Sisters Carolyn Hemming and Patricia Green remember as kids the unusual Christmas gifts they would receive from their health-conscious “hippie” mother.
“She was literally the mom that would shove a book into our stocking about the benefits of garlic,” remembered Hemming.
“I think I got one of those deodorant crystals that didn’t work,” said Green.
“Then she would still try to convince us that Santa is real,” Hemming added with a laugh.
Now all grown up and the authors of four successful cookbooks – and a fifth released just last week – Hemming and Green say their mother Vera Friesen is one of the inspirations for their lives’ work, but the matriarch would likely “ not take an ounce of credit” for their commitment to health-conscious cooking.
“She was a hippie of sorts in that she was serving us seaweed chips … and homemade bread. At the time we thought we were deprived and we were suffering,” said Green. “But as we’ve gotten older, we’ve realized it was such a gift … to be able to share that with people and the evolution of our lives with healthy food.”
The sisters grew up in Saskatchewan and first made their mark in the world of culinary compendiums a decade ago with the release of their wildly popular Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood.
The bestseller’s success earned them the nickname The Quinoa Sisters, and even though they’ve published a gluten-free dessert recipe collection Sweet Goodness and an assembly of ancient grain recipes in Grain Power – the moniker still sticks.
Hemming and Green’s latest venture is titled Vegetarian Any Day, which the authors describe as being as much for the flexetarian – someone who still eats meat a couple of times a week – as for the traditional veggies-only eater.
“We’re suggesting being an occasional vegetarian, just to add more fibre into the diet, reducing your grocery bill,” said Green, who is the “foodie” of the two women, and makes her home in Cochrane.
“We’re providing recipes that are flavourful and enjoyable without people feeling like they’ve been deprived of something.”
“Food is healing and it can be nourishing – and it can also make you sick, depending on what you eat,” added Hemming, who hails from London, Ont. “What you put in your body matters.”
Part of the sisters’ passion is helping people in their journey toward a healthier and more food-productive lifestyle, and they love to hear stories from home cooks who have used their recipes as a catalyst for change.
“I love that. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Green.
That same journey of discovery continues – even for themselves. Since Hemming is a flexetarian herself, she was initially turned away from one of Green’s recipes in the new book, a vegetarian take on a Reuben sandwich, because of the inclusion of sauerkraut.
“It’s one of those things that mom would have dangled in front of our noses and said, ‘You should eat this. It’s good for your stomach flora,’” joked Hemming, adding once she tried it she was blown away by the flavours and the taste. “That moment, in a flash of a second, and it’s my favourite recipe in the book. It is so tasty that you don’t feel like you’ve missed something … We’re always learning.”
“(Those are) the ones that are exciting for me,” said a happy Green of her sister’s surprise response to the dish. “It is a fantastic sandwich.”
The sisters will soon hit the road for book signings, interviews and other public events to celebrate the new cookbook, and there’s no official word yet on whether there will be a chance for food fans in Cochrane to chat with the authors.