Recipe for happiness: Homegrown
Contributed by Wendy Burke
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
So you love food. Passionately. You want to make a career of it, but you’re not inclined to work in a restaurant or as a caterer. What are your options?
If you have a clear idea of what “beautiful” means to you, and you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you could start a magazine about food.
That’s what Mari Loewen did. And the result is Winnipeg’s ANNA Magazine
Today, the magazine is produced out a freshly renovated basement office in River Heights. The office is a lot like the magazine itself; clean lines, simply appointed. Loewen and her staff build the visual and literary content of ANNA Magazine on those design foundations. The images of thoughtfully prepared food are lovely to look at, but not beyond aspiration. You can make the recipes. For the reader, it’s inspiration without the intimidation.
From Winkler to Winnipeg
Mari Loewen, now 43, grew up in the Mennonite community of Winkler. As a child, she always liked to make beautiful things.
“I’ve always done that my whole life,” she says, “When I was a little girl, I remember looking in my closet, and I’d want to line up all the colours perfectly in my closet. It’s who I am, and so now when people talk about the magazine, and they think it’s beautiful and simple, for me it isn’t that far a stretch from what I’ve always been like.”
She did the things most people do — graduate from high school, try to figure out a career path, get married and start a family.
“I was in finance for 10 years and I was working on my CMA (Certified Management Accountant) degree,” says Loewen, “It was one of those things where I took a road that I thought would give me the income I was looking for, and then I always sort of struggled with it.”
Something was missing, and she knew it. “I was always looking for happiness. That’s one thing I’ve always been very strong on — I don’t want to live a mediocre life.” An unplanned life change made her take stock.
“Some things had happened. All of a sudden I became a single parent. I decided at that point I needed to change my life and I wanted to be happy. I needed to find what my gift was.”
She knew whatever it was, it had to be flexible enough so she could have time to build a life with her daughter, Isabella.
“I wanted to be close to a school and I wanted to be in a neighbourhood where we felt community. I wanted to be able to find a job where I could walk my daughter to school.”
Loewen bounced around a little bit, paying attention to the entrepreneurs she encountered along the way. She still wasn’t sure exactly what her gift was, but when she completed a contract with her last employer, she decided it was crunch time.
“The thing that I love to do the most is having friends over. I love cooking for people. Community, family and friends are the most important things to me.”
But how does that translate into a career? A friend told her to quit thinking about it and just do something.
“I thought — I’m going to start a magazine. So I met with a creative director, ‘Segun Olude, whom I had met in the ad world, and I said, ‘What do you think about a beautiful magazine about life and home and family?’”
“We’ll just make it simple. Let’s do what I love — that’s cooking and making food beautiful. So the concept was born around that.”
Unwrapping the Gift
Loewen says she was nervous. How do you put a magazine together?
“I’m not a writer, I’m not a publisher. I’m not a food stylist. I’m not a chef. I was really afraid, and at the same time I was really excited,” she says.
Along with all the other details, she had to come up with a name.
“So I went into speak to my banker — and she did not give me the loan, but she said, ‘I think it’s a great idea, Mari. What is your mother’s name?’ I said, ‘My mom’s name is Anna.’ And she said, ‘That’s beautiful!’ And I thought, ANNA Magazine!” It was perfect.
Living the Gift
The quarterly magazine, which has released six issues so far, has developed and continues to grow (Loewen is anticipating a 40,000-issue run in the fall). It’s now available nationally, and is being distributed in the United States, where Loewen says it’s taken off faster than in Canada. It’s become enough of a production that it employs full-time help.
“We now have four permanent full-time staff. Three of us here in Winnipeg plan and manage all editorial and production of the magazine,” says Loewen. They also have a national sales manager in Toronto.
“We are all mothers, and aside from the passion we share for the success of the magazine, our goal is to have the flexibility we need to make our children and our families come first. And the magazine has allowed all of us to do so.”
“We say ANNA Magazine is about realizing that life is precious and that the most important thing is friends and family in your home and cooking food; and food is what binds us to friends and family.”
Meet and Greet
You can meet and dine with Loewen next Wednesday, May 28, at 6:30 p.m. at Prairie Ink Restaurant in McNally Robinson’s Polo Park location. For reservations or more information, call 943-3276.
One to Try
Here is a recipe from ANNA Magazine. You can find more information about ANNA Magazine (including where to purchase it) at its newly updated website at www.annamagazine.ca.
Potato-crusted salmon with lemon-basil butter
Asparagus is coming into season; it would be a lovely alongside this simple fish dish.
4 125-g (6-oz) salmon fillets
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
Coarse salt and cracked black pepper
Lemon basil butter
125 ml (1/2 cup) butter
125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh basil
30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon zest
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
60 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
Preheat oven to 190ºC (375ºF). Prepare salmon by patting dry with a paper towel. Using a mandolin, slice potatoes paper thin and season with salt and pepper. Arrange and press potato layers firmly onto flesh side of fillets. Heat fry pan and vegetable oil on medium to high heat and place fish, potato side down, into hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Gently lift fillet from pan and place on a sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes.
The Apathetic Gourmet: Strawberry preserves
By Maryam Siddiqi, National Post Blogs, August 12, 2009
[Successful strawberry preserves. Photo by Maryam Siddiqi.]
I make a mean spinach and feta omelette. And, well, surely, there must be other things in my cooking repetoire, but nothing comes to mind at the moment. It’s not that I know my way around the kitchen; it’s just that I don’t really care to. But I’m going to change that, one recipe at a time. Scratch that. One easy recipe at a time.
We begin with strawberry preserves. Why? Four ingredients, three of which I already have in my kitchen.
The recipe I followed is from Issue 11 of Anna magazine.
- 7 cups (1.75 L) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 4 cups (1 L) sugar
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh lemon juice
- 1 pouch liquid pectin
- In large, heavy bottom saucepan, gently mash strawberries. Add sugar and lemon juice. Stir in saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
- Add pectin and stir.
- Increase heat to high and bring mixture to rolling boil; boil 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and skim off foam.
- Pour into clean canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Cool slightly. Cover with lids and place in refrigerator. Use within two weeks. Makes 6 cups.
Results: Easy and delicious! True, I used pre-sliced frozen strawberries (thawed, obviously), and was somewhat laissez-faire about the mashing, but I ended up with quality preserves.
Mari Loewen, editor in chief of Anna, was kind enough to answer my rookie questions about this concoction. My main concern was with the mashing — I still has sizeable chunks of berry in the finished product, but Loewen says this isn’t a bad thing. “My personal preference is for chunky, so if you can have pieces of fruit it’s a good thing. Plus, it proves you did it yourself.”
I was also unsure about the whole “remove the foam” thing as is evident above. Loewen reassured me: “Do your best, but it’s from the fruit, so it’s fine to be in there.”
As I’m cooking for one, my last question to Loewen: What am I supposed to do with all these preserves? “You can add it to a smoothie in the morning,” Loewen says, “or put gobs on toast. Have a strawberry sundae for dessert, or buy tart shells, put preserves in each tart and stick it in the oven.” The list goes on.
My arsenal is now one recipe richer.