May I Introduce You To…

By Willa Wick in People

Although she had lived in Harriston, I was not familiar with Kathryn Edgecombe.  Who she was, or where she came from, was beyond me.  Edgecombe wasn’t a long-time local name, so the only way I was going to find out was to respond to the notice from the Minto Arts Council indicating there would be an instructional writer’s course coming shortly.


The first class was disappointing – probably to her as well as us – as there were only three.  The next one was more encouraging, at least a dozen.  From there I went on a southern vacation and when I returned there was no mention of further classes.


But although I still didn’t “know” her, Kathryn’s name did come to mind when we were looking for an experienced writer to assist Rodger Hyodo in his mission to bring the informative series “May I Introduce You…” to the attention of the general public.   So, in the same restaurant where I had first noticed a trench-coated, ponytailed Hyodo fifteen years earlier, I met and launched Rodger and Kathryn and we all settled in to get to know one another.


Edgecombe, of Cree background who has followed a traditional native path with ceremonies, doesn’t hide the fact she comes from a dysfunctional family.  Her way of healing is to write.  She was married young, had a family, and then went back to school as a mature student.  During university recreational hours, in a smoky Guelph pub, Kathryn was asked what she wanted to be.  Her answer, “a wise old woman”.  Through the years she has come to appreciate and understand a portion of her grandmother’s advice which was “to be happy and content with one’s life as it is, not how you would like it to be”.  No longer a teacher in a formal school room setting, she continues to instruct classes in writing, meditation, and moccasin making.


Edgecombe has learned there are three kinds of wisdom: the one you get from reading wise words, the wisdom gained from listening to intelligent people who can steer you in the right direction, and the third kind of wisdom is that of your own experience.  She reminds herself (that one can get bogged down doing more and more and accomplishing less), with a note stuck to her computer “what I allow will continue to happen”.


Kathryn Edgecombe has written poetry and is currently writing her first novel.


Hyodo and Edgecombe clicked immediately and she was spellbound with the short and quick version of his life history.  Unfortunately the restaurant closes at 2:00 so we had to disband.   A few days later we met again and that’s where we learned more on Hyodo’s escapades as a Chef.  He literally fell into an opportunity as Grill Chef at The Keg as one of his first jobs as a teenager, but that led him in the direction of a French Cuisine apprenticeship and eventually owning his own eating establishment.


By the 1970s and ‘80s Hyodo had grown to appreciate the refined tastes of those frequenting Toronto’s French establishments. He sensed it was the right time to introduce gourmet diners to a more eclectic fare with organic ingredients, because, yes, unbelievably delicious gourmet cuisine can also be super-healthy!


Back in the ‘70’s, the public view of organic food was a tasteless whole-wheat and healthy diet, and something started by people attempting self-sufficient communities. It was the opposite of market demand.  Hyodo knew the importance of diet and nutrition could be enhanced by chefs, rather than sacrificed, particularly if the right recipes were made known and available.  But in order to change public opinion, the proof would have to be in the pudding!


There needed to be an establishment in the highly competitive city center that dared to serve such dishes and survive whatever the dreaded food critics printed in magazines and newspapers.


During the 1970’s the legendary Cow Café became that establishment.  With an eclectic (mostly) organic vegetarian menu combined with pastry chef Dufflet Rosenberg’s artistry (back then she was baking desserts for the restaurant from her own home), the Cow Café delivered inarguable proof – healthy and nutritious were to-die-for delicious. Hyodo became chef/manager of Cow Café on Queen St West.

In 1982 Dufflet opened her first pastry café on Queen West and soon became the Dufflet Dessert Company known worldwide.  (Today the Dufflet Pastries wholesale division proudly supplies over 500 restaurants, cafés, hotels, caterers, grocers and specialty gourmet shops throughout Canada, the US and Asia.  Each Dufflet product is hand-crafted from scratch, never made from a mix, and uses only premium ingredients, with no hydrogenated fats or oils, no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.  A line of gluten-free has now been added.)


In 1980 Hyodo facilitated the purchase of the Cow Café. The new owners changed the name to ‘Jakes’, and as chef of Jakes, for the next big step in the healthy and delicious food trend, Rodger wanted to introduce organic meats to the menu.  But in 1980 there were no companies in the city that could provide organic, chemical-free meats to caterers.  Eventually he found a farmer located in Wellington County who did provide organic meats.


In those days it was a three hour drive from Toronto to that farm, and as any chef will tell you,  every hour of every day is needed when you serve lunch and dinner menus.  There was no other way to have organic meat dishes on a Toronto menu, so the six hour drive became a part of his regular routine. The organic meals won accolades with the customers and patrons, and in 1986 Rodger and his partners became the owners of Jakes Restaurant.


Hyodo says, “One of the things I love about now living in Minto is high quality, chemical-free meats are the norm at our local butcher, Harriston Packers.”


In more recent times, Hyodo introduced the Wellington area to Anna Sienicka, a registered homeopath, founder/owner of Toronto’s Wholistic Care Centre.  Through him Sienicka has conducted “Wild Edible Plant Walks” for High School students from Fergus, public schools in Toronto, and is soon to take Minto-Clifford Public School students on a walk. Last summer several Harriston Horticultural Society members learned from one of Sienicka’s hikes.


Farmer’s Markets with local and organic produce give us healthy alternatives to creating meals, but in addition to that comes foraging – something that can be done personally or as a family outing.

Teaching our children to recognize good “weeds” and the nutritious benefits of super-foods growing literally right under our feet, is a challenge Sienicka endorses.


Besides green plants Anna favors the Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) a medicinal mushroom that grows mainly on birch trees. Chaga takes 20-40 years before it is ready for harvest.  The highest natural food source of antioxidants in the world, growing in our forests, Chaga is an excellent source of potassium, zinc, iron, and all but one of the amino acids.  By comparison: 1ml of Clove oil has the antioxidant power of 4.5kg carrots or 2.5 liters blueberries, 1ml of Chaga has 4 times more antioxidant power than 1ml of clove oil. Chaga can be made into a fine cup of tea to be enjoyed each day.


The “May I Introduce You To….” series will continue in future issues with interviews and fascinating histories of leading-edge professionals working with daily challenges that are common to people everywhere.