My family ate out a lot. Dad had an appreciation for GOOD food that was unusual in the 70’s. My mom, brothers and I were happy to tag along to his newest find, sometimes fine dining, but more often a place like that hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown where we sat at a green picnic table, sucking the meat out of the best Black-Bean Crab Claws this side of Canton. Dad’s enthusiasm for food sparked a passion in me. To this day, I spend most of my free time in the kitchen.
Once we were home, the kitchen clean and the dishes put away, mom would put me to bed with a book. She read to me as an infant, and started me on a lifetime of adventure, both on and off the pages.
So, what does a genetically wired bookworm/foodie grow up to be? Why, an Operations Manager for FedEx in downtown Vancouver, of course!
My journey along that path is a long and mostly uninteresting one, but it ended in a small blaze of glory and a shouting match with an angry customer who didn’t like my definition of next-day delivery when the destination, Tokyo, is 17 hours ahead and a 10-hour flight away. I may have mentioned Superman flying rings around the world to reverse time, but the details are a little fuzzy 14 years on.
When I distill my disenchantment down to that one incident, it’s funny. But in truth, I was desperately unhappy. Something would have eventually forced me to make a change, but from the happy place where I am now, I occasionally throw a silent thank you to that guy for being the match that lit my tired, bitter tinder.
I went for a long walk after we cleaned up the mess of waybills scattered all over the floor (that was him — not me — I swear), and awoke from one of my typical apathetic musings to find myself looking out to the Pacific from the apex of the Burrard Street Bridge. Without really thinking, and before I even knew I’d made my decision, I pulled my cell phone from my pocket, dropped it over the railing into English Bay and watched it disappear without a splash.* Then I walked back to the office and phoned my boss to give 2 weeks notice.
I spent my first job-free morning in a bookstore. I wandered the shelves for a long time with no title, author or genre in mind, until intuition, silent from my hearing for so many years in corporate management, had me pick up a bold-looking red-and-black paperback with a gold clock on the front. I needed an escape, and time-travel seemed as good a way as any to get the heck out of Dodge.
Diving into Claire’s happenstance adventure gave me room to breathe. After years of pursuing someone else’s path, I used the space to rediscover myself, and by the time I had finished The Fiery Cross, DG’s last book at the time, I had begun, once again, to dream of my own adventures.
The following year, halfway through my 2nd Outlander reread (including ABOSAA by this point), My Englishman and I followed our hearts on a whim and settled on Pender Island – a small, tree-covered rock in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver and Victoria – for a quieter, simpler, semi-rural life at a gentler speed.
Rebuilding can take time, even when the foundations are solid. It took me a two more years of decompression and self-reflection, a couple menial “island” jobs to keep us afloat, and a week-long silent retreat in Maine to realize that the only way forward was to return to my roots. So, with the winds of instinct filling my sails once again, I said goodbye to My Englishman for 6 months, moved back to Vancouver, and back in with my mom, to attend culinary school.
I may be a dreamer, but I’m under no delusions. Nearly forty-year-old cooking school graduates don’t have the stamina to work their way up the prep-cook ladder…especially when their career choices are as limited as they are here on Pender.
In between catering jobs and the selling the Island’s best Breakfast Buns at the Saturday Farmer’s Market, I started a blog called Island Vittles.
I was out for a walk in the woods one day when an idea for Food from Fiction popped into my head. By the time I was home, I had Rolls with Pigeon & Truffles from Voyager on the brain, and had dreamed up a short, five-question, food-related interview that I fired off to DG’s Canadian publicist within the hour.
Outlander Kitchen grew out of that first email, and Diana’s generous response the next day.
NEWS! The Outlander Kitchen Cookbook is scheduled for release in 2016 from Delacorte Books of the Random House Group.
A big thank you to Diana Gabaldon for her permission to use excerpts from Outlander, and for allowing me to mine her pages for food inspiration. I also appreciate her trust in me to treat her epic story with the respect it deserves.
Thank you, as well, to all of you who come to sit around OK’s virtual hearth with me. My life is full with food, laughter, light, love and friends. For a girl who now makes most of her decisions (seemingly) on the fly, I’m closer to the target than I’ve ever been.
Now it’s time for you to meet the rest of the OK Family.
Howard moved to Canada from his birthplace in the UK twenty-one years ago just to be with me, and that makes me feel pretty special. His resume includes zookeeper, safari guide and tour director — all before I even knew him! He is now a realtor here on Pender. Check out his website at Homes On Pender.
Despite being a Sassenach with a strong physical resemblance to (my) Frank Randall, My Englishman has a naturally discerning palate, which makes him OK’s chief taste tester. He washes a few bottles now and then too.
Koda is a 12 YO Shiba Inu that we adopted from the Vancouver SPCA in 2008. Known around here as the Dooze, he likes cheese, french fries, and homemade bread. He’s not much for catching his own fish for dinner, but if you need your house patrolled for spiders and flies, this little guy is your man.