SKOKI PART 1 | THE INSPIRATION
It all began with a decadent slice of chocolate cake. Specifically, an Amazon Chocolate cake baked from the pages of the Skoki Cookbook by Katie Mitzel.
Upon finding the source of the recipe from a co-worker, I immediately purchased a copy and baked the same cake days later. Thus, began my adventure in culinary exploration.
Flipping through the Skoki Cookbook, inspiration hit me. I would be Julie to Mitzel’s Julia and attempt all forty-seven backcountry recipes in her cookbook. No easy feat, considering that I grew up in a household where cookbooks and food presentation were rare concepts.
Further, I would compose my thoughts on the cookbook as a designer. As a final reward, I would venture out to Skoki Lodge (located in Western Canada) for teatime and hopefully meet the famous Katie Mitzel.
The Skoki Cookbook wasn’t your traditional cookbook. Upon opening the book, readers are immersed in a world beyond the kitchen. The first couple of pages highlight the Skoki lodge and the surrounding area’s history and the pioneers who made Skoki Lodge possible. Encouraged by the many questions’ guests had about the lodge, Mitzel felt the story of Skoki was necessary to cultivate a visual memory of their trip.
“For some people, this is a once in a lifetime journey. I wanted to share some of the places and moments that I felt best reflected what we all shared. Some people found it odd, but now everyone I speak to finds it memorable. They cherish their book because it brings back such fond recollections.”
– Katie Mitzel
Further cultivating that western hospitality, Mitzel used creative titles for each chapter, including:
- The Crust and Crumb for bread recipes
- La Carne (meat) for meat dishes
- From the Cookie Jar (obviously your selection of cookies)
- warm and comforting (soups, great for a cold winter’s day)
Combined with the journal-like style/voice, readers and cooks alike, get a sense that they are learning the craft of backcountry cooking from a fellow friend or talented family member.
As any professional chef/baker knows, food presentation and by extension, photography is key to any dishes’ success. Yes, the taste is important, but great food photography feeds into the dish’s appeal.
A clean-cut slice of chocolate cake looks far more appetizing on a white plate than it would half-eaten and mashed-up. Like graphic design, good food photography requires cohesion by balance, color, texture, and proportions. Coupled with great lighting, you have a photo that viewers drool over.*
The book’s photography ventured away from convention. While some recipes were accompanied by a visual aid, others were paired with photos of the surrounding area.
“I wanted to use only photos from the Skoki area to bring back the aesthetic and emotion of the guests and their time at the Lodge. I wanted to tell a story as much as I wanted to share my recipes.”
– Katie Mitzel
My one thought is as an amateur cook, a small photo of the final dish would’ve been beneficial. For example, having no idea what a Squashakopita was, I wasn’t sure if I followed the recipe correctly.
*More on food photography from some great food influencers in June.
Overall, the book is worthy of space in the kitchen cabinet. The storytelling aspect combined with the unique choice in photography helps build a sense of what it’s like cooking in the backcountry.
The use of all-purpose flour as opposed to bread flour made more sense considering the context of the lodge. My father-in-law, head-baker at the Banff Springs Hotel, another historic mountain hotel, stated that supplies to the lodge would be difficult to deliver so stretching out specific ingredients that could be used beyond a single purpose would be ideal.
A Skoki cookbook book favourite, Skoki Health Bread.
Perfect supper dish, grandma’s cornbread with killer chili.
In the end, I learned a lot about cooking wholesome hearty dishes, particularly bread. Supplied with a handful of great staple recipes I’m now prepared to host a group of friends, especially if they favor what I feel is the best chili out there.
- Basic guide to food presentation
- Why food presentation is so important to baking and pastry chefs
- Why food presentation is as important as taste
How to design your own cookbook:
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