Food Hero Stories


"Saint Mary" Neal My Food Hero Is...
my mom, Mary

My Food Hero is my amazing Mom; ‘Saint Mary’ Neal as many refer to her! When I was about 8 years old my mom worked with me to turn our old sandbox into a vegetable garden. We grew tomatoes, onions, potatoes, cucumbers and carrots. Pulling a ripe tomato from the vine or unearthing a beautiful carrot from that garden is one of my favourite and most visceral early food memories! She also grew rhubarb in a separate part of our backyard.

I have incredibly clear and tasty memories of her making home-made white bread and then smothering a hot fresh slice with her homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam – I can almost taste and smell it as I write this! She also taught me to boil water ‘properly’ after I’d failed on my own the first time at age 9 by placing the extremely hot pot onto our laminate kitchen counter – boiled water is good not so much for boiled counter!

My mom taught me the basics, the building blocks and gave me my confidence in the kitchen. When I got to university and had my own kitchen she would always take my phone call and patiently guide me through an ‘alfredo sauce’ or some other new and daunting recipe! My mom and dad instilled the love of good food; carefully sourced and prepared as well as the goodness that comes from breaking bread together with family and friends. I probably would not have started my Neal Brothers Food company without her inspiration and love of food. She cooked 90% of our meals from scratch and we ate together almost every night of the week – I loved those dinners and the ensuing conversation….or being entertained by some of my dad’s endless inventory of jokes & stories!  I still love to cook with my mom when I get the chance – she is and forever will be my number one food hero.

I'm supporting the #myfoodhero campaign in honour of my mom. This holiday season, join me in making a donation to Community Food Centres Canada.

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