Anyone who has had the chance to dine at Pia’s on Broadway knows that her cooking is beyond delicious; it’s divine. Cooking has been a part of Pia Wiesen’s life for as far back as she can remember – from traditional German foods, to styles from the south of France and even Luxembourg.
Pia recently published her first cookbook, Pia: My Three Little Lands, featuring a collection of recipes from her European homeland. It will be officially launched this Saturday at From the Kitchen to the Table on Broadway.
“My children were always telling me that I should write my recipes down, so I started doing that,” she explained, regarding how she came up with the idea to create the cookbook. “They never understood how I could remember these recipes, but I always remembered them from eating the food.”
She included her memories and stories with each recipe in the book, which adds a personal flair to it and provides some insight to the connection for Pia with the recipes.
For example, her roast beef recipe comes from dinner with her grandmother. In her book, she recalls a particular evening where she and her cousin were in the kitchen while their grandmother cooked, waiting for the grown-ups to return.
“They were out for a walk and were always late because my mom never wanted to walk on the trail; she always went off the trail and got lost,” said Pia. “So there we were, waiting for them, and my grandmother had the roast in the oven with green beans and roasted potatoes. You could smell it. We were so hungry, so she gave us two slices before the grown ups came. It was so good that we ate two more at the dinner table.”
One thing that has set Pia apart from many other chefs and cooks is that she doesn’t like to spend hours in the kitchen to prepare a meal, and prefers to use a smaller number of ingredients.
“A lot of people are afraid to go in the kitchen and cook a big, mammoth meal, but you don’t have to be afraid of it,” she said. “Good ingredients make a good dinner; you usually cannot screw that up.”
She describes her book as the kind of book that anyone can use – from older age groups who love to play host, to young adults leaving home for the first time and wanting to eat like they still live there. All of her recipes contain only 4-5 ingredients, making the shopping list and prep time quite simple.
“The recipes I have contain normal, easy to access ingredients,” said Pia. “The only recipe I can think of that has more than five ingredients is my fish soup. I like to use ingredients that are not hard to come by and are simple. That is the way I cook.”
Most of the recipes, along with Pia’s little story, also come with a wine pairing provided by her husband, that will best suit the meal. The book is also easy to look at, with photos on every page, ranging from images of the meal to family gatherings, where Pia’s family eats, and where she cooks in the kitchen.
“There are even some pictures of a messy kitchen, because kitchens get messy,” she said. “You cannot cook a dinner when you don’t have things handy.”
The book is going to be sold locally at Pia’s, the General Store in Hockley, at BookLore or through Pia’s website at cookingwithpia.ca.
But Pia’s vision goes far beyond sharing her secrets with local residents; she hopes to find an agent soon to help promote the book elsewhere, and maybe even help her become a national best-seller.
“I want to show people that you can cook real food in a short amount of time, instead of eating bad because of time restrictions for cooking,” she said. “All the manufactured food we eat is already cooked. If you give a corporation the choice to prepare something that you eat, their goal is profit optimization. If you manufacture it in your kitchen, you know what you’re putting in it.”
She added that she wants to show people that they can conveniently feed their families home cooked meals every night, even on nights when they come home and are exhausted.
“You can prep stuff the day before or on the weekend, because there are so few ingredients in each recipe,” she said. “Or, you can pop it in the slow-cooker in the morning; it’s not that difficult to be able to make those home-cooked meals.”
Pia is already working on her next book, which will aim to make providing those home cooked meals for families even more simple, especially for busy people.
“The next book will contain a dinner for every day of the year, and possibly a breakfast, that way you can open it up to the day and have a meal idea there for you,” she said.
She took into account the time of year for each of the recipes, putting together meals that will be the most comforting and desirable based on the season.
“There will also be little ideas on things you can do at that time of year too,” said Pia. “If it’s the middle of February, and dreary, there will be suggestions in there for things to cheer up your house, like suggesting to buy yourself some pansies and put them in the kitchen.”
The Book Launch will be held this Saturday, November 29, from noon to 2 p.m., at From the Kitchen to the Table on Broadway, and will feature a book signing with Pia.