by Alexandra Forbes
I knew it: Martin Picard's book is just coming out today and, already, I've started to hear the echoes...
"My God! Have you seen it?!"
"Crazy, there's even squirrel sushi!!"
"And did you see? There's a bunch of naked women in it, too! And a short story about a girl in a cabane à sucre and the end of the world!"
Yep. Naked women. Gabrielle, the patissière, looking disturbingly calm and mysterious as she lays in a bathtub filled with maple syrup, for example. Another one having breakfast in bed, covered only with a fur. A bed of snow, that is. And artsy photos, and a short story by Picard's close friend and reknowned painter Marc Séguin.
But to talk about this encyclopaedic work and only mention the parts that will offend certain sensibilities is to only skim the surface.
To me, it's a book that will make his fellow Quebecers appreciate much more what they've got. Show them how a cabane à sucre meal doesn't have to be repetitive and overly heavy and almost gross - that it can be updated and creative and good enough for any sophisticated palate.
I hope the inevitable avalanche of media articles and blogs posts will go beyond the easy "oh, look at this crazy book by the crazy Martin Picard".
I hope some will look beyond the gruesome photos of rabbits or beavers being skinned or cut into pieces, to appreciate the wealth of information contained therein. It's basically a textbook on maple syrup: what it's made of, how it's produced, how it's used in recipes, etc. etc. etc. Plenty of graphs, illustrations, a chapter written by biologists who specialize on maples. And then there are the recipes: TONS of them, illustrated with step-by-step photos. Again: encyclopaedic.
But maybe I should leave you with Martin's own description of his oeuvre (which I translated):
"Maybe you'll feel a bit dizzy when diving into this heterogeneous book. It's normal, since I was very involved in making the book and left my mark throughout and, since I'm not very organized, the ideas were often dispersed all over the place. (...) I can confirm that this book contains the imprint of my DNA."
And, presciently, he also writes:
"Just like the great maple tree, this oeuvre has the roots needed to instruct, the straightness and force of the trunk to resist criticism and the charm of the branches that weave out against the blue winter sky as if traced with Chinese ink."