosting, it’s still an iceberg at its centre. Tear open the Butterball wrapping to unleash a septic stream of salmonella water into your vegetable crisper. Stuff it, truss it, roast on high, then low (or is that low, then high) to eventually pull out your dinner several hours later – dry like the Sahara in some parts and a glistening raw pink in others. Yummers! Happy Thanksgiving! “But, it’s tradition! You can’t have the holidays without a whole roast turkey!” Listen, I’m from Newfoundland. My family cooked a gobbler almost every Sunday. I’m well acquainted with the unparalleled warmth of seeing a giant roast bird resting […]

How to navigate your holiday snack attacks with zesty fervour

Hey kids, Holy hand grenades! When did it turn into King Lear outside? Sure, it’s been fine for the past couple of days. But unless you recently moved your entire apartment during a rainstorm, you can drink down a glass of Shut-up Juice. November weather is G to the R-O-S-S. Call me a kitten, but I hate stormy weather. Well, I hate being outside in stormy weather. Inside, it’s a whole different story. From a toasty living room, a late autumn storm becomes the perfect excuse to do what I really want to do all the time – sit in a bay window sipping a latte and petting a cat. With all these window sessions and TV binges that come in with the cold, all that’s missing is a snack. I’m not ordinarily the biggest snacker, but over these past few weeks I’ve taken to munching like John McClane to […]

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Wrath of the black muamba

Chaos reigns, my friends. Things are deep in disorder right now. The last shred of peace and harmony at Casa Devon went right out the window when I packed up my chef’s knife. Old newsprint, bubble wrap, and dingy cardboard boxes — they’ve been a way of life these past few weeks. That’s just the deal with an international move on the horizon. Shit gets cray-cray. Cooking evaporates. If you’ve never ghosted out of town before, allow me to drop some knowledge — you don’t cook while moving. You eat garbage. You can try to run damage control, munching handfuls of raw spinach out of the bag, chugging cans of coconut water like your asshole yoga instructor. But, you don’t. At least I don’t. During the Time of Balance, I tend to cook with an eye toward nutrition and seasonality. Right now, I’m one step away from eating mayonnaise straight […]

Mushroom-lentil pâté

The most controversial snack around (and a wicked alternative if you need it)

Take a seat and put down your coffee, ‘cause this one’s a doozy. I’m drawing a line in the sand here and, with it, I fear I’m entering a world of pain. There’s a dirty little secret ingredient out there, hated by everyone (except chefs). It’s bold. It’s controversial. It’s the root of legislation across Europe and the U.S.But, can we all put aside our differences for a second and agree on one thing? Foie gras is unspeakably delicious. “#$%@#^! ASSHOLE! YOU’RE WORSE THAN A KLANSMAN! FEEL MY TWITTER WRATH!” See what I mean? Short of certain customs in foreign lands, no other foodstuff fans the flames of hatred like a bit of fatty duck liver. People have their reasons, I suppose. At this point, foie has become a byword for animal cruelty (whether or not those claims are justified). Plus, there’s precious little sympathy for a delicacy so strongly […]

Chinese black bean mussels

What I always want when I order Chinese food

When I see people eat Chinese food in the movies, it always gets me down. Sage words from Dr. Venkman. True, I lived in China and I’ve got strong opinions on all things sweet ‘n’ sour, but it’s not what you think. It’s not the mispronounced words, the bad chopstick technique, the “inauthentic” dishes (whatever those are). It’s the takeout cartons. From Manhattan to The Lost Boys, Chinese takeout on screen means those little paper cartons. BFFs pass them back and forth, shoveling lo mein and moo goo gai pan into their faces while we all laugh or cry or shriek at their antics. They’re awesome. But, you don’t get those cartons in Canada. You don’t get them in China. In real life, Chinese delivery comes in Styrofoam containers like a 1990s McDLT. Remember this fossil? Until recently, I thought those cartons (called oyster pails) were fake, a myth dreamt […]

Pan-Fried Cod with Stewed Lentils and Smoked Paprika Aioli

This surprising ingredient is a huge waste of money

“If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack / to sit in the synagogue and pray / and maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.” – Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof Sadly, Reb Tevye and I just don’t see eye to eye. Now, I love Fiddler on the Roof (weirdo that I am). The Imperial Russian setting. TheChagall nods. The klezmer wailing. But, if I were a rich man (ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum), there would be no big, tall house with rooms by the dozen. There’d be no discussing holy books with learned men. No, if I had a small fortune, it’d look more like these guys. Not that it matters. Agree with Tevye or not, I still ain’t rollin’ on 20s. Cash rules everything around me and I need to take note when I go to get CREAM. Rather than […]