I enjoyed meeting up with Mary Rolph Lamontagne again. The last time I saw her was when I was teaching her how to write a book on our Writers Write course in Cape Town. Now, we were meeting because she has written, and successfully published, a beautiful book, EATS. This is the first of five planned cookbooks.
Mary has a vibrant blog, a regular guest spot on a cooking show in Canada and she is in the process of creating her own cooking television show.
EATS: enjoy all the seconds is all about creating recipes from fruits and vegetables that have been poached, pureed, and roasted. It is about taking leftovers and reinventing them into tasty meals. Mary is passionate about the planet, but as she says, ‘You don’t have to look and act like a hippy to care about this.’ If you care about doing one thing every day to make a difference to your environment, your wallet, and yourself, you are Mary’s ideal audience.
Mary, who is Canadian, has called South Africa home for a decade now. She has worked as a food consultant for a hotel group and in many game reserves in the region.
The idea for EATS came to her when she was working at a luxury bush camp in Botswana. They were low on stock, leftovers were piling up, and guests were expecting a memorable meal. Using her skills, Mary decided to use what they had, and the guests were more than satisfied.
Author: Mary Rolph Lamontagne
Date of Birth: 15 July 1962
Date of Interview: 1 September 2014
Place: Club Lounge, The Hyatt, Johannesburg
The Book: EATS
1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Sophie from the novel, Les Malheurs de Sophie by Comtesse de Ségur. She was a naughty girl who always got into trouble and I identified with her.
2. What is your most treasured possession?
There is very little I value. After my mother died when I was 11-years-old, all of our photographs were destroyed by water damage in a basement. As an adult all of my possessions, including jewellery and photographs, were stolen. I even had a first draft of a book on my laptop, which was stolen. I had no backup and I had to start again. Now, I back up all my photographs everywhere.
3. Which living person do you most dislike?
I don’t really dislike anyone. I dislike dishonest behaviour. I have made a conscious decision only to surround myself with people I like and who like me!
4. What is your greatest fear?
Snakes. I had two encounters in Botswana. One was in a shower, and when I looked up, there was a snake on the showerhead. I ran naked and screaming into the middle of the camp. I was literally this ‘crazy white woman’. It wasn’t even a venomous snake. The second was when a Black Mamba reared up over the front of the Landrover when we were on a game drive. That was terrifying.
5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
My husband, Paul Lamontagne. We met when I was 13-years-old. We started seeing each other when I was 16, and we were together for the rest of our lives after three months of dating.
6. What is your greatest regret?
I have three:
- Not believing in myself sooner. My family pushed me and believed in me.
- Not seeing the Berlin Wall come down because we had a five-month-old baby, and it seemed overwhelming at the time.
- I met with three other Marys for sixteen years for a Mary Tea every summer. One of the Marys died just before I finished my book, and I regret that she did not get to see it. Although she was in her 90s, she always inspired me and she supported me.
7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
Waldo from ‘Where’s Waldo’. Nobody ever knows where I am.
8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
Charlotte’s Web by EB White.
9. What is your favourite journey?
Going to Prout’s Neck – a beach in Maine – every summer for almost every summer of my life. This is where we used to have the Mary Tea.
10. What is your favourite quotation?
I have two by George Bernard Shaw. ‘There is no sincerer love than the love of food.’ and ‘Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.’
11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
Dogs. I like big dogs. I have two. One is a pavement special named Rusty, and I inherited the other, Maddy – a fluffy little white dog who has grown on me.
12. What do you most value in a friend?
Loyalty and truthfulness.
13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
EATS. (I did once write a book about maple syrup.) And I am busy with the next in the series, Summer Eats.
15. What are your favourite names?
I like traditional names. I like names that can’t really be mangled into variations as well. I love Madeleine and Sebastian.
16. What do you do as a hobby?
I climb mountains. I love sports. I cycle. I also enjoy sailing. Travelling is a hobby, and discovering something new every day is important to me.
17. Which are your three favourite books?
- The OrphanTrain: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
When I’m walking up mountains, or in planes. I had some of my greatest ideas travelling between South Africa and India.
19. What is your Writing Routine?
I write in the mornings. I am up by 7am. I catch up on emails and I spend time on Facebook. Then I write seriously, and I do a lot of research, sometimes for hours.
20. What are your Top Writing Tips?
- One of the things I learnt on your course was that I could write. I realised that you can learn anything if you want to do it enough.
- You have to do a lot of research. Know your stuff.
- If you want to get published, you have to have a very thick skin. I met one publisher who tossed my book aside and asked why he should publish a book about ‘rubbish’.
- Just write. Don’t box yourself in with expectations. You can always cut back afterwards, and don’t be afraid to cut out what should not be there.
- You need a routine. You have to put aside a certain amount of time every day if you’re serious about writing and getting published.
- Keep a notebook. Write all your ideas down. You will forget if you don’t.
Visit Mary’s blog Savour & Save. Follow Mary on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.