"Salt Beef Buckets: A Love Story" by Andie Bulman
A guide to living and eating well in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Here’s a love story: You meet this book; you get to know it; you fall in love. The End.
Like this post? Do Andie Bulman, Breakwater Books and me a favour and share with a friend who loves food. -JRS
Amanda Dorothy Jean Bulman has four names and twice as many talents. According to the back of this book, she’s a chef, writer, stand-up comic and librarian. But there’s more, including filmmaker, actor, podcast co-host and creator of a television show. Even in a province with a lot of talented people – and a lot of people with multiple talents – that’s impressive. Salt Beef Buckets: A Love Story is her first cookbook.
Recipes in the book fall into three categories (mine, not the writer’s). The first is traditional cooking, the result of Bulman’s extensive research. These she presents either unmodified – i.e. straight from the source – or in an amalgamated format, based on multiple versions. In particular, I appreciate Bulman’s honest take on the recipes, e.g. lobscouse being “something of a blank canvas,” or how “many old ‘salad’ recipes in Newfoundland cookbooks are jellied and horrifying.” (If you grew up eating cold plates in a church basement, you can’t help but agree.)
The second category is where Salt Beef Buckets really starts to shine: Bulman creates versions “2.0” of traditional recipes, applying different techniques and ingredients to make the old-school new. Her take on baked turr, for example, begins with a brine of brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. A revised rabbit stew starts with a marinade of red wine (very French) flavoured with dried alder or dried Labrador tea (very not). You get the point: Newfoundland classics, updated and upgraded.
The other recipes in the book are new, but rely on Newfoundland ingredients – some of them staples of settler culture, some not. There are recipes that use foraged mushrooms and greens, as well as ideas for fresh salads, various beverages and baked goods. Bulman also includes contributions from friends who, like the author, now call Newfoundland home – a nice nod to community, I feel, vital to surviving and thriving here.
Bulman’s casual, yet polished recipe-writing feels refreshing – in how many cookbooks have you read phrases like, “This recipe is a real pain in the butt,” or “Accept that this soup is ugly, and enjoy.” Her instructions also include helpful tips on cooking in general, e.g. how “the water you boil pasta in should taste like the sea,” or that soups “need a hint of acidity to be truly balanced.” In short, this book can help you become a better cook.
In addition to recipes, Bulman explores things like rug hooking, berry picking, hunting and fishing. You'll learn how to build a fire for a boil-up, grow seedlings for a garden, or blend herbs and flowers for tea. In fact, you could consider this book an introduction to living and eating well in Newfoundland and Labrador – downhome “hygge,” if you will. To her credit, Bulman is not afraid to touch on touchy subjects, e.g the state of the fisheries, the seal hunt, or wasteful hunting and foraging practices.
There’s a lot to love about this love story, and it definitely deserves a spot on your shelf – and, in my view, a place among this province’s top cookbooks.
Salt Beef Buckets
Amanda Dorothy Jean Bulman
232 pages. Breakwater Books. $24.95.