When I first started thinking about who my food hero was, I thought about the many inspiring women in my life. My mother, an obstetrician gynecologist with a great wit and an even better brisket. My Bubbie, the holder of the best chicken soup recipe and one of the calmest – yet strongest – woman I know. And my Nana, who had just about every skill in the world – from woodworking to stained glass making – and an instinct for cooking that’s never been matched. I have warm memories of visiting her and my Papa over the holidays, with apples pies and Reuben sandwiches always on the menu.
But the food hero I want to celebrate today is my Papa, a man who didn’t start cooking until his eighties.
My Nana passed away just on the edge of her 80th birthday. Thinking about all the things I still had to learn from her breaks my heart, but no one’s heart was quite broken like my Papa. They were married for over 50 years, 50 years filled with four children (including my dad!), and countless of delicious, warm, home-cooked meals made with love and flare by my Nana. My Nana and Papa lived in a small town called Wallaceburg, an area where my Papa has a history dating back hundreds of years; He grew up on a small sugar beet farm nearby. He met my Nana in Toronto while in dentistry school, and they moved back to Wallaceburg to raise their family.
When my Nana passed, my Papa was left alone and heartbroken, and had to start learning how to care for himself. We were all worried about him declining. Would he have enough to eat? Would he be isolated? Instead, he dove into all my Nana’s cookbooks, not only to bring back memories of her, but to learn. He was a little shakey at first, but now he cooks, cans, bakes, you name it. And he always refers back to my Nana’s hand-written advice that lines the pages of her cookbooks; I think a love of cooking has brought them closer together, even when they’re so far apart.
His baking in particular has earned him many new friends in his community. He bakes for the local church bazaar, for the old folk’s home, really when he’s visiting anyone. Recently, when I was visiting him, a middle-aged man came up to him and asked, “Doc, can I get some baked goods for my fishing trip?” No problem, said my Papa. It’s truly inspiring to see. I can’t wait to try his peach jam every summer, something that my Nana was known for. And his corn relish? Can’t be beat. He clearly explains to me every time we’re enjoying it that the key to a good corn relish is knowing a corn farmer, and getting the corn canned the same day it’s harvested!
You’re never too young or old to learn how to cook or to make new friends, and that’s a lesson I’ve learned from my Papa. He’s #myfoodhero. I donated to Community Food Centres Canada on behalf of him this year, as Community Food Centres across the country help bring people of all ages together to learn to cook, enjoy good food, and build community. Join me in making a donation today.
- Chloe Brown is Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Community Food Centres Canada.
Thanks to Chloe 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 Chloe by making a donation today!
Celebrate the food hero in your life by making a donation to Community Food Centres Canada on their behalf
Have a food hero in your life? Scroll down to share this with them on social media and thank them for being your food hero! #myfoodhero