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SimonThibault.com

Journalist. Food Writer. Producer.

The Tourist, the Traveller, and the Tour Guide,

“Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another.”

- Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

That line has always struck me. But it popped into my head today when I opened up my email, and found a link to a review for Pantry and Palate in Publishers Weekly. The review reads (in part):

“With a notebook of handwritten recipes from his grandmother, he set out to research, record, and relive Acadian cuisine, testing out recipes in his kitchen and augmenting his trial and error with occasional calls to his mother. The result is a grand testimonial to Acadian cooks of generations past and a time capsule that preserves Acadian home-cooking.[…] Thibault’s culinary escapades are fascinating.”

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When Pantry and Palate hit the shelves in Canada this spring, I felt a bit like a tourist in my own head. I thought I knew what would be the big attractions, the overarching themes, what was interesting about the book. But it was enlightening to see/hear/read how people were reacting to the story and recipes within, both in the media and amongst people who contacted me about the book.  

Seven months later, Pantry and Palate is now on bookstore shelves in the U.S., and the publicity machine has started revving back up. I did a super fun interview with a radio show in New Orleans, and talked about Cajun connections. I did an interview where the importance of family and food came to the forefront, and one of my favourite websites about food, Extra Crispy, published an excerpt of the book.

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I now realize that I am the tour guide, not the tourist. And I am grateful for all the visitors who have decided to travel in my book. The review in this week’s Publishers Weekly is arguably one of the best postcards I’ve received. 

Speaking of the U.S., I recently was in New York at the launch for Pantry and Palate at Kitchen Arts and Letters. Matt Sartwell and the rest of the team at the store were kind enough to pull out a few bottle of bubbly, a few copies were sold, many more were signed, and a few items came home with me.

The most recent haul...

The most recent haul...

I still remember the first time I ever visited KAL. I walked out four hundred dollars poorer, but amazed at the dedication that the owners and staff had for all things cookery and literary, from the ephemeral to the esoteric. KAL has since become a must for me every time I visit to New York (and I now ensure to bring extra carry-on bags to avoid weight restrictions on my luggage.)  

Also while I was in New York, I went to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks (are you sensing a theme here yet? ) and had the chance to meet author Grace Young. Young’s books are incredible works on Chinese cookery, but my fave amongst her works is The Breath of a Wok. I had read about it in Saveur in 2004 and it was a gift to me from my parents that very Christmas. I pored over it, amazed at the detail and flourish on its pages. Young not only entices her readers to cook, but to cook well. She arms them with all the information necessary to produce good food, a skill that is sorely lacking in so many cookbooks. 

Today, Young posted this photo on her Twitter feed, taken at Bonnie’s store. 

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As someone who learned how to season a wok because of her work, this was a wonderful way to start the day.

I’ve often said that cookbooks have allowed me to travel the world. It’s a different beast to have people travel along with me. I will happily play tour guide, anywhere, anytime.