Book Review: “Rock Recipes: Christmas” by Barry C. Parsons

by James M. Fisher, The Miramichi Reader

This was the first-ever cookbook the Miramichi Reader was asked to review, and no sooner had I removed it from its protective bubble mailer when it was taken from my hands by my wife who proceeded to oooh and aah over every glossy page and delicious-looking photograph. She claimed the recipes called for ingredients she already had in the house, so they could be easily made (if she so wished). Looks like this cookbook already had her ‘seal of approval’!

“My recipes…are simple and unfussy, using ingredients that you generally don’t have to Google to find out what they are.”

Barry C. Parsons

In Rock Recipes Christmas, Barry C. Parsons provides everything you need to prepare for the ultimate holiday season. From the perfect turkey dinner with all the trimmings to delectable cakes, cookies, breads, and desserts—there are even recipes for gift giving—Parsons offers the blueprint for a truly delicious festive season. A New Year’s menu is here too, with a mouth-watering ham and party nibbles for guests. This is old-fashioned family cooking at its very best, and every recipe is accompanied by a full-page colour photograph (taken by the author, who is also a photographer) to help with the perfect presentation.

Rock Recipes Christmas serves as an ideal gift, and it’s handy to have all year ’round, too!

A Rock Recipe Sampler

Here’s a few of the beautiful images from the book, courtesy of the author. These should get your mouth watering!

Book Review: “Rock Recipes: Christmas” by Barry C. Parsons
Book Review: “Rock Recipes: Christmas” by Barry C. Parsons
Book Review: “Rock Recipes: Christmas” by Barry C. Parsons

Meet Author and Cook, Barry C. Parsons

Barry was able to step away from the stove for a few moments to answer some questions for the Miramichi Reader, for which I am grateful.

Can you recall your first cooking experience, or when you knew that cooking was “your thing” so to speak?

Book Review: “Rock Recipes: Christmas” by Barry C. Parsons
Barry Parsons

I first recall cooking, or rather baking, with my mother as a child around 9 or 10. Baking was a big thing in our family and still is. Before long my interest also branched into cooking. I think it was the transformative “magic” that happened to ingredients in the cooking and baking processes that caught my imagination as a kid. The fact that you could take common things like butter, sugar, flour and eggs and turn them into a cake, for example, was fascinating to me. I was soon experimenting in the kitchen on almost a daily basis.

Was there someone that inspired you to pursue cooking?

My mom and aunts definitely inspired my interest in baking but my cooking curiosity was sort of self-motivated. I was a finicky eater as a kid. I refused to eat anything with yellow onions in it for example, and as I got into my pre-teen years, I learned that if I cooked supper after school, I got to control the menu. I banished the yellow onions and never looked back!

Do you have a favourite “go to” recipe when you entertain, or when guests show up unexpectedly?

I like variety too much to have a go-to recipe for entertaining. When people come over, I like to try and serve them something new that they haven’t tried before. They are also generally guinea pigs for the next recipe I’m planning for a blog post. Unexpected guests are never really a problem because of the way we cook around here. I am a real “make do with what’s in the fridge” kind of person. It’s that kind of instant inventiveness which I’ve honed over the years, that really makes such situations stress free for me. Then again, we do mostly have a well-stocked fridge and freezer so I guess the possibilities are a bit more open than for some folks. If I had to make something right now, there is fresh linguine, fresh basil, vine-ripened tomatoes and some shrimp in the fridge along with some kalamata olives and capers. I’d have a Spicy Shrimp Linguine Puttanesca on the table in under 30 minutes. Time me! Ha.

Tell us about your website, Did you start it because you were getting so many requests for your recipes?

Yes indeed. Prior to starting a blog, I had almost never written down recipes that I’d come up with or adapted. I pretty well just remembered how I did it the last time if I wanted to repeat the dish later. It was a major ankle surgery that was going to have me laid up for a few months that also provided me something to do as a project to fill the time I would be off work. I intended it as a reference site for friends and family, particularly those living away from the province and it grew organically from there. I had under 200 page visits on the day I first posted to the website on September 25, 2007. Our busiest day this past year saw over 40,000 page hits. Nine years later, with over 500,000 followers across social media, over 1500 recipes posted, 3 cookbooks published, freelance writing continuing to grow, and Rock Recipes now my full-time job, it certainly has been quite a journey.

The blog itself has been a success in my opinion because of the accessibility of the recipes for everyday people who just want to get a tasty dinner on the table or bake something delicious for friends and loved ones. For the most part, although my recipes can be creative, at their heart they are simple and unfussy, using ingredients that you generally don’t have to Google to find out what they are. The majority of loyal followers would not identify as “foodies” and they really appreciate the straightforward approach to food. Those who would identify as foodies, say that approach is what they like too. In the end what both those groups of folks recognise, is that simple food can also be great food.

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Book Review: “Rock Recipes: Christmas” by Barry C. ParsonsJames M. Fisher lives in Miramichi. James is an ardent reader whose aim is to highlight New Brunswick authors and publishers, as well as cover subjects of interest to New Brunswickers in particular and Maritimers in general. For more visit his website or like his page on Facebook.

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