Creating Canadian Recipes of the Great White North, its been asked many times,” What was your inspiration?”
There really isn’t any quick answer. Maybe you’ll stick around to hear the answer to this burning question. You know me as a chef, but I’m so much more then my profession dictates in the real world. When I’m long gone, nothing more then just a memory, some folks may remember me as a screenwriter, writer and artist. With that, I would like to share with you a true story behind making Canadian Recipes of the Great White North. It’s a sad story, but meaningful.
The Story Behind Canadian Recipes of the Great White North
The months of November and December have always been a time of darkness, I can’t seem to escape it. It was a record cold winter night in the middle of November, deep within the southern most tip of the barren Saskatchewan prairies. My wife Patricia and I were quickly escorted to our family farm, a mere 10 km from the United States border and approximately 5 km to a little town named Frontier. The McIlveen homestead was a productive couple of sections, producing the much needed wheat harvest every Fall. Without it, flour we take for granted, wouldn’t be available to make all the wonderful baked bread, we’re so fond of.
Our presence in the heart of the Saskatchewan farming community was a way to escape the heartbreaking madness we unfortunately experienced, that no parent should ever endure in their life time. You see, Patricia and I loss our first born child to an evil virus, rarely heard of in North America. To our horror, dear little Jenni died on November 5 1980 in the Calgary Foothills hospital. The soar of uncontrollable grief held us in an zombie trance of unforgivable torture. We were in disbelief and completely distraught by the death of our little one. How can a disease called “Kawasaki Syndrome” possibly take the life of Jenni. It was totally inconceivable to comprehend. After all, the doctors back then, didn’t even know the full extent of this virus. Today, it’s widely related to COVID virus, we so much know about. But, back in 1980, the term Kawasaki was only referred to as a motorcycle other then some unknown virus.
However, there it was, Kawasaki Syndrome, a killer to our young.
Our hearts crushed, we put Jenni to rest amongst one of many grave sites in the bustling city of Calgary, before ushered out to Saskatchewan. As said, It was a frightening cold winter, with the digits reaching well below -45 C, as the prairie winds formed eight foot snow drifts. Countless visitors came by to pay their respects, but all I wanted, was to be left alone. The wall-to-wall of people started to smother me to death. Feeling this rage of despair, I ran into the midnight of freezing cold, with nothing more then the shirt on my back. The frigid cold made me gasp in shock. Breathing in the sharpness of the frozen air particles, my lungs screamed in agony. Falling helplessly to the arctic ground, I cried out in despair. My tears froze to my frosted white cheeks, as I gasped desperately to scream out. Looking above me, my eyelids stuck to my face. My eyes winced in pain, as I searched the vast heavens above. The harsh conditions made the atmosphere turn to a fog of ice crystals as the stars above twinkle more then ever seen before.
That minute in time I lost any fear of death. I didn’t care how cold it was. All I wanted was answers.
How could there be God when defensive children die daily ?
Screaming in uncontrollably rage, I ranted out loud, wishing a god would answer back, knowing all to well, my words would be in vane. Suddenly, out of the corner my eye, I witnessed a larger then normal burning star spark out with a flash of blinding light. It was only a few minutes, but seemed like time slowed down to a crawl.
Could it be?!” I thought.
Was God pointing me in the direction where Jenni laid ? Or was my imagination just getting the best of me? Who really knows what the truth is ?
To me, it was clear.
Jenni stirred her lasting soul through that last burst of burning star, to assure me she was safe and sound. I could see the star was at least millions or possibly billions of light-years away. Could it be, Jenni’s soul was lying in a new undiscovered dimension of the universe, only to be revealed to me? I signed with relief, thinking Jenni’s life couldn’t be taken in vane. It was up to me to make sure it doesn’t.
When I got back to Calgary, I started planning to make a book in memory of Jenni, showcasing what she loved to do. In the last weeks we held her, she enjoyed our expeditions to Banff and the Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary. I use to hold her in the pouch, like a Kangaroo Joey, she would peer out, amazed within her surroundings. Even though she was just a young person, Jenni was very aware of her outdoor excursions. With that, I knew I had to make a Canadian theme Outdoor Campfire cookbook featuring from wild to home comforting recipes for the whole family.
After several manuscript copies, I came up with Canadian Recipes of the Great White North, including cute wildlife and colouring pages for children, so they too could enjoy my book. From the cover page to each chapter, my themed cookbook is presented in a children’s perspective, while mom and dad read through the pages, enjoying the outdoors, nestling beside a warm crackling campfire.
I believe Jenni would have enjoyed such a book.
So — to answer the question “ What was your inspiration?”
Jenni. Jenni was my inspiration… May her soul explore the Cosmos above and one day, I’ll join her within the vast heavens above.
By Bari Demers
Every year, if sales permit, I like to donate 10 percent to The Stollery Children’s Foundation. Please support by purchasing my cookbook this Christmas season. Not only will you get a Great Canadian Cookbook, but you’ll help support sick children at The Stollery Children’s hospital.
Thank you for your support.