But this particular food hero is someone who truly inspired my love of food and cooking: my friend Joanna.
I met Joanna in my early twenties. Fresh out of school, I was hired as an intern on her team. We spent many lunch breaks together in our office pod, spinning in our chairs to face each other and chat between bites—hers, hearty salads and warmed-up homemade leftovers; mine, soggy turkey sandwiches or soup from the cafeteria.
It soon became clear to my whole team that I wasn’t the most adventurous eater, though I tried to get them to believe I was “much better than I used to be.” I remember the looks of horror on their faces when I mentioned I had never tasted sushi. They made sure to order in a boatload of it for my birthday lunch, which I did enjoy, save for a skeptical bite of tuna sashimi and an embarrassing first attempt at using chopsticks.
I’d been telling myself for years that cooking was hard and not very fun. But I did like eating, and boy, so did Jo. She once told me her first thought when she woke up in the morning was about breakfast. Lunchtime chats typically featured Joanna’s dinner plans. I felt food inspiration creeping in from all sides.
We made a habit of picking up the LCBO Food & Drink magazine on a lunch break, bringing it back to the office, and salivating over all the beautiful food. We’d “ooh” and “aah” over a dish, then immediately reject the idea of actually making it—the recipe instructions seemed long and overly complicated, and the ingredients costly.
While flipping through the latest issue, Joanna made a genius suggestion: what if we tackled a recipe together? We could grab the ingredients after work, head to her place, and cook up the fancy meal as a team. It was such a simple, beautiful solution to our culinary woes. We chose a recipe and gave it a go. Scallop cassoulet. It was—you guessed it—my first time trying scallops, let alone cooking them. I was amazed by how good they were, and by how quickly the hours of chopping and stirring passed while spent talking and laughing with a friend.
After that, I was hooked. Together, Jo and I tried our hands at mussels, curries, stews, even fresh pasta in her pasta maker. Not every dish turned out picture-perfect, but every one of our “Dinner Club” nights deepened my appreciation for home cooking, for good food, and, most of all, for my friend.
This holiday season, I'm celebrating #myfoodhero, Joanna, by donating 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.
Kennedy Baker is the Communications Manager at Community Food Centres Canada.