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In Cannelle et Vanille, Aran Goyoaga tells a fuller story of food

In Cannelle et Vanille, Aran Goyoaga tells a fuller story of food
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It would be easy to completely give yourself over to the enviable aesthetics and enticing flavours of Aran Goyoaga’s food, without ever looking deeper. The Seattle-based writer and photographer is adept at creating a world you want to curl up in — dishes you can’t wait to make, gather around and unreservedly dive into.

If you skip straight to the recipes, though, you’ll miss the backstory — which makes all that she does that much more compelling. In opening up about her experiences with disordered eating in her second book, Cannelle et Vanille (Sasquatch Books, 2019), Goyoaga tells a fuller story of food. While many will relate to its central themes of identity and healing, few share their eating struggles publicly, let alone in a cookbook format.

Cannelle et Vanille is Aran Goyoaga’s second cookbook. Sasquatch Books

From a childhood spent in her grandparents’ pastry shop to an eating disorder she kept secret in her teens, Goyoaga traces her path from the Basque Country in northern Spain to the U.S. After leaving a career in business to become a professional pastry chef and working in the kitchen of a five-star Florida hotel, Goyoaga started a blog — also called Cannelle et Vanille — which laid the foundations for her career as a photographer and food stylist. Cooking, which she had initially resisted, had become both a sanctuary and creative outlet.

“Restriction or expression — (food) has been the thread in my life,” says Goyoaga. Her decision to frame the book around a day in her kitchen — personal, yet practical — arose from a video series she produced several years ago, A Cook’s Remedy . In it, she addressed the “complex role” food has had in her life and paired each of the four episodes with a recipe (all gluten-free and inspired by the seasons, in accordance with Goyoaga’s way of eating). Looking at food and nourishment through recipes “that represent who I am, my history, how I cook for my family and my friends, and myself” became the backbone of Cannelle et Vanille.

“I knew people would resonate with it. Not everybody has gone through what I’ve gone through … but everybody has felt alienated or stuck or anxious, or not knowing where they belong. These are universal ideas, and having some way to express yourself is really important. Whether that’s through music or writing, through cooking or through making socks for your neighbour,” says Goyoaga. “Everybody has the need to really connect. Our existence needs to be validated by being part of something bigger and that can be through so many different ways — for me it’s definitely cooking.”

From the “grounding” effect of making pantry staples from scratch — nut milks, cultured butter, whole-milk yogurt — to the comforting repetition of maintaining a sourdough starter, and the calming exercise of mixing and kneading dough for an impressive array of gluten-free breads and pastries, Goyoaga positions the kitchen as a place of solace.

Baked eggs in piperrada from Cannelle et Vanille. Aran Goyoaga

The significance of the book’s title, Cannelle et Vanille (cinnamon and vanilla) lies in her earliest memory — the scent of cinnamon- and vanilla-infused custard cooking on the stove, tended to by her maternal grandmother Miren. A pastry chef herself, Goyoaga recalls her grandmother pasteurizing raw milk in large pots every day, skimming the cream once it rose to the top and spreading it on toast with a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon for a snack, and using any leftover milk from the custard to make arroz con leche (rice pudding) or flan flavoured with the two redolent aromatics and a shaving of lemon zest.

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