Andrea Curtis is an award-winning writer and editor. Her latest book, The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement, written with Community Food Centres Canada's CEO & President Nick Saul, is a bestseller and a winner of the Taste Canada Food Writing Award. Here, Andrea writes about her food hero, her grandmother Flo, and why she is supporting Community Food Centres Canada this holiday season:
"If I had to define my approach in the kitchen, I would probably call it messy, colourful, “family style.” I like to eat with my fingers, use recipes as a general guideline rather than a script and serve big platters of food that taste best all mixed together. And yet when I think of my food heroes, I’m cast back to my paternal grandmother’s perfectly set, immaculately prepared table. She was a small but big-hearted woman with a raucous laugh, a love of a well-told story, and an exacting opinion on food. Her name was Patricia but everyone called her Flo.
Flo grew up in a small town in southwestern Ontario and after high school headed off to Toronto to study nutrition science at Central Technical School. I remember this in part because I heard often how she met her best friend there. The two of them would regale us with funny stories of their exploits in the kitchens and halls. But mostly I remember it because her training defined the way she approached food. She was confident in the kitchen, mistress of her domain. She measured and chopped with exactitude. She believed in a proper table setting (always set out the night before) and that children must sit with adults and learn to behave themselves. She could pull off an elaborate Thanksgiving or Christmas meal for our large extended family as easily as she could a summer breakfast at the cottage—complete with freshly caught bass, homemade bread, Morning Glory muffins, granola and blueberry jam. Which is to say, not easily at all, though she made it seem as if such things were straightforward, simply a matter of careful preparation and planning. I don’t remember ever hearing her complain about cooking. She did it all from scratch and loathed waste of any kind (even several decades later, I vividly recall a bowl of homemade granola I didn’t finish at breakfast appearing, soggy and distinctly unappetizing, the following morning). But most of all, Flo reveled in the pleasure we all took in her food.
My grandmother has been gone for over 20 years and her recipe for blueberry pie, written in her own hand, lives on inside a glass jar of tapioca (her secret ingredient) at the family cottage on Georgian Bay. Blueberry pie was Flo’s pièce de résistance. Made from blueberries picked at the cottage and surrounding islands, her pie has a bit of tartness, a lot of sweet, and tasted exactly like a perfect mingling of Georgian Bay and love. When my mother makes that pie now, I can still conjure up my grandmother’s great big laugh and oft-told stories. I can still remember the joy she took in feeding all of us."
Thanks to Andrea for making a donation to the #myfoodhero campaign, which supports Community Food Centres Canada to offer empowering food programs that build better health, skills, and belonging in the communities that need it most. Join Andrea by making a donation today!
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