WHEN CHRISTMAS comes, can a clutch of new cookbooks be far behind? Not on your metric measuring cup. Here's a taste of recent titles in this vast and varied field: Barbecuing Atlantic Seafood, by Julie V. Watson (Nimbus, 100 pages, $9.95 paper) is a collection by "P.E.l.'s best?known gourmet writer and food consultant," and it offers such year?round tips as "Brush the snow off the barbecue; it will reduce the internal cooking temperature if left to melt off' and "Choose equipment to suit your lifestyle. . . . We ourselves enjoy cooking by the shore or, if the weather is inclement, in a sheltered picnic area ..., so we are portable." Also included is a useful list of fish according to fat content (e.g., striped bass is "fat"; whitefish is "medium"; porgy is "lean") and instructions on cooking techniques, followed by recipes for fish, shellfish, and intriguing accompaniments ("East India Smother"; "Aussie Rum Orange Kebab Baste"). The emphasis is on inexpensive equipment, uncomplicated ingredients, and mostly mouthwatering recipes, though Ms. Watson can have her "Brightly Skewered Northern Shark" and "Monkfish with Mandarins."
Bernard Meyer's East Coast Cuisine: Regional Cooking with French Flair (Formac, 138 pages, $14.95 paper) combines old world know?how with new world produce in an inspiring collection of original recipes. Born in Alsace, Meyer came to Nova Scotia in 1981 and is now chef de cuisine at The Pines Resort Hotel in Digby. "There are two types of cuisine, a good one and a bad one," he writes in his introduction. "You can't invent food or eating, but you can take that basic function and elevate it to an art." Whether tricky ("Scallop Terrine with Saffron and Spinach") or simple ("Tea Biscuits"), the recipes in East Coast Cuisine are persuasive proof that (a), Bernard Meyer is a culinary artist and (b), with the aid of creative cooks like him, the possibility of a truly Canadian cuisine is approaching reality.
Dairy Delicious: The Sour Cream/Yogurt/Buttermilk Cookbook by Louise Bailey and Madeline Wright (Dairy Delicious, 126 pages, $9.95 paper) is a mother?daughter project based on the idea that cultured dairy products can contribute to a healthy diet unless, of course, you're determined to use them in decadent desserts. The result is a cookbook where recipes for persuading the family to eat what's good for them ("Broccoli Buttermilk Soup," "Hummus with Yogurt") rub shoulders with the likes of "Chocolate Cheesecake" and "Buttermilk Pralines." A trifle strange perhaps, but useful for figuring out what to do with milk?based leftovers.
Grand Slam: More Recipes from the Best of Bridge (Best of Bridge, 218 pages, $14.95 paper). Those irrepressible bridge players from Calgary are at it again, with the fourth volume of their successful what?to?eat?for?treats series. (Earlier titles: Best of Bridge, Enjoy!, Winners.) This group concentrates on international adaptations ("Ginger Fried Beef," "Chicken Mexicana") and down?home delights ("Picalilli," "Gingersnaps"), punctuated with cornball humour ("The person who is bored when he is alone should understand the position of others when he's around"; "When your* kids are fit to live with, they're living with someone else"). I once attended a Christmas party where the guests lined up to use the bathroom because in it, the host had thoughtfully installed the latest copy of Jim Unger's Herman cartoons. Best of Bridge produces the only cookbooks that could conceivably provoke a similar reaction.
Let's Go Dutch, by Johanna (van der Zeijst) Bates (van der Zeijst Publishing, 204 pages, $14.95 paper), kicks off with a short essay on "The Tulip in History" and moves briskly through the highlights of Dutch cuisine, from homely fare (pancakes, herring, applesauce) to exotica from Indonesia and chocolate extravaganzas based on Bates's assumption that "If you are going to consume the calories, why not consume the best?" (A less persuasive assumption occurs in a recipe calling for "2 cups of crushed Oreo cookies, white insides removed and given to the dog.") If you decide to "Go Dutch," you'll have a tough time travelling light.
Lucy Waverman's Cooking School Cookbook (Collins, 196 pages, $16.95 paper) includes advice on equipping a kitchen, cooking techniques, first?aid for mistakes and over 200 fail?safe recipes ("Beef in Beer," "Canadian Apple Pie"). A section titled "How to Read a Recipe" includes this comment: "Meticulous measuring is a must in baking, but creative measuring in cooking will usually not harm the recipe." Sounds obvious, perhaps, but without the advice of a cook like Lucy Waverman to guide me, it took about 20 years to discover this truth on my own. Waverman, who runs The Cooking School in Toronto and is an acknowledged authority in her field, manages to combine both reassurance for the novice and challenge for the expert in this attractively designed book.
No?More?Than?4 Ingredient Recipes: A Cookbook for Kitchen Klutzes, by joy Gallagher Douglas (Doubleday, 217 pages, $14.95 paper). Back in 1976, Virginia?born Joy Gallagher Douglas was food editor of a Michigan newspaper; now she lives in St. Thomas, Ontario, and makes regular Saturday morning appearances on CBC Radio's "Basic Black." She also heads an 11,000?strong organization named Kitchen Klutzes United, whose "official prayer" runs: "Grant me the serenity to accept the fact that I am a Kitchen Klutz; the courage to march into any potluck with my latest disaster borne proudly on a silver platter, and the wisdom to tell anyone who makes a snide remark to go stuff a green banana up his nose." Douglas's main claim to klutzdom is that she once burned a tossed salad. Her cookbook includes excerpts from her fan mail, flights of prose whimsy such as the "Kitchen Klutz Horror?Scoop" ("The dark stranger you will meet is the white sauce you put in the fridge three weeks ago"), and cartoons by Lynn Johnston. Also present are over 300 recipes so simple they probably are klutz?proof. But be forewarned: Gallagher claims "the best barbecue sauce . . . [she's] . . . ever tasted" is made with equal parts "cola beverage and catsup." Could her tastebuds be klutzes, too?
Pioneer Cooking in Ontario: Recipes from Ontario Historical Sites (NC Press, 64 pages, $4.95 paper). This new edition of a popular souvenir at historic sites across Ontario includes fare from an additional five locations (bringing the total to 26) and provides an intriguing glimpse of early Canadian cuisine. An introductory note points out that "Many of the recipes have been adapted from early works . . . . and traces of the original language linger." Thus we get instructions on cutting "Gibson House Oatcakes" into "four wedges or 'farls,' " and a recipe for potato salad in rhyme which runs, in part:
. . . The flavour needs it, and your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two well?boiled eggs.
Let Onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And half?suspected, animate the whole;
And lastly, on the favoured compound toss
A magic teaspoon of anchovy sauce.. . . "
Whether standard ("Pea Soup," "Molasses Cookies") or startling ("Five?Gallon Chicken Pot Pie with Hot Tea Biscuits"), these early recipes are a convincing reminder that good food is not a modern invention.