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Published:September 14th, 2013 11:50 EST
Judyth Piazza interviews Mary Rolph Lamontagne, Author of EATS: Enjoy All the Seconds

Judyth Piazza interviews Mary Rolph Lamontagne, Author of EATS: Enjoy All the Seconds

By Judyth Piazza CEO (Editor)

Quick, look out your kitchen window. If you happen to see a charismatic blond woman putting on rubber gloves and pulling from the trash those still-edible fruits and veggies you shouldn`t have tossed away, don`t sweat it. Sustainable food advocate and author Mary Rolph Lamontagne does this with her friends all the time, and she`s there to help you.

Invite her inside, and in her charming, gentle Canadian accent, she`ll tell you how to turn those discards into creative, super-tasty entrees and side items. Better yet, she`ll show you how to use each item to make master recipes and then turn each basic dish into a batch of alternative recipes. Get your cell phone cameras ready: you`ve never seen anything quite like Mary`s passion in action. Get some bigger cameras rolling, and she could make selective trash picking and food rescue a new national craze. 

If you`re not fortunate enough to experience first-hand the way Mary transforms the food you keep wasting into culinary magic, the Montreal born and raised, South African based dynamo has the next best thing: her recently published book EATS: Enjoy All the Seconds. Although it includes 135 delicious recipes for 12 different fruits and 15 vegetables from all over the world that will ensure you`ll never be faced with tossing away your healthiest foods again, this revolutionary work is more than a simple recipe book.

Organized by the color of the fruit or vegetable beginning with green and ending with white, Mary`s book is a game changing lifestyle volume. It will shift the way you approach food consumption and preparation forever - and will soon have you enjoying the healthiest, freshest meals while stretching your groceries, lowering your weekly costs and broadening your palette every day. It`s about the passion we all share for good food and being smarter about the way we cook.

Proposing solutions for using leftovers or excess from the garden, farmer`s market or overzealous shopping, Mary draws on her many years as an event organizer, food consultant and trainer of chefs in her native Canada and numerous countries in Africa to provide quick and easy ways to help you reduce food waste, save money and protect the environment. Her ultimate goal: to make sure all of the food you buy or grow is used in the healthiest, most delicious ways.

Mary`s inspiration for EATS: Enjoy All The Seconds came in what she calls a "light bulb" moment while training chefs at a bush camp in Botswana, far away from civilization. Yes, bringing delight through food in remote parts of Africa is one of her "day jobs." The camp was low on provisions and the leftovers were building up in the refrigerator. Shipping garbage out is expensive and food is only delivered once a week. Then there are those times when monkeys and hyenas intrude and wreak havoc with supplies. She puts it simply on the back cover of the book: "Our guests were expecting a memorable meal and the rest is history."

Mary, a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont who first trained as a chef at the Ritz Escoffier Culinary School in Paris, says, "In one game reserve, we had too much zucchini growing in the garden and so instead of flipping out, I came up with the idea of using grated zucchini to make zucchini bread and fritters. The remaining grated zucchini, I measured out into 2 cup servings and put into Ziploc bags, flattened and filed in the freezer under Z. I did the same with tomatoes, roasting them up then freezing them in bags and pulling them out to make pasta sauce and other tasty recipes. I began doing this with other fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, creating a master recipe that could then be reinvented into other recipes."

"For example," she continues, "I would make a main dish of braised maple ginger carrots, then take left over carrots and mash them to make a carrot cake, carrot fritters or carrot hummus. Sweet potatoes could be reinvented into a lamb and sweet potato curry or sweet potato buttermilk waffles. Steamed or sautéed broccoli could be the master recipe, which I could then create little cheesy broccoli bites or small quiches that I could freeze and serve any time. A spicy roccoli mash also tasted good with herb crusted tilapia." 

Hailing from North America and living with her family and working as a food consultant for hotels and upscale Bush Camps in South Africa since 2005, Mary brings a unique multi-continental perspective to her drive to reduce waste. Having visited Kenya and learned from a native Ashoka fellow about the value of composting, Mary has also become an advocate of this environment enriching process by which organic matter is decomposed and recycled as fertilizer, soil amendment and even natural gasses. On her recent travels, she took to the streets of New York City to ask produce sellers and consumers at a Farmer`s Market their views on Mayor Bloomberg`s recent announcement that the city in 2016 will require residents to separate food waste for collection to be composted. This announcement came following a voluntary program at 150,000 single-family homes and 100 apartment buildings.

"I`m excited to see cities like San Francisco embrace composting to a degree that the city is heading towards being zero waste, and it`s great to know that more and more people are thinking of food and waste differently, as something that can help the environment and not harm it," Mary says. "I think back to what my mother, a total foodie, told me and my four brothers and sisters driving across Europe in our VW bus when we were kids - that thing about eating every last bite because kids are starving in India and Africa. Not only is that true, but literally one in six Americans also lack food security. I have grown children of my own and have really started thinking about the way we`re leaving our world to the next generations. If I can inspire people to become as passionate about sustaining and stretching their food supply or about composting as I am, it can really make an impact on so many levels. It`s the way I choose to make my mark."

Growing up, Mary remembers her mother instilling in her kids the value of healthy eating. "She didn`t believe in Wonder Bread or candy, but we ate a lot of granola, apples and carrots," she says. Though her mother passed away at 38 when Mary was only 11, Mary carried on the family tradition of eating and sharing healthy food, arranging elaborate dinner parties for friends when she was a teenager, "long before I knew how to cook." After graduating from Middlebury, Mary moved with her husband, Paul Lamontagne, to Paris. She couldn`t work full time while raising their first daughter Charlotte, so she signed up for culinary school, where she realized she preferred free form cooking to being a pastry chef.

Moving back to North America, the Lamontagnes bought a 65 room hotel in Vermont, which provided Mary with her first opportunity to work with chefs. Settling again in Montreal, she had two more children and began organizing parties and events, working with chefs to create the themes. She also began writing for an entertaining magazine and appearing on local television to talk about meal prep and event planning. Later, Mary launched Tastytables, a successful events company she owned for eight years which planned events ranging from intimate 20 people dinners to 10,000 people multiple day Conference.

The Lamontagnes moved to South Africa in 2005 when Paul, in connection with the Canadian government, started Enablis, a charity dedicated to the crucial task of growing the middle class through the upliftment of young entrepreneurs in Africa. Helping friends from France turn their private game farm into a public enterprise (which included the creation of a professional kitchen) led Mary to her next culinary industry gig as a food consultant and chef trainer for the Protea Hotel Group..

Mary later began working in the same capacity for various upscale bush camps in South Africa and Botswana. Her mission has been to help in job creation, skills training and social upliftment in the hospitality industry, focusing mainly in the area of food. "These camps have a very Western menu for their clientele from the West, but everyone wants a little African spice in the mix," she says. "I help them incorporate typical African dishes in a way that is palatable to our Western clientele." Beyond her consulting work, she has also taught a professional culinary course at the Institute for Hospitality Education in Cape Town.

"This is the way I choose to live my life, and I wouldn`t have it any other way," says Mary. "My mother was a world traveler who died very young, so I really embrace the concept of living my life as if each day were my last, as fully and helpfully as possible. If I can meet someone new and learn something fresh every day of my life, I`m happy. No matter their position in life, I see everyone the same because everyone has something to offer this world. My life plan is simply to make a difference in someone`s life, and making creative meals for people and sharing my knowledge of sustainable food is a fun and exciting way to do it."

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