One on One: Kate Boothman and Blue Rodeo Sing for Their Supper (Bonus Pumpkin Pie Recipe)

There’s something romantic about the idea of a band holing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, with every room in the house converted into a studio space. That’s exactly how Blue Rodeo recorded their new album, In Our Nature, just like they recorded a few previous records like their classic Five Days in July. But as idyllic as the remote farm studio sounds, what does a band eat while they’re out in the middle of nowhere?

This question is answered by a lovely new cookbook that the band have released in conjunction with their new record. Sing For Your Supper is a collaboration between the Blue Rodeo guys and Kate Boothman, a great musician in her own right, having recorded and played both as a solo artist and with the group Sunbear. Kate is a longtime friend of the Blue Rodeo gang and also a food professional (she learned her chops at a catering company, recently finished a stint running a restaurant, and has attended the French Culinary Institute in New York to learn the business side of being a personal chef. Needing someone to feed them while they worked far away from any take-out joint at BR co-founder Greg Keelor’s Southern Ontario farm, the band hired Kate to cook for them and the recipes from those sessions eventually turned into a hand-illustrated book featuring 80 recipes (each member of the band also contributed some recipes in addition to the ones Kate developed).

Blue Rodeo

I spoke to Kate about how the book came together and also chatted with Greg Keelor (who was riding a ferry towards Vancouver on New Year’s Eve so that Blue Rodeo could kick off their tour on January 2) about the importance of having great food on hand during the recording of the album.

“I think that getting everyone out of the city and having communal meals really helps getting the band into that one mind sort of thing.” Greg says. “There’s also the thing about the takes after dinner, we always say. There’s a certain relaxed thing after dinner: the food, the wine, and just hanging out together. And the overall thing is just when the band comes and they feel welcomed and there’s lots of nice food waiting for them.”

Greg, who cooks quite a bit himself (again, no takeout when you live on a rural farm) says his favourite recipe is the marinated salmon as well as the soups, contributed recipes for chicken tourtiere and two different chicken stews. But Kate is really the driving force behind this lovely and slightly retro feeling book, so I spoke to her about some of the finer details:

Kate Boothman

So, how did this transform from you cooking for the band into you writing a cookbook?

About 30 days in to the session out at Greg’s place, Jim [Cuddy] walked in and said “Okay, this is ridiculous. Every night I came home and I tell Rena [his wife] what I had for dinner and rather than me constantly getting the recipes from you we think you should just do a cookbook.” And at first I thought it was a joke, but by the end of the day it was on. So I started compiling the recipes and paying attention to what I was cooking. We were near the end of the session at that point and I hadn’t given it any consideration — I was just cooking for them like I would for my friends or my family. So the biggest challenge for me was to go back through my memory bank and figure out what I was making for them throughout the entire session.

What kind of food were you making out there?

It was kind of tricky in a situation like that because there can be different dietary requirements with such a large group of people so it always tends to be a bit of a smorgasbord. It’s always healthy and where Greg lives there are so many farmers markets in the summer so it tended to be based on whatever was available to work with. Indian food was really fun, and we had big barbeques also, and pasta.

Did you have to make any concessions based on the fact that they were recording? Like avoid foods that would affect their voices, etc?

Absolutely. Jim can’t eat eggs, it affects his voice. When I was baking I would have to customize for him. But all said and done, they’re pretty low maintenance.

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Because it’s sort of a family environment and the kitchen is in someone’s home and the studio is set up all over the house, I had to try to be a little quieter if they were tracking.

Is food a part of the creative process for you?

Food is so crucial to feeling happy and sharing stories, there’s a real communal element to it. It’s nice to be able to step away from the microphone for a minute and eat. You go back after dinner and you have a clearer perspective. Everyone is always happy after dinner and the recording always goes smoothly and it always leads into a long productive night. It’s nice to reconnect with each other as humans instead of just in the headphones.

All the recipes in the book are based on 12 people. So you’re encouraged to gather your friends and your family around. But they’re very loose and are easily adaptable. But the whole vibe of the book is to cook for your friends and your family and roll your sleeves up and have a great meal. It’s a party book.

What is your favourite kind of pie?

My mom has a heritage orchard on her farm and she makes an apple pie that I included in the book and we made it for the party at the end of the recording. There was a huge party with 50 people and I made a huge spread and my mom made some pies. Her apple pie is pretty boss.

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For the record, Greg Keelor says his favourite kind of pie is coconut cream (“the most decadent mouth watering kind of pie,” he says), but Kate created a special pumpkin pie for the band. Apparently they’re collectively addicted to maple sandwich cookies (yes, the ones shaped like a leaf), so she created a special Blue Rodeo pie just for the band. Recipe (with Kate’s handwritten stylings) below. I took a crack at making it (I am not a lover of pumpkin pie in general, but this was pretty damn good), so all pie photos are my own.

Blue Rodeo Pumpkin Pie

Blue Rodeo Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Sing for your supper is available through the Blue Rodeo online store or at any of the band’s upcoming tour dates.

And here’s Kate Boothman and her band Sunbear with the song City Escape: