My Canadian Culinary Idols came to Toronto

December 4, 2012

Here’s a little trivia question for readers of One Cook, Two Kitchens:  Can you guess which Canadian culinary icon has influenced me, above all others?

First hint:   It’s a group of women.

Second hint:  They are baby boomers.

Third hint:  They are from Alberta.

Answer:  The Ladies of the Best of Bridge (as they like to be called).

In case you are not familiar with their story, the Best of Bridge ladies were a group of eight friends who had been playing bridge together for a decade, and enjoying each other’s fabulous food whenever they got together.  In 1975 during a weekend retreat, they made the life-changing decision to write a cookbook, and the rest, as they say, is history.  More than $3 million in revenue later, I guess you could say that these ladies have succeeded.

If you have ever eaten in my home, you have very likely had a recipe that is from one of their books – or at the very least was influenced by one of their recipes. I honestly can’t count the number of dinner parties and potlucks that I have attended where someone brought a Best of Bridge dish and guests were clamouring for the recipe.

Together, they published six books, and then a few years ago, as they were getting ready to retire, publisher Robert Rose connected them with food writer, recipe developer and trained Red Seal chef, Sally Vaughn-Johnston.  With Sally, two more fabulous editions were added to the Bridge repertoire, both of which I have also reviewed and shared recipes from: Bravo! and Fan Fare!

Sally creates the recipes and the remaining original ladies still have a say in what makes it into the books.

I wrote about the Best of Bridge several months ago when two of their now-classics, The Best of the Best of Bridge and The Rest of the Best of Bridge were re-launched, where I explained that after counting up the actual recipes that I had tried – it tallied to 143 of  from these two books alone.  In fact, I’ve gone back and added up recipes from their previous books, as well as Fan Fare!, Bravo! and their latest book, Best of Bridge Slow Cooker, and the total is now an estimated 165 Best of Bridge recipes that I have tried over the span of approximately 15 years.

That’s an extraordinary claim for anyone, but I would say that it is particularly so for someone who reads and tests as many cookbooks as I do.

And incidentally, of the thousands of Google searches that bring folks to this site, nothing has brought more visitors than this Chicken Lettuce Wraps recipe from The Best of the Best of Bridge.  Multiple searches come through for that recipe on a daily basis.

The Best of Bridge classics are all about saving time for busy parents, with easy-to-follow, delicious results, so their latest book, The Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook was a perfect next step for them.


I had the privilege of meeting Mary and Sally during their press visit to Toronto last week.

All to myself for two glorious hours.

L to R: Mary Halpen, Sally Vaughn-Johnston, and Lisa.

Not exactly professional media here, but remember when Oprah gushed over Tina Turner – even wearing Tina Turner wigs for – at her own admission – a wee bit too long?  We all have our heroes – these are mine.  No apologies.

So why do I love and admire these women so much?

  • The patriot in me loves how they have become such beloved Canadian icons with recipes that are now considered to be Canadian classics such as ‘Christmas Morning Wife Saver’, their now-classic hand-lettered books, and one-liner jokes.  I can’t wait to see these women win the Governor General Award.  When is that happening, by the way?  I need to write to someone.
  • The foodie in me loves the fact that their recipes have never let me down.  I repeat:  NEVER let me down.
  • The business woman in me loves how eight women, through mutual trust and respect, managed to overcome many obstacles to create a successful business.  As someone who has managed a mid-sized growing business myself, complete with partners, I listened to Mary with fascination, as their story reads like a university-level business case on negotiation skills, talent management, and partnership.
  • And the wanna-be in me wanted to meet Sally Vaughn-Johnson, the woman who has the job that I fantasized about having for years.  And who, by the way, has done a seamless job of continuing the tradition with easy-to-follow recipes that never disappoint.  I love my wonderful life, but on some level, I want to be Sally.  If Sally picked up on this, she was gracious enough not to let it show.

And by the way, for readers in the Edmonton area, Sally is now teaching cooking classes.  I would be all over that if I were anywhere near Edmonton.  If any readers attend Sally’s classes, please let us know about them!

This week, I will be posting a review for The Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook.  I have tested several from this book, and I promise you, this one is destined to be another Best of Bridge classic.  It is a combination of Best of Bridge classics that have been converted (including the classic Christmas Morning Wife Saver) plus new recipes that Sally has created – a couple of which I will be sharing with you this week.

Stay tuned.  And get ready to enter a draw to win a copy of The Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook!

What is your favourite Best of Bridge recipe?  Your comments will be counted as one entry in this week’s draw – more details coming in tomorrow’s post.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann December 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Bravo ladies. Now I know why I have always wanted to learn Bridge. Very nice write up Lisa. Looks like you were in your glory. Enjoyed it and will have to look for the cookbooks as well.


Ashley December 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Great picture! Too bad I don’t live in edmonton


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