Cookbook profiling Alberta food producers wins award

An alphabet book based on Alberta food and farmers has won a food literature award.

Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet, which profiles 76 Alberta growers and producers, won the best food literature award at the 2012 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards and will compete for the Gourmand Best in the World Awards during the Paris Cookbook Fair.

“It’s the Oscars of food writing,” said author Dee Hobsbawn-Smith.

She said she used her extensive network of contacts to tell the story of food.

Through the farmers, Hobsbawn-Smith discusses sustainability, animal welfare, farm labour and the environment.

“These farmers are largely engaged in sustainable agriculture for the local Alberta market,” Hobsbawn-Smith said about the dairy, cheese, wine, beef, market garden, lamb, grass fed beef, wild rice and asparagus farmers whom she interviewed.

“I wanted to profile people who are leaders making changes and are inspiring to the public,” said Hobs-bawn-Smith, now of Saskatoon.


Hobsbawn-Smith has been using, promoting and celebrating local food since 1992, when she opened her Calgary restaurant, Foodsmith. It’s a trend she believes is here to stay.

“There are a lot of good reasons for wanting to eat local food. People like knowing their money is going to local farmers, not disappearing into a vast food distribution network.”

She said consumers are increasingly interested in knowing more about food and the farmers who produce it, and her book is a way to help introduce farmers to consumers.

“They ask where to go to find farm-raised animals and ‘how do I know what they raise is healthy?’ ”

She said the book, which was published in April, has helped continue the conversation about food between farmers and consumers.

“People want more information and to gain more knowledge of their food and how to access it. It’s a book about food with recipes thrown in.”


  • Lori Lavallee

    Mary, your approach to this book surprised me as I just finished reading it, from cover to cover, about a month ago.

    Oddly, from start to finish I did not consider it to be a cookbook but more of an educational publication, a resource book if you will. In fact, I was annoyed about the inclusion of actual recipees.

    This was a book that introduced me to the Slow Food Movement, so my experience is that it was more of an exploration of alternatives to traditional agribiz. In fact, what Hobsbawn-Smith makes eminently clear about food production is that whatever you believe, “watching television is not enough: information is not knowledge.” But it was also a book about the diversity of Alberta agriculture: Who knew that there was a commercial fishing operation in Southern Alberta, for instance?

    It was interesting to note that in the evolution of their businesses, each of the growers had reached a tipping point, when they had to determine whether to run their operations as a profitable business or cut back on their production. From there they had to determine the best solution for distribution, selling at the farmgate, internet-based direct marketing, farmers’ markets, stores, restaurants, growers’ distribution centres, or any combination thereof.

    Issues about sustainability, quality of life, fair compensation, land stewardship, legacy planning were also addressed by Hobsbawn-Smith. So even if you aren’t a cheffy-chef type this book needs to hang out on your kitchen table or by your bathtub for a while.