A new life
Some people are more brave than others; they do what they want and not what is expected. When following ones heart, life can sure be a real adventure. That is what happened to "The Cooking Ladies" when they decided to leave their jobs and start all over. This is a most exciting story and very inspiring.
Names: Phyllis Hinz and Lamont Mackay
Occupation: Writers, cookbook authors
Live in: Stratford, Ontario, Canada
You are "The Cooking Ladies" and have been so for about 20 years. Your earlier working life did not include food yet you quit and changed careers completely. What was it that sent you on your new path?
In our previous lives, neither one of us was a cook. Phyllis graduated from university with a degree in Fine Arts. She put writing the great Canadian novel on hold while working in a bank. Lamont was a high school English teacher. We met in a writing class and discovered that we shared a love of food, travel, and a sense of adventure.
Leaving jobs behind, we traveled in Europe for nine months, in a Volkswagen van. Our vagabond lifestyle was the ultimate freedom - indulging in food and drink, meeting fascinating people, bouncing from one country to another. Upon returning to Canada, we were passionate about owning a restaurant and recreating our favourite European dishes. We purchased an existing family-style restaurant and fortunately the previous owners taught us how to cook.
This first endeavor evolved into four restaurants and a catering company. Susan, one of Lamont's former students, became our business partner. The three of us worked extremely well together. We thrived on the challenges of being entrepreneurs. We worked long days, seven days a week, for years, alongside our employees who were like family. Just before Christmas one year, as we were preparing for a large catering event, Susan died suddenly, at the age of 28, of an asthma attack.
In our grief, we came to the realization that life is short. That life is meant to be more than work. That every minute is to be cherished.
We sold the catering business, our homes, and all our possessions, and bought a 40-foot (12 metre) motorhome. After purchasing a car that we could pull behind the motorhome, we set off down the highways of North America. We were vagabonds once again and visited every state in the United States and every province and territory in Canada, except Nunavut.
You sold your business, your homes, and began a life out on the road. It must have been at least a tiny bit scary to change so much at once.
It wasn't scary for us; it was an adventure. We wanted to see where the roads would take us. Our direction each day was determined by the weather and suggestions from people we met along the way. We arranged for our mail to be forwarded to stops along the road. We took a hair dressing course in case we were ever stranded.
Our restaurant experience served us well. While on the road, we began to co-author a travel-recipe column in a Canadian magazine and became known as The Cooking Ladies. Our columns lead to cookbooks. Our most recent, our tenth, is On The Road With The Cooking Ladies, Let's Get Grilling.
Eating out, our research and development for our column and cookbooks, lead to restaurant consulting contracts. Our cookbooks became an introduction to our experience as kitchen experts with a Canadian chain of stores.
Did we plan any of this? No. Was it scary? No. It was exhilarating to travel along until opportunities arose and when they did, to make the best of them.
It all turned to success. You have owned restaurants, advised others on running restaurants, been on TV, written travel columns and cookbooks. You have traveled extensively. Is there anything left to achieve?
We are always up for a new adventure. Phyllis is finally writing her novel and Lamont is researching the third book in our recently published, co-authored, series of guidebooks, Stratford For All Seasons, on Stratford, Ontario, Canada.
You have traveled to so many places, how does the Canadian food culture differs from other countries.
Canada, a multi-cultural country, enjoys all the cuisines of all the cultures of the world. As new Canadians arrive, their foods are added to our culinary mix.
However, there are traditional Canadian dishes served in various corners of the country, from the Atlantic to Pacific and Arctic Oceans, and everywhere in between, that are influenced by Canada's early settlers and First Nations peoples.
For example, Montreal smoked meat and maple syrup pie in Quebec, smoked salmon in British Columbia, Jigg's Dinner, a mixture of salt beef, vegetables and dumplings all boiled up in a large pot, in Newfoundland and Labrador, and bannock, a First Nation's bread originally cooked over an open fire in Manitoba.
Canadian dishes that can only be found in Canada or where Canadians gather are: Poutine, fresh-cut fries topped with cheese curds and hot gravy; Bloody Caesars, a Bloody Mary with clamato juice substituted for tomato juice; Nanaimo bars with their chocolate-covered custard centres; sweet, gooey buttertarts; and peameal bacon.
When travel restrictions with COVID-19 are lifted, we invite you to visit Canada.
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