Montreal’s Epices de Cru is proud to release its 5th cookbook and spice kit, The Spice Trekkers Cook at Home, on November 9th. Chef/spice hunters Philippe and Ethne de Vienne present their approach to making uncompromised, healthy home cooking delicious– all by incorporating spices!

Drawn from the cuisine Philippe developed after he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2012, this cookbook presents anti-inflammatory, Paleo-inspired recipes that both soothe symptoms and feed family and friends. “Cooking for health is important, but food should be first and foremost delicious,” he says.

The recipes include a discussion of each technique involved, as well as 3 possible variations of the same recipe. “A recipe is just a list of ingredients and techniques that can be easily swapped,” says Philippe, “We feel very strongly that we’ve invented nothing, just presented centuries-old culinary ideas in a new format.” Check out their video on how to use the cookbook/spice kit!

Of course spices are at the center of this new approach to healthy family cooking. The kit of 28 whole spices includes old classics, like Herbes de Provence, as well as new, exclusive bends, like Royal Berbere. The book is also filled with tips for choosing, storing and cooking with spices.

The combination cookbook/spice kit, long popular in Quebec, is still little known in America. Each blend can be used in many ways, and each spice can be mixed into different blends- the book even includes several guides on home spice blending. According to Ethne, “There’s nothing more liberating than adding a special dash of something and seeing the joy spread on your loved one’s faces.”

Epices de Cru began in 1982 as a catering partnership between Philippe and Ethne de Vienne. Their mission was a kind of “cooking pot anthropology:” learning the secrets of family cooking around the world and applying these techniques to the needs of hungry Montrealers. The secret, they learned, was spices.

Over the last two decades, Philippe and Ethne, often accompanied by their children, Marika and Arik, have traversed the globe searching for the world’s best spices. They strongly believe in direct sourcing spices: going to the growing regions, spending time with the growers, and developing personal relationships that last decades. In 2004, the de Viennes officially retired from catering and opened their first spice shop in Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market.

They steadfastly maintain that there is nothing original about their business. They are simply middlemen in time and space, bringing common sense approaches to cooking from around the world and in history. The wisdom we need to create a food system that is fair and sustainable already exists in the combined experience of the world’s cooks. We just need to talk to each other about it.

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