Just in time for peak summer picnic season, author Anna Brones celebrates good food and riding a bicycle as gloriously simple things with the power to improve daily living. In fact, as Brones notes, her new cookbook, The Culinary Cyclist, may be the first to take for granted that the reader uses a bicycle for everyday transportation.
A passionate cook and traveler who founded the website Foodie Underground, Brones writes that she didn’t realize she was “eating healthy” as she was growing up with a Swedish mom. Wholesome food choices were just assumed, in the same way that riding a bicycle in Sweden is a normal way to get around.
Starting from that base, the book focuses on mindfulness about living well — in the kitchen, at the dinner table, and while traveling around town. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but rather a selection of the recipes – heavy on baked goods (hurray!) — that have become happy staples of the author’s own kitchen and that reflect her philosophies.
All recipes in the book are gluten-free, but Brones admits that she isn’t a strict adherent. She says she mostly avoids gluten, dairy and sugar, but also allows herself exceptions and indulgences – and so, encourages individual experimentation with the recipes. Buying locally and seasonally when possible also is part of the author’s ethos.
Among the recipes that caught my eye are “The I-Can-Do-Anything-With-This Kale and Garlic Vegan Cream Sauce” and “Sea Salt Chocolate Cake,” with a dense texture that allows for easy transport by bike.
Charming illustrations by Johanna Kindvall remind me of the line drawings that enliven my now battered (and batter-splattered) Silver Palate Cookbook. The volume is published by Taking the Lane Media, founded by Elly Blue, the writer and commentator on cycling and feminism.
Beginning with the all-important morning cup of coffee and a few simple breakfast dishes and concluding with an after-dinner cup of tea, Brones lights upon DYI snack foods, stocking a pantry, setting up a home bar, and hosting a party. There are also tips on decoding the bulk section of the grocery store – grains, nuts, dried fruits –“where everything seems possible.” Brones uses only a backpack for transporting groceries and other cargo by bike, but includes suggestions for baskets and panniers, as well.
Like Elly Blue’s excellent guide, Everyday Bicycling, the book is written in a conversational style. I like the clear instructions and the little reassurances added to the recipe instructions. Here’s one for Baked Egg in Avocado: depending on the size of your eggs, some of the egg white may spill out. Don’t stress about it.”
This book is a fine addition to the cookbook shelf, and also a thoughtful gift.
The Culinary Cyclist: A Cookbook and Companion for the Good Life, $9.95