maanantai 5. joulukuuta 2011

Annick Giroux - Hellbent for Cooking



Besides the everyday helping of metal, I also tend to nourish myself with a tasty meal every now and then. And while I don't get the chance to travel as much as I'd like to, there's basically no better way to get a taste of other fine cultures than through culinary arts. More than often during the past couple of years I've found myself, knife in hand, in the kitchen, trying to come up with something new and interesting. Sometimes it has worked, sometimes the result has been barely edible.

About two years ago, Annick Giroux, who's also known as the editor of the fantastic Morbid Tales fanzine, came up with the book Hellbent for Cooking (still available through publisher Bazillion Points). The idea of a
heavy metal cookbook sounded crazy enough to warrant further investigation, so I contacted Annick for an interview in Imperiumi.net. As promised in the interview, shortly after Annick packed her backbag and took on a journey around the world, at present finding herself in Kampot, Thailand. Her blog Into the Void is full of amazing stories from faraway places, with some mouth-watering recipes to boot.

Of course this foreword wouldn't be complete without one recipe from my own collection... Actually, this one I nicked from a fantastic family-run restaurant I visited in Greece this summer. I haven't been able to match the heavenly taste when I've tried to make the recipe here in Finland, but here we go.


Kleftiko (slow-cooked lamb with feta cheese)

You need:
400g boneless lamb, cubed
2 tbsp Olive Oil
3 small potatoes (optional)
2 onions, chopped
2/3 cloves of garlic, minced
100g feta cheese, crumbled
2 medium tomatoes, sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon oregano
2/3 bay leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
salt, pepper

And this is how you do it:
Peel and cut the potatoes into wedges and place in a ceramic baking pot and pour over the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and add the bay leaves. Next, season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a large pan and brown the meat on all sides over high heat. Add some more olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft.

Put the mixture in a ceramic baking pot (including the oil and juices) and top the mixture with the tomatoes, sprinkle on the oregano and crumbled feta cheese. Bake well-covered in oven for 3 - 4 hours (150
°C). While you wait, read the interview below.

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An interview with Annick Giroux, author of Hellbent for Cooking.
Originally published in Imperiumi.net, February 2010.


Hello Annick! How’s Canada and Montreal in particular? Do they talk about anything else than ice-hockey there at the time (with the Olympics approaching and all)?

- Greetings! Right now, it is completely frozen in Montreal, and the media is still talking about the earthquake in Haiti. That will be over soon. I don’t watch TV, or listen to the radio so I don’t follow the news… it’s almost like I would be living under a rock! Haha.


Alright, so the fantastic book Hellbent for Cooking has been out for about a month now. But how did it all begin? I mean, where did you get the idea for making a book like this?

- Glad you like the book so much! Well, it all started in spring 2007, when I was becoming really possessed by cooking. I would make different meals from cookbooks everyday, and was on the hunt for new and interesting recipes. I got the idea one Sunday morning when I was walking downtown to do some record/used cookbook shopping… I thought; why not ask bands for their favourite recipes, and make a book or ‘zine out of it? As the day went on, I thought this was a great idea, and when I came home, I started writing e-mails to my favourite bands right away. I was aiming to get at least 100 recipes, but most of them didn’t get back to me, or just wasn’t interested… although I still managed to get around 20 recipes!


I’ve understood you already had some recipes in the last issue of your ‘zine Morbid Tales, so you probably had an idea about whether people would be interested in a book like this? What kind of feedback has the book garnered so far? What have been the most memorable comments? And what kind of feedback have you enjoyed the most?

- Like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to release a real book – or at least a dedicated ‘zine with recipes from metal bands. I kind of lost interest after a while, so I released the recipes I had received in a section at the back of Morbid Tales #6 – which came out in January 2009. It was an economical way of doing it, I guess! People were really surprised at that addition when they received the ‘zine, and it even got some to start cooking! I suppose that’s what I enjoyed the most – that people used it for real. Anyway, the Hell Bent for Cooking ride was pretty much over for me until Ian Christe (the owner of Bazillion Points books) ordered his copy of the zine, saw the cooking section, then asked if I wanted to release a real book. The rest is history!


If we go a bit farther back for a moment, what’s your history with metal like? When and how did you get into it and which bands have had the biggest effect on your path of all things metal?

- I got into metal in elementary school, when I was 11 or 12 years old. I had a Vietnamese penpal living in Belgium who sent me a taped copy of X-Japan’s Vanishing Vision. I thought it was so fucking unreal, and listened to it to shreds!! Honestly, I listened to it so much that the songs became slow… haha. I then lost touch with my friend, and was pretty much alone in my quest to find similar sounding bands. I bought many “guitar” magazines, which showed me the ways of Black Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer, etc. That lead me to buy Black Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul to Rock’n’Roll at the local mall. In high school, I got into Death Metal, listening to bands like Death, Deicide, Exhumed, Acheron – then started listening to thrash. Believe it or not, my first “thrash” albums, beside Metallica/Slayer stuff were tapes of Destruction’s Cracked Brain, Kreator’s Coma of Souls and Death Angel’s Act III. That’s all I could find at the downtown used record shop… I guess nobody wanted them anymore. Haha!!! I also bought Judas Priest’s Painkiller that day. After that, I got into more obscure stuff, like Black Metal and Doom metal… and got more into early 80’s NWOBHM, trad metal, etc… I digged deeper and deeper, always trying to find new and fresh sounding bands. In late 2004, I started Morbid Tales fanzine with a good friend of mine, which enabled me to get even more into underground metal.


What about your history with cooking then, ha? Did you always like cooking and what was your favourite food growing up? The book is dedicated to your grandmother. Would you say she is one of your biggest influences when it comes to cooking?

- My history with cooking started when I was a kid – I would help my grandma with cakes and cookies, in return to eat the leftover mix from the mixing bowl. Haha! I experimented a lot as a young girl, but never really cooked for real. When I was older, but still living at my parent’s, I got kind of bored of eating the same steaks/mashed potatoes and bland steamed veggies – so I started making some recipes for myself. I became way better when I moved out of the parent’s house, making recipes almost everyday, etc. I learned a lot reading from books, and tried so many different things! My grandma taught me a lot, but I think the books were bigger of an influence. Oh, and my favourite food was Chinese fondue, cipaille (layered meat pie), grand-pères (dough balls added in stew), french meringue – and surprisingly Angel Food cake with a corn syrup frosting. Haha. I’m salivating right now.


The bands that are included in the book show that metal is totally a global phenomenon. Was it clear from the offset that the book would include as many different countries/cultures as possible to give the book variation or was it more of a coincidence that it ended up like this? Did you instruct the bands to give recipes that would be typical to their culture or anything like that?

- Yeah, I wanted to have as many GOOD metal bands from as many different countries as possible. I actually went through every country in Metal-Archives and put their name/origin/website and contact address in an Excel worksheet. I discovered many new bands that way, like DUSK from Pakistan. You have to hear their Bomber cover, it’s so fucking heavy! In any case, I asked bands specifically for their favourite recipe, or something they think represents them well. Of course, that yielded some results that were not always good, like fresh cobra heart for example. But this is of course food that is eaten in some parts of the world. I am really happy about how it turned out, some meals are really exotic, and it’s nice to taste some very typical things from all over the world!


How adventurous are you with food? I mean, you state in the introduction that you didn’t see yourself killing a dog or a guinea pig in order to cook and eat it although a couple of such recipes were sent to you. But what is the most exotic food you’ve ever tasted? And what food couldn’t you see yourself eating even for a hundred dollars?

- Hmm, if it looks good and smells good, I’ll eat it. I am actually really looking forward to eat guinea pig when I go to Peru (but no way would I kill one myself hahaha). I suppose the strangest meal I’ve ever eaten was a llama steak. It was absolutely delicious! Oh, I also had beaver meat this year, and this was pretty good too. Of course, I tried sheep testicles which was ok, but smelled terrible. For a hundred bucks huh? I think it would be dog meat… well, I wouldn’t mind eating poodle. I hate poodles. Hahaha.


Which recipes in the book turned out to be the most positive surprises? I mean there must’ve been some that had “odd” ingredients or something that you maybe didn’t think would work...

- Yeah, there were a few of those! Really good question! OBSCURITY’s Råbiff – which had raw meat, raw egg and beets kind of turned me off, until I tasted it. That was my biggest surprise, because it was SO FUCKING DELICIOUS! You truly tasted the flavour of the meat. I would make it all the time!!! Other recipes were Pagan Altar’s Pagan Pie – which had canned meat, beans and mashed potatoes, and was pretty tasty – although really salty. Bobby Liebling (Pentagram)’s Oriental Chicken Casserole also was good… even though it had cream of mushroom and Corn Flakes cereals. Oh – Jeff Becerra (Possessed)’s cake had a pretzel crust, but that was surprisingly amazing! Haha. It gave the recipe a nice salt/sweet taste.


Despite (or due to!) coming from all the corners of the world, you say that in many cases the recipes reflected the bands’ music. In your opinion, is there actually something in the recipes that give away the fact that it’s a METAL cookbook we’re dealing with here? I mean, is there a metal way of cooking or something? Or maybe the traditional “metal way of cooking” (ie. junkfood) is what you try to fight against with this book? Please discuss.

- There are tons of recipes in there that ask to drink beer while cooking, or that incorporate beer directly in the recipe. There is also one that calls for shooter glasses instead of traditional measures – or that tells you which albums to throw on while cooking. Some bands also use “darker” ways of speaking, like in the Necrosadist recipe: “Angrily dice the onion into small pieces and sauté vengefully.” Or another exaple – dutch bm band Countess delivers us a primitive macaroni recipe, to reflect the primitiveness of his music. Of course, junkfood is good once in a while, but satisfying home cooking is so much better!


On the front cover it says 101 Basic Recipes – so referring to the previous question, how important was the “educational” aspect of the book for yourself, I mean the fact that most of the recipes could be managed even by people who don’t feature in Top Chef or something?

- Yes, that’s exactly it! My main goal was to be able to make every recipe myself, and I’m not a professional chef. It was really important to be simple and easy to follow – people I knew that a lot of people who was going to get it didn’t know how to cook.


From your experience, what kind of cooks are metal people in general?

- Since cooking is a very personal and cultural thing, it really changes from person to person. I do know that metalheads are quite curious in the kitchen though!


What music do you tend to listen yourself while cooking? Are there bands whose music you don’t listen while cooking for some reason, like, no Deiphago while chopping onion? (Actually I think you refer to this in the tips when you say that Autopsy makes you cut veggies too ferociously, ha!) Ever had any cooking-related accidents?

- I mostly listen to 70’s, very early 80’s Judas Priest, Motörhead, new acquisitions and albums that I don’t listen to often when I cook. Very rarely will I listen to doom metal, as I need to be fully awake and energetic. I keep the doom to relax when I eat the meal… hehehe. The worst accident I had was a burn I got on the pot I used to make the Lamb Shanks Braised in Burgundy: I had bought a new pot which has a cover with a metallic handle. I took out the blazing hot pot from the oven, and without thinking took the cover off with my bare hands… that was a pretty bad burn for the finger tips, couldn’t feel anything for about a month. Haha. It’s nothing too bad though, most pro cooks see live gore daily!


Do you think you could someday make another cookbook like this? What other projects do you have coming up in the near future?

- Maybe, I’m not sure what will happen in the future. I have tons of projects coming up: releasing a francophone doom metal fanzine in March, recording a 5-song EP with my band Cauchemar in April, designing the Slayer mag anthology in July and leaving on a trip around the world in January. I’ll be gone for (hopefully) two years, then I’ll be moving back to Ottawa, where I’m from. Of course I will be going to Finland… I want to rent a cottage, drink beer and roast sausages in the wild! Oh yeah, and eat smoked salmon and reindeer!


And the last question: all kinds of cooking shows seem to invade the TV these days, but what would a cooking show by the “Morbid Chef” be like? How would you go about combining metal and cooking in that format?

- If I had time, and was offered such a thing, I would turn it into some sort of metal video ‘zine with cooking segments with bands and such. Giving a culinary trick with each episode, etc… haha. I am not sure I would like to do such a thing though; I cut onions so slowly it is embarrassing!!!


If there’s anything else you want to add, state your business here!

- Well, thanks to you for the very in depth interview! It was a lot of fun answering this. Oh – and I have a question, did you try any of the dishes – and if you did, what did you think of it?

Thank you so much for the interview!

- It’s a real pleasure. Death to false meals!

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