'pain d'epices', Anne Bergman, Asian Studies, Burma: Rivers of Flavor, Cantores Celestes, Kelly Galbraith, Kitchen Director, McGill University, Naomi Duguid, Provence, Tea, TEDx Tokyo, The Year of the Kitchen
Dear readers and tea lovers everywhere,
Welcome to a regular feature of our blog,
‘Afternoon tea with …. people of note’
Today we’re having tea with Anne Bergman, The Kitchen Director. Anne helps you take a leading role in your kitchen – she imparts knowledge and confidence to master food, meals, time, space, dietary restrictions and budgets so you can make your kitchen work for you and your lifestyle. In short, Anne will make you the Director of your kitchen.
A pot of Assam has steeped and Her Ladyship (that would be me!) pours two steaming cups of tea. Both Her Ladyship and her guest take tea clear.
Anne, what an interesting, and international background you have.
My parents are French; I was born in Vancouver, and grew up in Ottawa. I spent my childhood summers in France. I studied in Montreal at McGill University where I majored in Asian Studies and then in Boston where I obtained a Masters in Public Health. Public Health combined my interests in making the world a better place, international travel/work, education, communication and health.
You learned to cook at your grandmother’s apron strings. Do you have any of her original recipes?
Yes, I learned to cook in Provence. Recipes? Ha! My grandmother did not use recipes. She would list key ingredients, assuming that you would know the obvious things such as onions and garlic for a stew, or sugar and butter for baking. I asked her to write her “recipes” for me once upon a time. She started a notebook for me, which included key concepts of cookery, as well as some favourite recipes. In one of those recipes, from her childhood in a tiny village in Ardeche, she notes that my recipe will never taste the same because the water will be different.
Nonetheless, do you have a special recipe from your grand-maman?
I remember her pain d’epices, “spice bread”. She made it up each time, depending on what was around. Her inspiration for this bread was the health of one of her daughters: the doctor told her to avoid a number of ingredients, so she made her pain d’epices up. She used up whatever sweet condiments/jams/honey she may have at hand at the time. This pain d’epices was really delicious with marmalade!
What are your fondest recollections from that time?
Wednesday morning market. Although there is a market every day for produce and other basics, the Wednesday market is huge. Vendors of all sorts come to this one, so you can find clothing – high end clothing on hangers, and more fun, the piles of all sorts of clothes at rock bottom prices, pastries, honey, stuffed animals. … So much fun and beauty and bounty for a kid! It was also very hot, as I visited in the summer. My grandmother would buy me a pastry, leave me in the little parkette in the shade, and come back to fetch me after she had done the shopping.
To go to the market, we had to leave at 8 a.m. at the latest. And we had to be dressed properly – something clean, brushed hair, not a big deal unless you’re a kid on holiday! Today, I keep this tradition with my girls, (14 and 12) but the market has changed and it is much, much bigger. Departure time has moved up to 7:45, to be able to find a parking spot. My grandmother would be horrified.
Another very fond memory is my grandfather’s garden. Part of my grandmother’s cooking was based on the garden. My grandfather was and still is an amazing gardener. He grew a variety of fruit trees (peach – yellow and white, apricot, plum, almond and olive), as well as grapes, and many vegetables. We’d come back from the market to find the terrace covered in large baskets full of these things. My grandmother would be thrilled, and would sometimes utter something about the amount of work it was going to take to cook it all. Bounty of Provence!
TED (Technology, Education, Design) conferences are global exchanges of leading ideas worth spreading. You were a speaker at TEDx in Tokyo recently. (TEDx is designed to give communities the opportunity to create local TED-like events). How did this come about?
My stepfather was the Canadian Ambassador to Japan so he and my Mom met some very interesting people. One of these was putting together a TEDx talk in Tokyo and asked if my mom would like to participate. My mom couldn’t, but passed along the most beautiful recommendation for me. There were many airline points offered up, and childcare too, so my husband and I flew to Tokyo for a week. It was amazing!!
You sing in an award-winning choir. How did this come about?
In 2006 I was invited to a concert by Cantores Celestes. To be honest, my preconceived idea of a women’s choir wasn’t that great. I was completely blown away and when one of my friends who was in the choir pushed me to audition, I did. I have been singing ever since. The choir was founded 25 years ago by Kelly Galbraith, and the amount of passion, dedication and love she has for her choir’s members is extraordinary. Her gifts to us, and to our audiences never cease.
So you like to sing out loud?
Singing is part of who I am, and I often sing in the kitchen.
How do you celebrate big moments?
I love to spend a summer day by the water or in the market and I mean any kind of market. It could be produce, artisanal, indoors or outdoors. The point is I love meandering and meeting the artisans, so this is a real treat.
As The Kitchen Director, you are immersed in menu planning and cooking. If you could plan and prepare a meal for a celebrity, who would it be?
I would love to share a meal with Naomi Duguid. Naomi has travelled, and written extensively, about the foods in exotic locations. Her recent book is BURMA: Rivers of Flavor.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Spending too much time in a market or a bookstore.
The best lesson from a mistake?
The best surprise you’ve ever had?
Being invited to speak at TEDx in Tokyo – so perfect.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
From my husband who told me the name of an educational institution doesn’t really matter; it’s the reputation that counts and what you do with the learning you received.
Quickest mood boost?
What is your favourite season?
Autumn because it’s not too hot nor too cold; famers market are bursting; everyone is in a good mood.
What is your workout routine?
(Broad laugh) … I have intentions.
What are your thoughts as you begin 2014?
2014 is the Year of the Kitchen. I want everyone to know joy, power, confidence in the kitchen; also the Year of the Kitchen means understanding the power of your health and enjoying simple and extraordinary foods. Whatever your able to do in the kitchen do it joyfully.