Flip through the spectacular pages of A Taste of Life on Quadra Island and you’ll never guess the heroic efforts and roller-coaster ride that make up the story of the little cookbook that could.
The tale begins in the fall of 2020, with the Quadra Children’s Centre’s fundraising committee planning a third volume of Island Cookery. They envisioned a simple black and white, spiral-bound cookbook to match previous editions from 1981 and 1991. Little did they know that the project would grow into an ambitious, full-colour cookbook that looks right at home alongside those written by the pros.
Profiles of food producers, local history anecdotes, and tips on foraging and preserving food complement 140 recipes, creating a special portrait of the people living on a small island and their way of life.
Situated in a 40-acre wooded park next to the Quadra Island Community Centre, the Quadra Children’s Centre provides early childhood education and after-school care. It is nationally recognized for its cutting-edge Reggio Emilia approach to programming. It provides support for young, local families and forms a vital part of the social and economic fabric of the Island. Housed in the former Waldorf school building, the facility is almost 40 years old and in dire need of upgrades. Some of the people involved in the cookbook project are parents of children who attend, or have attended, the centre. Some hold fond memories of attending when they were children. Others simply want to give back to an organization that contributes so much to Island life. Many grew up on recipes from the first two cookbooks, and still have dog-eared, food-stained copies.
Although this grandchild of the original cookbook looks very different from its predecessors, it sticks with the tradition of showcasing healthy, seasonal, and locally-sourced ingredients. Island Cookery III, as the book is subtitled, gives a nod to the deep roots on the Island by serving up Quadra Island history and showcasing Indigenous traditions and knowledge, as well as stories of early European settlers.
The project team put the cookbook together during the pandemic, so Covid conditions presented logistical challenges and unanticipated opportunities. While some meetings were held outside, to meet public health safety requirements, many took place over Zoom. This allowed those connected to Quadra but living off-Island to participate virtually. Adapting to technology taught old dogs new tricks as the team shared files to collect recipes, pass them on to recipe-testers, and to collate notes and data. Digital technology was key to expanding the scope to include local food producer profiles and stories about the land and culture of Quadra.
As well, the project gave Islanders with extra time on their hands, or those feeling isolated, something positive to focus on during a dark time. Meetings, whether in person or online, presented a chance to socialize. Testing recipes offered a great excuse to call up a friend to ask for clarification on directions or to learn more about the ingredients. Photo shoots became elaborate multi-course picnics. Sourcing ingredients necessitated more networking. Who could swap a bag of huckleberries for a piece of halibut or flash-frozen chanterelles?
Jeanette Taylor, a local author with extensive publishing experience, came on board early to guide the process. Book designer Jessie Stones, a former Islander now living in Edmonton, volunteered her skills. Another former Islander, now living in Tofino, offered her eye for detail as the indexer. Professional photographer Vince Kehn, whose daughter was on the core team, took care of recipe-specific shoots, then coordinated and prepared images contributed by other local photographers. Volunteer prop stylists sourced materials from local artisans and craftspeople. Artist Candace Holmes provided illustrations. A web designer created a website to showcase the cookbook and facilitate online sales. In all, more than 20 writers contributed. Four local business reps offered sponsorship advice and most became donors. One even led the fundraising charge to pay for the cost of the first printing. A final tally showed that more than 180 people had contributed in many ways, both large and small.
The book’s journey through publishing to printing was perilous. A boom in global publishing, as well as pandemic supply chain issues, delayed printing. The usual three-month wait for a print run turned into six, but, thanks to the cancellation of one order, A Taste of Life on Quadra Island got a delivery date of December 13, 2021.
Then, an atmospheric river caused mayhem in southern British Columbia, resulting in further delays. The team waited anxiously until news came that 2,000 copies had finally arrived in a warehouse in Nanaimo, but with no courier to get them to Quadra, the books might have languished for days. Not wanting to miss what was left of the holiday shopping season, two Quadra men drove down in a snowstorm and collected them. When they arrived at the Quadra Credit Union building, which was being used as a makeshift distribution centre, a cheering crowd helped unload the boxes of books just in time for a scheduled sales event the next day.
A Taste of Life on Quadra Island–Island Cookery III is a beautiful treasury of recipes and of Island life. The positive reception of the cookbook has overwhelmed sales expectations. The team hopes its success will provide a reliable income for the Quadra Island Children’s Centre for years to come.
Beyond money raised, the cookbook’s success has strengthened the already tight-knit bonds among Islanders. It’s a source of pride and inspiration, proof that small communities can make good on big ambitions when working towards a common goal. That’s a recipe for community everyone can follow.
A Taste of Life on Quadra Island–Island Cookery III can be purchased at independent bookstores on Quadra Island, in Campbell River, and across Vancouver Island. For more information and to place orders, visit the website at www.islandcookery.com.