My life in food: Shania Twain on growing up with hearty stews and her love of Époisses cheese

The Canadian singer talks about life in Switzerland, the joys of a good tomato and the best pasta she's ever had.

By Farida Zeynalova
Published 3 Feb 2023, 08:00 GMT
Shania's sixth studio album, Queen of Me, is out now.

Shania's sixth studio album, Queen of Me, is out now.

Photograph by Alexander-E.-Harbaugh

I grew up eating porridge, potatoes and hamburgers. Stews were a big thing, too. The main one in our house was hamburger stew, with ground beef, onion, garlic, potatoes, carrots, turnips and cabbage. We didn’t have a lot of money — it’s a poor man’s stew, but it’s really good. 

There’s a Canadian bread called bannock and it’s one of my absolute favourite things. It’s our biscuit, basically, and it’s really fabulous. You can pair it with anything you want, really. Soups are our go-to; we live in such a cold country that every day you put on a new soup. The typical Canadian soup would be yellow split pea and you’d have that with bannock. My go-to is lentil soup — if my son feels sick, that’s what he’ll want. 

In Switzerland, you’re more connected to the food you’re eating. Because the country’s so small, the farmland that produces the food is right there. You know that all the cheeses and the butters and the creams come from your neighbour’s cows. You can see the quality in the food because you know it’s not processed. Most of the cheeses aren’t pasteurised, for example, and we really take time to enjoy them. We often have quatre-heures, where everybody gathers around the house prior to dinner and enjoys a really nice selection of cheeses and a glass or two of local wine while having a catch up. Époisses is my favourite cheese; you have to keep it at room temperature and fairly warm. It’s very smelly! Another favourite is old, dry goat’s cheese. 

Our family dinners are usually more Mediterranean style. They tend to consist of a salad first, and then I’ll put a variety of dishes on the table; some grilled halloumi cheese, sautéed garlic spinach and maybe some sautéed mushrooms, depending on the mushroom season. I never like to make the same thing twice.

If I could eat at one restaurant over and over again, it’d be Nobu. The butter leaf lettuce salad is so good, you can’t imagine! My favourite thing to eat on the side is yuba — it’s a raw, very delicate soy curd and they serve it in various ways. It’s so good I could live on that. I’ve also discovered a new restaurant, Crossroads Kitchen, which is in two places [Las Vegas and Los Angeles]. If you’re ever on this side of the world and want to try the best vegetarian restaurant ever, that’s it. 

When I really want to indulge, I’ll go for a big bowl of pasta or a veggie cheeseburger. And definitely French fries, that’s probably the trigger go-to, spoil-myself food. I eat them with paprika seasoning and white vinegar — I love vinegar on my fries. 

The best pasta I ever had was in Japan. It was at a pop-up restaurant a couple of years ago. The chef had studied in Italy and fused the cooking methods together. The result... well, the texture and everything was unbelievable. It made me really dig into learning more about how to make my pasta more diverse — I was inspired. 

We forget how good boring food can be if we just treat it better. The purer the food, the better — that’s my daily way of going about eating. If you focus on appreciating some, say, raw spinach, and spending money on a good olive oil, salt and pepper, and add a little lemon juice — you’re good to go. Or if you find the perfect tomato, just slice it up and eat it with olive oil and seasoning. There’s so much pleasure to be found in the simplest things. 

Shania’s latest album, Queen of Me, is out now. She tours the UK and Ireland from September 2023.

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