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Kelowna cookbook author sees Random House deal come to fruition, and it's delicious

Jennifer Schell is releasing a new cookbook.
Jennifer Schell is releasing a new cookbook.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Jennifer Schell

Get Jennifer Schell talking about food and it’s a bit like opening a secret door to a community that’s been hiding in plain sight.

The critically acclaimed and widely embraced B.C. wine and food writer doesn’t just know what’s good to eat and drink, she knows the people behind the scenes and the places that they derive inspiration from.

It’s the insight that made her earlier Butcher, Baker, Wine-maker cookbooks so well-loved and the genesis to becoming host of iNwine, right here on, where she introduces us to the best of B.C. food, farm and wine. It’s also probably what caught the eye of the people at Random House, which signed her up to create The B.C. Wine Lover's Cookbook, which is now available.

The cookbook, which is her biggest to date, was supposed to be launched earlier in the year, but the arrival of COVID-19 changed the rollout to something much more muted than Schell had been planning for. Quick to find a silver lining, however, she said “a lot of people are really into trying new things with cooking right now so that’s good, too.” 

This whole process has been more than good, she said. Random House is a significant force in the cookbook industry and when she opened the box of books that arrived at her door last week, she had one thought — “OK, wow.”

It’s a big, beautiful hardback, filled with photos and the stories she collected from the people she admires from around the province. And now that the books are here it’s time for her to start drumming up some community interest.

“I’m so excited to again get an opportunity to introduce this amazing cast of people and tell their stories — this time they’re sharing family recipes that share cultures,” she said.

Culture is the new twist on this bigger and broader volume of recipes, wine recommendations and stories.

“Their roots are in Israel, Spain, Australia, India and beyond. This international portrait that we have here in B.C., is shown through the book," she said.  "You can see the immigration and pilgrimage of families who came to a new world, following dreams and passion — together they’re building a new wine culture that is so diverse.”

Penelope Roche, from Roche wines in Penticton is, for example, is from a winemaking family in Bordeaux. Her grandmother’s stew recipe is shared in the book.

She also has one of B.C.’s wine industry pioneers sharing a bit of insight into his roots.

Schell interviewed Harry McWatters, who died earlier this year.

“I was one of the last people to photograph him with his kids — I’m so happy to have a photo with him,” she said. “It’s his mother’s recipe he shared. His mom’s name was Muriel, so we have Muriel’s beef stout pot pie.”

Schell said she wanted to know the names of the family members who came up with the recipes as an homage to the person, further personalizing them and adding more texture to the fabric of our communities.

“When they are sharing recipes from their mothers or their grandmothers every person gets so excited,” she said. “All these people and these recipes contribute to the social and cultural fabric of our province.”

Their stories are what drive Schell, but while working with Random House she found new ways to enhance a recipe she’s already found success in.

“It was such a shared creative process. They were so supportive and made it all wonderful and exciting,” she said.

They introduced the idea of illustrations for every region, and then Schell found the perfect person to do them — her niece, Hilary Schell.

She’s a locally established illustrator, working under the name Weirddoods, and came up with drawings that encapsulated what makes each wine region in B.C. unique and put them on a map.

Schell also got to put in themed touring ideas, like “practicing chardonnay-ism.”

“It makes it easier to navigate the very large and growing wine region,” Schell said.

The book also offers up suggested menus for spring, summer, fall and winter.

“I love the idea of menus,” she said. “I got a lot of feedback from people saying ‘I never know how to put a three-course meal together,’ so this will help.”

 While there are so many added features she’s chuffed about, Schell is pleased she also got to photograph the project from start to finish. It allowed her the access she needed to make it such a labour of love.

To get the book go to Random House and search the title.  Or just click here.

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