For the love of food
Christine Flynn’s newest cookbook is full of mouth-watering recipes and wonderful personal essays that tell of her life and love for food.
Filled with over 100 easy-to-follow recipes, A Generous Meal features an array of simple meals like Spicy Oven Charred Cabbage and Lemons, and Herb Stuffed Rainbow Trout or Cod and Zucchini in Curry Coconut Broth.
With recipes that are equally as simple as they are delicious, there’s something for everyone. Flynn shares the dish that represents herself best: “The Lemony Spaghetti Squash with Burrata and Basil stands out. It’s so simple, but when you put everything together it’s more than the sum of its parts.” We dig into Flynn’s past and what it took to make this book full of appetizing recipes come to fruition.
Q: Can you tell us about what prompted you to write your cookbook A Generous Meal?
A: I’ve worked in kitchens for over 20 years, but it wasn’t until I had my daughters that I started cooking at home in a meaningful way. The act of cooking dinner, like a little puzzle I could solve, or a solution to be found each day, was a real gift, especially over the last few years, and I wanted to share that with other people.
Q: Why is dinner your favourite meal of the day?
A: Dinner is a meal that can be lingered over, whether you are with others or even alone with a good book and a glass of crisp white wine. there’s a romance to dinner that everyone can tap into.
Q: When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
A: I sort of fell into it when I started working in a German bakery in Halifax while I was in university. I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision. I just loved food and one job led to another and now here we are.
Q: What does your culinary background look like?
A: I’ve eaten, studied and worked in a lot of different places, so my background is diverse. I got my start in Halifax, but I went to culinary school in Manhattan and interned in France. I spent my 20s working seasonally at a fine dining restaurant on Nantucket, where I also ran the culinary department of the Nantucket Wine Festival. In 2013 I moved to Toronto and became executive chef and partner of iQ Food Co., a group of healthy, fast, casual restaurants focusing on nutrient-dense scratch-made meals. I kept my foot in the door in the U.S. with food styling, working with major clients like Mountain Dew, Oreo and Sonic. In 2021 I took on a management role at The Good Earth Food and Wine Co., where I now teach classes, throw events and handle a myriad of other things.
Q: Can you share a little bit about The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. and whether it influenced the recipes in your book/your overall process?
A: The Good Earth is a winery, bistro and cooking school in the heart of Niagara. I teach demonstration-style classes at The Good Earth and this is such a great way to figure out what and how people want to cook. There is a direct line of feedback that helps me create recipes that really speak to people, and that they will make again and again. As a chef, it’s also where I pinpoint some of the techniques, or tricks which are to me innate, but which lay people are amazed and intrigued by. Being able to cook live with people is such a gift, and it’s my favourite part of my job.
Q: What did your process look like in developing the recipes for your book?
A: These are very much recipes I cook regularly. My process is a bit ad hoc, but it mostly involves cooking, eating and sharing with others.
Q: If you had to describe your style of cooking using three words, what would they be?
A: Balanced, surprising, simple.
Q: What are the main topics you cover in the essays that are featured in the cookbook?
A: I write about my life in food, and the things that make it meaningful to me.
Q: Who has had the greatest impact on the style of your cooking?
A: My children have dramatically affected the way I cook. Getting a meal on the table quickly that’s delicious, appeals to a wide range of palates, and fits our budget is no small task, but I find restriction makes me more creative and my style has really evolved.
Q: Not only do your recipes stand out, but your style does, too! Do you approach your style in the same way that you approach your cooking (colours, composition, etc…)?
A: I want to live a beautiful life surrounded by things that make me happy. I would say I am a sensualist in the way I plate my food and the way I decorate a space, or put together an outfit. Minimalism has its place, but to me, there’s something really wonderful and compelling about fistfuls of herbs, vintage floral plates and, of course, puffy sleeves. Mark Twain has this great quote I always go back to: “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where all the fruit is.” It’s good to be extra, and sometimes too much is just enough.
“I write about my life in food, and the things that make it meaningful to me.”
Q: What experience has allowed you to expand your understanding of food most?
A: Travel has been really formative for me. Because I worked seasonally when I was younger, I was able to see more of the world than if I had worked year round. Going to other places, getting outside my bubble and challenging myself have all helped me develop a really strong sense of myself as a cook.
Q: Which recipe in the book was hardest to develop and why?
A: The Marble Cake did take a minute. Cakes are hard, and I’m always nervous sharing more technical bakes. When we shot the book I was so relieved the bake was good, and the swirl for the photo came out the way I wanted.
Q: What were some of the speed bumps in creating A Generous Meal and how did you overcome them?
A: The pandemic posed challenges in almost every aspect of writing this book, from sourcing groceries, to finding child care so I could write, to navigating lockdowns when it came time to shoot. Not to mention supply chain issues, which delayed the release. I don’t know about overcoming the challenges, but I certainly rode the wave, had a lot of support from friends, and I think shifted many of the recipes for the better by leaning on ingredients that are easy to source — staples like cabbage and potatoes.
Q: If you had to share one message to the readers of your book, what would it be?
A: Don’t worry about things being perfect — the world is full of solutions.