I can’t remember a time when food was not an important part of my day. From an early age, I observed and participated in the kitchens of my mother and two grandmothers.
My maternal grandmother was of the “kitchen is the heart of the home” tradition, always preparing delicious meals for family and anyone who dropped by. From her, I absorbed a passion for wholesome food and the joy of sharing it.
My paternal grandmother was not a natural cook and came from a more formal European kitchen tradition, but she recognized the value of spending time with her grandchildren, doing something in the kitchen. From her, I recognized how preparing food together (usually melt-in-your mouth cookies) creates strong bonds – the kneading, shaping, spicing of family connections.
My mother was never allowed to participate much in her mother’s kitchen, but later became an excellent cook, integrating Canadian and European cuisines from the two sides of our family. She encouraged my sister and me to take over the kitchen and to experiment with new recipes from her cookbook collection and from Gourmet magazine. Needless to say, we learned from our mistakes and reveled in our occasional triumphs.
My own cooking style has evolved over the years as I have experienced and adapted to various international influences and conditions. I have learned to be flexible, creative and organized in different cities and kitchens, with a range of equipment and ingredients: from a bed-sit in London, to a kitchen with a wood stove (it is possible to make a soufflé in a wood oven) and kerosene refrigerator in a remote village in northern Nigeria, to the more formal Swiss culinary tradition in Geneva.
While my husband and I lived and studied in London for a year, I leapt at the opportunity to study at Le Cordon Bleu London. I learned the basics of French cuisine and became rather spoiled by the freedom to create in the kitchen with someone behind me to clean up, a practice that my husband has patiently, and he would say happily, adopted.
In Vancouver, I have taught cooking classes (in the former cooking stores The Salt Box and The Wise Owl), teaching with Lesley Stowe and Diane Clement, among others. I worked for a few years for John Bishop at Bishop’s restaurant, an early pioneer of what has emerged as Vancouver cuisine. For Bishop’s, I made desserts, bread and lunch specials – all during the hours of the school day, so that I could pick up our two children after school. For a time, I worked at home, turning our home kitchen into an extension of the Bishop’s kitchen.
As a family, we have always embraced change, knowing that it has challenged us to expand our understanding and appreciation of the world. For me, the benefit has been to be able to develop a career in international education, while allowing myself the freedom to focus on nourishing the home front, bringing family and friends to the table.