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My mother didn't teach me how to cook. But she certainly taught me how to time. As a girl I marveled at how every component of Sunday dinner finished cooking at the same time and hit the table hot.

For over 15 years my mother was the cook at a daycare centre and put 2-3 healthy meals on the table every day for up to 160 children. She was an F1 driver in the kitchen, slicing and dicing, baking, boiling, grilling and plating. She worked at an impressive pace. I often visited her at work and stood at the door watching for a few minutes, timing my entry into the kitchen to avoid a pileup at the prep station.

She didn't cook fancy. I'm sure she bought one box of table salt her whole life. And the pepper shaker got filled every 6 months or so. She taught me that simplicity and proper technique brought out the inherent flavours of the food.

I treasure the worn cook books; handwritten recipes penned by arthritic hands, worn raw from chopping, tucked into the pages. The potato masher she gripped is tucked in the corner of my kitchen, constantly reminding me of her shepherd's pie.

I only have a couple of material hand me downs. Her true legacy is my love of cooking, especially Sunday dinner.

A Portrait of Mary Whitbread 1942-2012.

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