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AETHER Asks: Cookbook Author Meredith Erickson

AETHER Asks: Cookbook Author Meredith Erickson

Canadian-born author Meredith Erickson has made a living out of experiencing—and writing about—great food in a way that has expanded the concept of traditional cookbooks. Her books tell stories of the people, restaurants, and regions behind the recipes. There was her first project, The Art Of Living According to Joe Beef, focused on the acclaimed Montreal-based restaurant Joe Beef, and more recently, she released Friuli Food and Wine: Frasca Cooking from Northern Italy’s Mountains, Vineyards, and Seaside in collaboration with the James Beard Award-winning Boulder, Colorado-eatery Frasca. Her inaugural solo project, Alpine Cooking, came out in 2019 and was part travelogue-part cookbook, vividly celebrating the rustic cuisine of the Alps with photos of places and plates that make the reader want to book an airline ticket ASAP. In fact, Alpine Cooking proved to be so inspiring for both the cook and the traveler, it was named one of the best cookbooks of the year by The New York Times. Erickson currently resides in Milan, Italy, with her partner, young son, and stepson. We caught up with this skier, author, and podcast host to talk about the importance of preserving our restaurants, how being from Canada has helped define her career, and why AETHER fits into her European lifestyle. ↓

Were you always interested in food?
No! I think I lived on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese until I was 18. My passion for food began when I started working at the [Montreal] restaurant Joe Beef in 2005. That’s when the world of food opened to me, and I really dove in. I would work four nights a week at the restaurant and spend all of my off-time in other people’s restaurants. It went like that for at least five or six years.

What led you to your prolific career in cookbook writing?
It was a lot of twists and turns to get where I am today. It started when I first wrote The Art Of Living According to Joe Beef, which I began writing in 2008 and published in 2011. From there I suppose I garnered some fans in the restaurant world, some of whom were looking for a co-author and then contacted my agent so we could write their story together. Then it went from Le Pigeon: Cooking At The Dirty Bird to Olympia Provisions: Cured Meats and Tales from an American Charcuterie to Claridge’s: The Cookbook and then just kept rolling into Alpine Cooking and now my podcast, Field Guide To Eating in Canada. ↓

Were you always interested in food?
No! I think I lived on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese until I was 18. My passion for food began when I started working at the [Montreal] restaurant Joe Beef in 2005. That’s when the world of food opened to me, and I really dove in. I would work four nights a week at the restaurant and spend all of my off-time in other people’s restaurants. It went like that for at least five or six years.

What led you to your prolific career in cookbook writing?
It was a lot of twists and turns to get where I am today. It started when I first wrote The Art Of Living According to Joe Beef, which I began writing in 2008 and published in 2011. From there I suppose I garnered some fans in the restaurant world, some of whom were looking for a co-author and then contacted my agent so we could write their story together. Then it went from Le Pigeon: Cooking At The Dirty Bird to Olympia Provisions: Cured Meats and Tales from an American Charcuterie to Claridge’s: The Cookbook and then just kept rolling into Alpine Cooking and now my podcast, Field Guide To Eating in Canada. ↓

Tell us how being Canadian has helped shape your career.
In retrospect, living in Montreal in the early 2000s was a really special place on the food landscape. I think we created something unique with Joe Beef, and there were a lot of incredible foodstuffs happening around that time, so being a Montrealer has—in some ways—shaped my career. I've always liked living outside of the major cities—LA, New York, or even Toronto—as it's given me space to create my own career on my own watch.

You now reside in Europe part-time. Tell us about your life there.
I reside in Europe half of the year. I wound up in Milan because of its proximity to the Alps. It's the best home base for the mountains, and I love Milan in general. Most importantly, my partner is here, and in June, we welcomed our first son, Giorgio.

Your first solo cookbook, Alpine Cooking, is as much a love letter to the Alps as it is to Alpine food—why was that a book you wanted to write?
After my first trip to Lech, Austria, I wanted to buy a book all about the Austrian Alps as a souvenir for my friends and family, but that book didn't exist—at least not the one I envisioned—so I decided to write a book about the Alps myself. When I was about halfway through—three years in—I realized that this book had to be the definitive book on Alpine cuisine, so it took another three or four years to complete. ↓

You’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing chefs and culinary figures. Do you have a memorable experience that particularly stands out to you?
It’s like picking a favorite child. I will say that Joe Beef was special because it was my first [book], and [working on] Claridge’s was special because that hotel is 200 years old—it’s the definitive, classic grande dame hotel, and I was lucky enough to write its cookbook.

What projects do you have on the horizon?
I have two books I’m working on, both large in scope. One is about Northern Italy, and the second is about Canada. I’m also working on two secret projects that are my biggest yet, which will both be revealed this year.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
I’m a mom to an 8-month-old, a stepmom to a 6-year-old, and I have my books and projects. There is no time beyond that! I like to steal an hour on Saturdays to walk to the newsstand and buy the weekend Financial Times and then, if I’m lucky, read it all alone. ↓

Do you have a favorite piece of AETHER?
Yes, my black Aura Puffer.

How does AETHER fit into your lifestyle?
It’s sporty for the city and the mountains, which is my perfect combo.

What’s your favorite place you've worn AETHER?
I got the Aura Puffer during Covid, so my memory is walking down deserted foggy Milan streets, cozy and hugely pregnant. It was all very romantic. I can’t wait until I can actually travel in it!

What is the biggest lesson you have taken away from the last two years?
We must value and protect our restaurants—they are the center of our social lives. •

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