She came of age in Montreal shopping for food on a Zellers cashier's budget and making disastrous, complicated cakes to impress her new mother-in-law.
Then I came along, and she set up a stool for me at the counter while she cooked dinner, and let me steal chunks of mushroom and radish -- my two favourite vegetables -- almost a fast as she chopped them.
On rainy days, she'd pull out the pasta-maker and we'd explode flour all over the dining room table and pull never-ending streams of golden spaghetti and linguine from the little silver machine. There, too, she let me play by my favourite rule -- one for me, one for the drying rack.
In summer we'd drive 10 hours to Maine to spend time at her aunt and uncle's cottage. Tante Rita would pick snap peas from the plant and bring them out to my brother and I as we bobbed in the lake. Oncle Willy always had a perfect ham and raspberry jam sandwich for us when we were ready to get dry.
As I got older and "better at cooking," Ginette started letting me "bake" complex and inedible creations that often turned out grey, and sometimes even bouncy. I wasted a lot of time and food that way, but she never said a word, and always was a willing taste-tester, however small the bite.
Later, she somehow found it in herself to humour both my developing love for KD and my dislike of liquidy pasta by making a box as I left for school in the morning, so that it would have time to dry out a bit by the time I came back for lunch. When my brother turned out to be a super fussy eater, she started making two dinners instead of one: something bland and mild that he would eat, and wiener schnitzel, pad thai, and ragoût for us, tastes from the many places she and my dad had been before we were born.
And often, once a week at least, she'd tell us stories about her childhood on that farm of her grandmother's, about the hens and their eggs, the fields and their seeds, and how anyone who walked by the house around dinner time, poor, rich, or otherwise, would always be invited in to sit down and eat.
This holiday season, I'm celebrating #myfoodhero, Ginette, with a donation to Community Food Centres Canada to support our work bringing the power of food to low-income communities. I hope you'll consider making a donation in honour of your food hero, too.
Christina Palassio is the Director of Communications at Community Food Centres Canada.