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One on One: Joel Plaskett Dishes on Pimm’s, Jiggs Dinner, and Gluten-Free Eating on the Road

Joel Plaskett has been a huge part of the Canadian music scene since he was a teenager in the ’90s, fronting the Halifax-based rock outfit Thrush Hermit. Over the years, Joel has matured into one of our country’s most beloved modern-day songwriters, both as a solo artist and rockin’ out with his band the Joel Plaskett Emergency. If you’re in Calgary this weekend for the Sled Island music festival, you can catch the Emergency Friday night at Flames Central, along with fellow Canadian songwriting hero John K. Samson.

Since he’s been a professional musician for the larger part of his life, Joel has learned a lot about eating on the road over the years, and now in his late-30s, he’s more concerned about finding healthy meals rather than settling for cheap eats. His tastes have also moved from white bread towards kale and flank steak, thanks to the culinary skills of his wife, artist Rebecca Kraatz (check her website out — unsurprisingly, she’s just as cool as he is).

Do you cook or are you more of the sort who goes for take-out/lets others cook for you?

I’m not much of a cook. My bacon and eggs are pretty good. My wife, Rebecca, is the one who keeps us healthy and fed. She’s great. She makes amazing Vietnamese dishes, flank steak tacos, beef brisket, kale from the garden sauteed with garlic and hot peppers. The list goes on. I’m lucky.

You’ve been working as a touring musician for more than half your life now — how has eating on the road changed since your early days in Thrush Hermit? Have the choices in towns across Canada changed since the ’90s? Do you find that you’ve gradually started eating healthier as you’ve gotten older?

Yeah. As and teenager and into my early 20s it was pretty french fry-based on the road and whatever was cheap. Rebecca’s cooking really changed my palette and I started eating better food on the road. About six or seven years ago I went gluten-free and that pretty much eliminated fast food. It’s more expensive to eat out now but I feel a lot better. As my body gets older it seems that food is more important.

On the same note, are their certain cities that you look forward to playing because you know they’ve got great restaurants? As in “Oh man, I can hardly wait to get to Regina because the have the best falafel there!” (for the record, I have no idea what the falafel is like in Regina)

I’ve got favourites in most cities across Canada. Some places that come to mind are Molé in Victoria, The Swan and The Senator in Toronto, Mazurka and Schwartz’s in Montreal, Budapest in London, Christie’s Mayfair Bakery in Saskatoon.

I love some the nostalgic quality of some of your music (I’m thinking specifically of Ashtray Rock here) — do you have memories of food that correlate with some of your musical memories?

As I kid, I Ioved super basic stuff. Hamburgers, fish sticks, milkshakes, peanut butter and jam on white bread. We didn’t have white bread at home in Lunenburg, so I’d go to Anne Otten’s house as often as I could for lunch. I still love a good milkshake about once a year.

Do you have any fun stories about breaking bread with other musicians?

The Emergency had a great “jiggs dinner” in Grand Falls, Newfoundland last year with Heavy Weather folks and Justin’s family. Turnips, salt beef, turkey, carrots. Super basic and abundant. The hospitality was amazing.

What’s your favourite kind of pie?

Coconut cream is pretty damn good.

Do you have any recipes that you’d like to share with us?

Pimm’s, lemonade and cucumber on ice.

by Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, Rolling Spoon