One would think that a graphic novel and book of recipes is like adding too much cumin to your ice cream, but that is not so with the 224 page volume Dirt Candy.
It is the story of Torontonian Amanda Cohen’s growth from a child to a successful New York restaurateur, and sprinkled with insightful recipes as well as comedic anecdotes.
Written by Cohen and Ryan Dunlavey (with Grady Hendrix), Dirt Candy is a hip graphic novel that is one part Scott Pilgrim and another part A Vegetarian’s Guide to Making Vegetables Totally Delicious for Your Belly and Mind (which doesn’t exist, but could be an alternative title to the book).
Dunlavey’s visual style is cartoonish and sharp, making each story a romp, even though some of the content (recipes) aren’t really visually rompy.
With simple offerings such as cucumber pickles and pear and fennel compote, Cohen’s story is sprinkled with ups and downs. From contractor squabbles, to pushed back opening dates, Cohen overcomes it all to open her highly touted New York eatery. As food reviewer for the New York Times Oliver Schwaner-Albright puts it, “Eating at Dirt Candy can be like going to a child’s birthday party in a country where all the children love vegetables.” That usually spells success.
It is tough making recipes, restaurants and root vegetables fun but Dirt Candy succeeds. It is a functional ‘how to’ guide that offers tips and insights into her techniques and preferences.
It is a refreshing look on the modern cookbook that also adds an honest view on the difficulties of the entrepreneurial restaurant business.
As an example of the simplistic and delicious, here is Cohen’s recipe for red pepper jam:
Amanda Cohen’s Red Pepper Jam
Makes one cup
1 pound of red bell peppers
½ cup sugar.
1. Seed and dice a half pound of the peppers and put them in a
2. Use a juicer to juice the remaining ½ pound of peppers and add the juice to the pot.
3. Add the sugar to the pot and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture reaches 220F. Pour into a bowl and let cool.
4. Blend the mixture in a blender until smooth. Cover and refrigerate (good for up to one month).