Food is important to me. And I come from a long line of food producing and cooking women. My grandmother raised dairy and meat cattle, sheep and feed crops in Scotland at a time when much of the work was done by hand and there were always a lot of hungry workers to feed. Meals were simple, hearty and mostly made from ingredients grown at home or nearby. There were very few cans or packages in grandma’s kitchen.
My mother did a lot of the cooking on the farm and refined her talent by studying cooking at the Glasgow Institute of Domestic Science. In Glasgow she had her first taste of international cuisine which was further fuelled by a year in California. For a Scottish farm girl she developed a diverse culinary repertoire and her daughters were the primary beneficiaries. We never ate like the other kids. But mom was still a true frugal Scot. Our vegetables were always in season, mostly grown at home and meat was from the local butcher and usually the less expensive cuts. When the family moved to Canada my mom went wild with the abundance of summer produce. We were all pressed into service to process and preserve – corn, and berries and peaches and tomatoes and beans and whatever else mom could get her hands on. There was a legendary day of roasting hot peppers which mom adores. Being unfamiliar with the dangers of spending a few hours peeling roasted chillies mom neglected to wear gloves. The poor woman had to sleep with her hands dangling into an ice bath.
I learned a lot of kitchen skills at my mother’s elbow. She was and still is, a tough task master. We were taught the right way to use knives and prepare the basics, and woe to us if we strayed from her instructions. Although I flirted with the idea of a cooking career I ended up going into environmental science and a career promoting sustainable development. Through those years, I continued to cook and learn about food. Now I am combining my love of cooking and food with my interest in sustainable living.
My own daughter Shonagh, continues the food tradition. She studied nutrition at university and is a regular helper in my kitchen. She is particularly talented with baking.
Why Demeter – Demeter is the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture and her grief over losing her daughter Persephone – if only briefly – was thought to be responsible for the seasons. Each year Persephone must descend to the underworld for 4 months and Demeter’s sorrow causes the earth to be barren. Fortunately Persephone always returns and the earth comes alive again.
My cooking commitment – Food in season is important to me and I try to use local and seasonal produce. I also try very hard to find pasture-raised beef, pork, game and lamb as well as chickens that were raised in open range sheds. I think it makes for healthier and more wholesome animals and is better in the long term for environmental sustainability. I am not a trained chef – just someone who has had a passion for good food all of my life. (Note – I have taken basic sanitation and food hygiene courses) My dishes are fairly simple even when I prepare an international dish, and tend not be ornate or fussy. I use the best possible ingredients and let them speak for themselves.