I grew up second generation Canadian born Italian, eating in the summer from the garden and the winter from the cold cellar. What we didn’t grow or make ourselves, we always knew the people who made our food for us. A lot of my life was gloriously spent in the kitchen learning how to take care of myself and those around me. It was nothing special, it was the only way I knew, and I thought everyone else lived this way.
My first shock came when my children started school. Other children had candy, orange powdered mac + cheese and later – lunchables. It opened up a whole new world for me, a world where few cared what they put in their mouth, where food was put-down, a food world void of people or trust. We proceeded cautiously – or at least I did. There were many challenges.
Both of my children were seduced by colourful bags, boxes, cans and bottles of faux foods. After five years in school, my eldest was diagnosed with Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder. We applied the Feingold Diet with great success, but at that age, he had ideas of his own. There were many battles.
When I first became a food writer in the early 1900’s the very first story I wrote was about a farmer and the food he grew. I wanted to connect people to their greatest source of healthy food and expose a healthier lifestyle. When I wrote my cookbooks, I included a story of a farmer with every recipe for the same reason. My television show on CHCH-TV was about showcasing farms during harvest. The organization I founded, The Niagara Culinary Trail was all about connecting people with their greatest source of healthy food. Almost three decades later, I’ve written over 2,000 newspaper and magazine articles, 5 cookbooks and I’m still trying to connect people to delicious, home-grown, local foods.
“I wanted to connect people to their greatest source of healthy food and expose a healthier lifestyle.”
In between it all, there was my own personal challenges. In the fall of 1993, I was diagnosed with Muscular Sclerosis. The medical treatment recommendations terrified me so I turned to my naturopathic doctor who healed me through food. He never believed I had MS but he did tell me I was not well. He put me on a strict diet of whole, fresh foods and I was symptom-free within six months.
I’m not going to say it was easy following the new diet. I went back to my old ways of cooking and eating. As I cooked in the kitchen it was my grandmothers’ voice that was guiding me. Thank goodness she taught me how to cook or I would have been lost.
I’m not that much different than anyone else, I can easily be talked into eating something just to be part of the crowd. Sometimes I just want to be polite so I eat what is offered and other times I am genuinely curious about a new dish. But giving up what I know to be right, a little here and a little there would be justified by saying it was moderation and moderation is a good thing.
But who was I kidding? Certainly not my body. I was told that moderation is now always a good thing. For example, you can’t be a moderate cocaine user, can you? Can you be moderately healthy? I think not.
That’s when I realized that no matter how busy life gets, nothing is worth risking your health. So I got myself back on track, started to pay attention to the foods that came into the house. I already knew the best farmers in the region so I switched my food buying from a grocery store to farmers’ markets and farm stands and I was buying in season, planning ahead and feeling better. Like before, I knew who was growing my food and there was trust in the food I was buying. Equally important to my health was the return of our regular family meals and holiday feasts.
“I am constantly blending the advanced nutritional information with the lessons I learned as a young child in my grandmother’s kitchen.”
Fast forward to 2014 and I was given a new diagnosis of Osteopenia. I took the bone scan results to my naturopathic doctor who put me on natural supplements and made some minor adjustments to my diet. A year later my second bone scan showed my bone density was back in the normal range. I learned that supplementation combined with a healthy diet works wonders.
Besides my medical doctor, I have a few holistic professionals on my health team. I’ve been schooled in nutrition and am an avid learner on health from experts around the world. I am constantly blending the advanced nutritional information with the lessons I learned as a young child in my grandmother’s kitchen.