I can't remember when my love of food started. I can only be thankful that it did. And that I had so many people in my life who influenced not only my attitude about food, but also my passion of all things food.
There was always a garden in my world. I remember being fairly small and helping my parents plant potatoes. Oh, the smell of the dirt and the excitement of my turn putting potato pieces in the planting machine. I remember the little push along seed machine with the different sized wheels for the different seeds. And mom and dad showing us how to pat down the earth after the seeds were planted. I also remember weeding. Let's be clear, that was not my favourite task, but since it usually involved eating peas fresh off the plants, it got done. After a fashion. And, I suspect, a lot slower and with more plant casualties than if mom had done it herself!! I remember playing hide and seek in the corn with my sister, and the huge corn boils with the neighbours. I remember digging those same potatoes and the smell of the burlap sacks the potatoes were stored in. I remember the stained red hands from the beets, the crunch of the fresh beans and the taste of a freshly pulled carrot that has the dirt (sort of) cleaned off by rolling it down your shorts leg or sleeve!
All summer, the garden was a ready snack bar. For kids who ran everywhere, a pit stop for a veggie fill up was encouraged. It's hard to ruin your dinner eating beans! At the end of the summer, there was pickling, freezing, and of course eating all the wonderful veggies that grew there.
Fast forward to when I started to get really interested in the cooking of all things. My grandmother, Evelyn Eisener, loved food, just like me. Her kitchen was the most wonderful place. Everyone was always welcome at her table and there were always cookies in the cookie tin.
Gram was a food explorer. She and I created all kinds of things in her kitchen, so I know my curiosity and willingness to play fast and loose with the directions and ingredients in a recipe came from her. And when she travelled, the food and the people who prepared it were the things she remembered and told us about when she came home. We could map her journey by the restaurants and the people she met in them.
As a 4-H member for a lot of years, it seems odd to me now that the only 2 projects I didn't take were foods and gardening. I did everything else! From welding and woodworking to cake decorating and showing pigs. I don't have much occasion to weld anymore, but decorating cakes, and chasing pigs still happens regularly.
One of the wonderful people I met in the 4-H world, Gail Keddy, gave me my first glimpse of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Gail was the Home Economist with the Department of Agriculture. She was a wealth of information about all things food. She knew the science behind the food. She knew how to prepare it, store it and also how it fit into healthy eating (along with many, many other things!). I remember telling mom that I wanted Gail's job when I grew up.
Fast forward to high school when I had to get serious about what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to be doing something with food. I also knew I really liked helping people. In Nova Scotia, the closest thing I could find to Gail's title was dietitics. So, that decision was actually easier than I thought it would be. Getting through pre-calculus, chemistry and physics was another story!
My degree in my hot hands a few years later, home I came to a job in a grocery store. Ryan's IGA. Barbara Ryan, another Home Economist, had the vision of dietitians in a grocery store to help people where they buy their food. I was privileged to be one of the dietitians who worked in the store she and her husband Roger Ryan owned and operated. Theirs was the first grocery store in Canada to have dietitians on staff. They were leaders. I loved every second spent in that store.
Fast forward more than 20 years that I spent as a retail dietitian and here I am. In my role as a retail dietitian, I played with food every single day. I led sessions to help people be food explorers, just like Gram and I.
We cooked, we tasted and we learned how food can impact health. I disregarded recipe directions and encouraged others to put their own spin on recipes. I actively encouraged people to use ingredients they love in a recipe, if they don't like the ones in the recipe's ingredient list. I helped people navigate the aisles of the grocery store and find foods they had no idea existed. And then we figured out what to do with them.
And all along the way, my passion for food grew.
This blog will be a window into my dietitian's kitchen. One where you will see that recipes are guidelines. And that putting food together can be enjoyable. Eating is about savouring the flavours, the colors, the tastes and the experiences of food. And yes, sometimes the taste isn't quite right, sometimes stuff burns to the bottom of the pot. But more often than not, what you made will be great. And that food can impact your health, both in body and in mind.
So, come on in, sit down. Make a coffee, grab a cookie, have a glass of wine. Let's talk and let's cook together. And then, let's eat!