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Where Did This Start + An Intimate Act + Till I Know Where I am Going, I Won't

Where Did This Start + An Intimate Act + Till I Know Where I am Going, I Won't

Good Morning from Warren Grove, Prince Edward Island

I captured this photo with my iPhone on my way to work yesterday.

Thank you for allowing me into your time and space today. 

Is the kettle on? Sorry, I am late. 

Let’s get caught up on local news first. 

PEI Covid News

Travelling to Canada - Update 

Covid has undoubtedly taught several things. One thing for sure is I will never take travel for granted again. 

Yesterday, I spent time to look at past travel experiences, grateful for the time away but wishing the phone had a camera in it at the time, I would have a lot more photos.

I have travelled to Japan a few times and found it an exciting culture, and their traditions run deep. I was honoured to be treated like royalty by the hosts I encountered.

In North America, we appreciate and recognize good service but don’t always receive it; in Japan, you do. It is their way of life.

Respect for others and cultural traditions make for a unique society. 

In restaurants and hotels, you are not allowed to leave gratuities; it is regarded as shameful to accept them. They consider it rude by the giver.

It is almost like they want to tip you for allowing them to serve you. So it is a complete 360 to the world of foodservice in North America.

Last night I watched a few videos from the A Day in the Life YouTube series by Paolo of Tokyo. 

The Day in the Life of Master Chef

After watching this video, I started reminiscing about the two years of living in Toronto while learning French cooking. I went to a full-time one-year culinary program at George Brown College and worked full-time and Toronto’s French restaurant, Le Provencale. 

So many stories come out of that time, I am not sure where to start. 

Last week’s blog, I  mentioned how Shirley and I met and dated for six years before getting married. Not too long after meeting her, I came to the place in my life where I knew I wanted to start my own business.

A few years earlier, while visiting a friend’s home, the most beautiful aroma came from the kitchen, and I had to follow my nose. When my eyes connected what my nose led them to see, I saw their Mom stirring and cooking strawberries on the stove. I was intrigued to ask what it was she was making. “Strawberry jam,” she proclaimed, and I thought, cool, I’ve never seen or smelled anything like this before. 

I learned the family grew strawberries, harvested them and cooked them into little pots of joy for the families’ enjoyment later in the winter.

While visiting the next day, Irene handed me a jar of what she had prepared with love the day before. Her gift in my hand was an electric moment for me. She grew the berries, bottled them by hand, and gave one to me. I am sure I starred at it for a long time.  

The jar of joy was an extraordinary gift. 

First, the farmer grows the strawberries with love and care then the farmers receive the gift of luscious, delicious fruit. And in giving me the gift of bottled strawberries, it came full circle as a seed of an idea was planted in me. 

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that
should not be indulged in lightly.”
-- M. F. K. Fisher

Over the next few years, the seed grew the idea of bottling fruit in a manner that people would want to purchase them. Finally, my dream to turn local fruit into pots of joy grew so strong there was nothing else I could do but pursue the desire.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” -T. E. Lawrence

1980 was before the internet, but I heard of a cooking school in Toronto, and the first thing to do was find this school and get in.  

I headed to the Consumer Distributing store and purchased a 37.00 dollar lime green down-filled sleeping bag. Then, I bought an air ticket to Toronto, packed as little clothing as I could, grabbed my sleeping bag and flew to Toronto with no plan and 500 dollars in my pocket. 

Fortunately, Shirley arranged a place for me to stay with friends for a few weeks while I figured life out. 

While in the airport’s waiting area, I spoke with Mr. Rodd of Rodd’s Hotels, an Islander on his way to the big city as well. He asked what I was up to and told him my dream to learn French cooking to preserve fruit and the jam-making tradition on Prince Edward Island. 

When we landed, he asked where I was going, “just downtown,” I replied. He said, “I can give you a ride; I have a car waiting.” I thought, what is a car waiting?  It ended up being my first ‘limo’ ride.  

We drove to First Canadian Place at the corner of Adelaide and Bay.  We got out of the car and looked up. I had never seen a building over six stories before, and here I was, a kid starring up at 72 floors. 

I thanked Mr. Rodd for the drive, but before we parted ways, I asked a question, “Sir, I am going to go into business for myself and wonder if you have any words of advice for me?” He took a minute and responded, “systems, it’s all about systems.”  He walked into the building.

I stood for a moment looking at the tall buildings,  the traffic, and busy people. It was surreal. 

It was now mid-morning, and I needed to find the school. I just started asking people where it was. 

Upon taking my first of many streetcar rides and carrying my bags, I landed at the school.  It was located in the infamous Kensington Market.

I made it to the registrars’ desk. I dumped everything on the floor, shuffled up the counter and asked how much it was to take the chef course. 

He told me 650.00; I pulled out my 500 and asked can I pay half now and half later. He laughed and said, typically, you pay the first semester and then pay the rest in January. 

But then he said, ‘the course is fully booked, and you are from out of province, and our quota is filled.”

Between the back and forth of my explaining where I was in my dream journey, he said there was nothing he could do. 

I thought for a second and asked who the school president was, he told me, Mr. Brian Cooper and I asked, can I speak with him? 

“YOU, want to speak to the President?” I said, yes, please. 

“Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence.” ~ Abigail Adams

He made a call, and a few minutes later, a huge man entered the room, “nice to meet you, Mr. Cooper,” as, I put my hand forward to shake his.  I introduced myself, where I had just come from, what my dream was, and they needed to let me into the course. I told him I had only two years to give before heading back to Prince Edward Island. 

Mr. Brian Cooper while shaking my hand, looked at the registrar, looked at me, and back to the registrar, Danny Cushing and said, ‘make it happen; I want this young man in our school.’ 

He stayed while I paid my first semester, and there was glee by all three in the room. 

I briefly enjoyed the moment and then asked, “if they had any suggestions as to where I could find some work?”

I sensed they loved the fact determined and on a mission, and it was now part of theirs. 

Collaboration is a key part of the success of any organization, executed through a clearly defined vision and mission and based on transparency and constant communication. Dinesh Paliwal

(Danny travelled to Prince Edward Island many years later and sought me out and we chatted about that day. Mr. Cooper had met with me a few times while at the school and shared many stories with me of his entrepreneurial adventures.)

He suggested the new fast food places in the area, Wendy’s, MacDonalds, etc., but I wanted to learn classical French cooking. He then recommended heading to the area around Bay and Bloor Street. 

Next week, I will share my experience of walking into the first French Restaurant in Toronto, across the street from the famous Windsor Arms Hotel and getting hired to start as a busboy. 

"Nothing will work unless you do." - Maya Angelo


Let's Walk Together.

Have a wonderful weekend walking. 

With love from Prince Edward Island, 

Bruce + Millie

ps. Your Morning Smile

A priest was preparing a man for his long journey into the night.

Whispering firmly, the priest said, "Denounce the devil. Let him know how little you think of his evil."

The priest repeated his words. Still the dying man said nothing. The priest asked, "Why do you refuse to denounce the devil and his evil?"

The dying man said, "Until I know where I'm heading, I don't think I ought to aggravate anybody."

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Julie MacKenzie - July 6, 2021

Loved your story & loved the Japanese Synchronized Walking Competition video…that was absolutely amazing! I didn’t know something like that even existed. Thanks for sharing! Love your blog! Keep on….keeping on! :)

Paula Mueda - June 18, 2021

Great blog this time, Bruce! I also enjoyed watching the Japanese synchronized walking. How disciplined they are! The last sentence of your “Morning Smile” was priceless! Thanks for all your stories; they are all SO interesting!

Tara - June 14, 2021

Loved today’s blog! I do read them every week and disperse to my family for their enjoyment.
Shows how little I knew about your beginnings. I just saw the results in Charlottetown and New Glasgow and of course the mail order. (Now the website and blog and all).

Andrée - June 13, 2021

Hi Bruce, I appreciate all that you share every week. You offer inspiration, beauty, reflection, openness, kindness, giggles and so much more! Thank you!!!

Victoria Wienke - June 13, 2021

Bruce, I look forward to your blogs each week and find them refreshing that you are willing to share the “back” story of how it all began. We visited and toured The Preserve Company about five years ago, enjoyed sampling your products and having lunch where you talked a bit about everything going on at your company. One of the highlights of our lunch was your potato pie and that recipe is now one of our favorite recipes to make for guests! They always remark how wonderful and different it is! Last Christmas as one of my husband’s gifts, I ordered a variety pack of your jams. His favorite thing now is finishing up a jar on his toast and deciding which flavor to try next! Thank you for your blog and your wonderful products!

Phil Britton - June 13, 2021

So look forward every Saturday for your Post. Have to share your ending humor first with others. Their response is it made me think. Then direct them to your site, Do not know how much business this generates but your thoughts have touched many here in Southern New Jersey. People now know where Prince Edward Island is located. But your sharing of your life for the last two weeks has us reflecting on our own stories, the surprise is that more are actually sharing and listening to each other than just centering on themselves. Your thoughts are so from the heart that others now see the benefit of doing the same kind of sharing and listening. So from cooking and making Preserves and greeting tour buses your are bring thought to others that say slow down, reflect, respect be kind to an audience who appreciates what you share each week! I thank God for giving you the gift you now share.

Lynn - June 13, 2021

What a wonderful story of how you got started in your business! I wonder you ever don’t get your own way. 8-)
Blessings on your week!

Laura from Ohio - June 12, 2021

Such a delightful story! I am so glad I discovered your blog over this past year… takes me back to 2002 when we toured the maritimes on a Holland America cruise. We were all herded on a bus toward the Anne of Green Gables house when our first stop was at your store. This very energetic dark haired man dressed in a kilt popped on to our bus and told the story about his jam company and it’s beginnings. This part of the story was not shared that day, so I have enjoyed reading your retelling. Memory likes to remember one particular encounter we have with people so, you are forever ingrained in my memory as that energetic kilt wearing Scotsman, but I’m sure you were wearing a quite different outfit 🙂than when you arrived at the school that day, yet I can just imagine your infectious energy as you stood in the foyer of that school many moons ago. Such a wonderful story that I plan on sharing with my teenage son….a true example of perseverance. And, I can attest to the fact that your strawberry jam, especially the strawberry with champagne is out of this world delicious!

Valarie LaBore - June 12, 2021

I love hearing how your career started. After having a wonderful meal at your restaurant, and enjoying your jams for a couple years, I’m loving the back story to it.

Elaine V. - June 12, 2021

What a great story Bruce!! Thank you for sharing it…you are truly an inspiration and such a big part of PEI. Looking forward to more of your stories!

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