Many people think that Maps, Markets and Matzo Ball Soup is a recipe book. The memoir does contain recipes but it also includes business insights. ChefGail operated two very successful businesses and worked in retail and for the government. She was a highly regarded business person and served on community boards and committees. Some of her business practices are highlighted in the book. If your business club would like to book a speaker in the new year, Jon Hall would be delighted to review some of the business practices in the book. Here is one of them.

#1 Live life as if everything is tilted in your direction  - Rumi, 13thcentury Persian poet

Very few people can recall Gail ever complaining. She got frustrated sometimes but immediately took a breath and moved on. She took daily missteps in stride and just got the job done. That level of commitment takes a lot of time and energy and Gail’s hands-on leadership style required her to be “on deck.” But as the company grew, Gail came to realize that she needed a vacation to “re-create”. However, like many entrepreneurs, Gail was plowing every dollar back into the company.

Gail loved to travel. She had been to Europe and toured western Canada with friends. We drove our VW camper around western Canada and into the Yukon and NWT. So we sat down and discussed how to build vacations and travel into her job. The answer was culinary tours. As you know, that became the backbone of her career with 35 trips in just 20 years. Her clients signed up for tour after tour and reveled in the immersive experience.

Culinary tourism may not be a part of your enterprise but there are many ways to take advantage of work experiences that will enrich your life and help you “re-create”. Attend conferences relevant to your business and stay over for a day or two after the event to play tourist. While on family travel take a side trip to visit a supplier or competitor. Stretch your imagination with a visit to an art gallery or museum; they often have days or evenings when admission is free. Host a visiting expert by offering them a bed, a meal, or just a drink. You’ll grow from the conversation and extend your range of influence. You may not see it at first but with just a little extra effort you’ll find that the world seems to be tilted in your direction.

The memoir of Chef Gail Hall is about a life well lived. Her personal life as an entrepreneur and living with cancer is inspiring for anyone with an illness. Her vision, life and energy never wavered until her body finally gave out. The debilitating effects of cancer never caused her to pause and she lived with the disease in an exuberant manner.
Many people will want to read the book because of the 30 recipes in the book. Each recipe includes a story about the ingredients, the history or the origins of the dish. From Pisco Sours to Green Chili Stew, they were all favourites of Chef Gail and her clients, students or friends. All the recipes are also included in a spiral bound recipe book that lays flat for use in the kitchen and protects the big book from kitchen splashes and stains. You can buy the recipe book on-line from the website Q32.ca. The book will appeal to anyone who has a kitchen.
Finally, Gail was a true entrepreneur who followed in her father's footsteps and started two award winning companies in Edmonton. The book contains 13 business Insights that reflect the business practices of Gail's enterprises. This book will appeal to anyone who has a business and be an inspiration for anyone who wants to start one.
Kitchen users, business owners or anyone with an illness would love to receive Maps Markets and Matzo Ball Soup as a gift.

Gail and I have visited half a dozen outlet malls in our travels through two provinces and six states. The only outlet I’ve seen that was of even remote interest to me was the Bose sound system store. Oh sure, I’ve picked up some shoes, pants, socks and shirts but that’s out of necessity not shopping. In desperation I’ve browsed the Sunglasses Hut and Samsonite stores but with clip-ons and new luggage that we bought in Italy last year I am already set. I suppose some men would find interest in a Tag Heuer store but if a watch is in the same price range as a Prius it better get the outstanding gas mileage.

My interest was peaked when I noticed that one store carried Caterpillar (tractor company) branded goods but they turned out to be steel toed stilettos and lace trimmed denim shirts. The Harley Davidson store didn’t have a single motorcycle part or accessory and I there were no Montreal biker gang members picking up pink hoodies for their Breast Cancer Bike Tour on the day I was there.

Where are the outlet stores that feature designers like Stanley, Black & Decker and Delta? Does Mike Holmes buy his Makita tools at full retail? I want to see brands like Lowes, Ace, Home Depot and Revy. Sony, Yamaha, Toshiba and Samsung should join Bose at the discount end of the retail market.

I overheard a couple of women already loaded down with bags planning to meet at the food court “as close as possible to the window in two hours from now.” I was finished shopping and had eaten lunch in just 30 minutes and left with a full belly but empty handed. I’d be planning a return trip if the store selection contained Lee Valley, Best Buy, Magic Palace, Weber Grills or John Deere. A Chapters book store or an automobile showroom would at least give me somewhere to go while Gail shopped for shoes.

Perhaps if I was richer I could shop like the guy in the two-car convoy. His black chauffeured Cadillac pulled up in front of the Cartier store and he dashed inside. His body guard stepped down from the black Escalade that followed and took a stance on the sidewalk looking into the store. At six foot four and 240 pounds I am considered overweight but this guy at 300 pounds would be considered trim. He cast a shadow that provided shade for a whole busload of Chinese visitors. If he had hinges he could have been used as a barn door. His boss exited the store within minutes, his driver opened the trunk and stowed his packages while the mountain man held the car door open. Everyone climbed aboard in a well rehearsed routine and the convoy drove around to the Moms and Tots Store. The tableau repeated itself while the boss dashed inside. He must have phoned in his order and had it ready for pick up because he was out again in seconds with an armload of bags. Then they moved along to park in the fire lane with flashers on outside another store while the boss finished shopping. His credit card hardly had time to cool before they exited the mall and headed for home.

Meanwhile, I am still sitting in the husband chair outside Jimmy Chou’s watching the endless stream of people that seem to think that outlet malls make for an afternoon of good entertainment. I would be pleased to join them again when the product mix includes stuff that doesn’t have to be tried on before purchase.

That’s what I’m thinking about.

Jon Hall

Gail is a locavore; someone who eats food provided by local producers, growers and suppliers. She promotes local products in her classes and radio shows and uses local products in her recipes whenever possible. The extreme end of locavorism is “100 mile dieting” which means that all products must originate within 100 miles of the consumer. One hundred miles has become the defacto measure for eating local although the phrase “local” is as loose as a politician’s credibility. For Edmonton and many other parts of the planet this means a very limited diet in the winter and early spring. It also means that products like coffee, bananas and many spices are as unwelcome as water leaks in a submarine.

As consumers we have become used to a diet that includes “seasonal” fruit and vegetables all year round. Everything that can be grown is “in season” somewhere in the world and is shipped out in huge containers on ships, trucks and airplanes. Often California is seen as the villain when foodies discuss food providence issues.

But down here in California the argument falls apart. It is hard to be extreme when almost everything is local and seasonal all year round. Citrus fruits in your front yard yield fruit all year round and everything from almonds to zinfandel are available from roadside stands operated by farmers and cooperatives.

Farmers markets are operated in every village year round and specialize not only in local but also organic and wholesome. I suppose that Canadian sourced products like Maple syrup is demonized down here.

It has become very confusing to beat the locally sourced drum while walking through what at home is considered the demonic centre of all things non-local.

That’s what I am thinking about.

Jon Hall

If your only tool is a hammer then every problem is a nail. I think about that all the time because I am a marketing guy and every issue is viewed through a marketing lens. I have been considering the wine industry for the past weeks while visiting a couple of dozen wineries. Winemakers spend millions of dollars creating, selling and distributing wine around the world. The buildings they make wine in are spectacular and many are way over the top. Yet when you enter the tasting room, some of the basics seem to be missing.

Any wine expert will tell you that the vineyard is where good wine is made. The winemaker’s primary objective is to stay out of the way of a good wine as it flows through the production process. The soil, water, air and vines themselves all affect the creation of the grapes that are crushed, fermented and aged to create thousands of types of wines.

Surprisingly the actual task of making wine is very simple and consistent from one winery to the next despite the millions of tiny changes that can be added to the process. If wine making was about the process then wine could be made anywhere: yet wine only comes from a few select areas of the world where the vines survive and create great grapes.

Back in the tasting room, the talk is all about the finished product. The nose, the flavour notes, the color are all discussed in great detail. The wine presenter n ever fails to mention oak barrels, aging times and bottling techniques: the process. They hardly ever credit the terroire, the weather or the soils that create the grape. In fact, it was only at Raymond Winery that the presenter mentioned the value of the Napa Valley itself to the wine making process. I think more winemakers should use the vineyard as the main point that differentiates their wine from all other competitor’s products.

The other point that I want to make is that very few wine presenters aerate their wines in the tasting rooms. We know that red wines in particular must be opened several hours before being served or decanted to reach their full potential. The best restaurants and hosts all ritualize the serving of wine with fancy decanters and all sorts of gear that round out the taste, allow some of the airborne alcohol to evaporate and enhance the wine tasting experience. Yet at the wineries the presenters spend all day popping corks and pouring wine directly into glasses. They are not presenting their wines at their best.

The process of aeration does not have to be difficult. Only one winery so far was using a bottle aerator to bubble the wine into the glass. I use the same device at home and have shown many groups of guests how the taste and enjoyment of a wine is enhanced with the device. I pour wine into the glass directly from the bottle and then pour it through the bubbler and every guest can taste the difference that the air makes.

Why are wineries not showing off their wines to the best advantage? I suppose it’s because they don’t have a marketing focus.

That’s what I am thinking about.

Jon Hall

Travel is broadening. Despite the fact that we both intend to loose a few pounds on this trip as a result of good eating and increased exercise and therefore decrease the width of our beam, the trip has widened our minds. I already have a head full of unrelated and generally useless trivia but after almost 60 years of dribbling that information out, it is good to get some new stuff to share randomly as the occasion requires.

One of my favourite TV characters was the writer played by Morey Amsterdam in the Dick Van Dyke Show. One of his set pieces on the show was to recite a joke about any topic you could name. Of course, the show was scripted but the talent was inspiring. But I digress. What I want to do today is give you some of the fascinating gems I have learned in the first few weeks of travel.

FACT: Rainbow and Steelhead Trout are the same species. I learned this at a self-serving aquarium exhibit operated by a lumber company in Oregon which demonstrated that they had over 50 scientists working on environmental issues and preserving the fish and other animals who are affected by the thousands of other employees dedicated to cutting down trees and denuding the environment.

FACT: At the Tillamoot Creamery I learned that over 100 years ago salt was originally added to butter during production to preserve it during shipping. It is the same reason that salt pork and similar products were produced. Without the added salt the butter turned rancid before it could be used. Improvements in transportation made the production technique unnecessary but consumer’s taste for salt keeps salted butter on the shelf.

FACT: Cape Blanco is supposed to be the most westerly point in the contingent United States. There is a lighthouse on the Cape which despite being the shortest lighthouse on the western coast is the highest lighthouse above sea level because of the cliffs that the lighthouse is located on. At least one other community claims to be located at the furthest point sticking into the Pacific.

FACT: Paul Bunyan was raised on milk fed to him in 80 gallon baby bottles. You can see a life size statue of Paul and Babe the Blue Ox at the Trees of Wonder exhibit in Oregon.

FACT: Bandon, Oregon is a nice place to visit despite the fact that some wag has added an “A” to the beginning of the name on a highway sign making it less attractive as Abandon.

FACT: There is less than 4% of the original old growth Redwood forest left. Some of these trees were growing when Jesus was born and have survived over 2000 years of history. Yet in just over 200 years we have decimated these forestry giants to make shingles and deck lumber.

FACT: Over 50,000 containers full of consumer goods are offloaded in the Los Angeles port EACH DAY. When you see the vast array of products available at Wal-Mart it is easy to see where much of that cargo goes.

FACT: There are six soil types of soil in the Napa Valley. Most wine growing areas contain one or two. Apparently the only other place in the world with six soil types is a small valley in France. Since more than 80% of a wine’s ultimate success comes from the orchard then you can understand why Napa has such a variety of excellent wines.

FACT: The slogan for this trip has become “Not all who wander are lost.” I hope you appreciate that these facts are no longer lost.

That’s what I have been thinking about.

Jon Hall

I am not addicted to media! Although it is different to be out of touch with the world outside my immediate realm, it has not been difficult to turn off the news, information and useless flotsam that drift through my life when I am constantly wired to the media.

While Gail and I are on our self-imposed sabbatical we are disconnected to many of the sources of non-personal data. I don’t know what is happening in either North Africa or North Edmonton. The Canadian election has drifted off my screen (although I have already voted) and a new arena is old news.

It was raining last night and we decided to take a motel room for a change. As soon as we got into the room, the TV came on and we realized that it was the first TV we had watched for almost two weeks. Does Charlie Sheen still have a TV show? Who cares? We watched a meaningless movie with unknown actors. This morning we watch the drivel that exists as morning news. No feelings of loss and no sense that we have to get plugged in to survive another day.

Even radio doesn’t exist in this world on the road. We have tried to listen while we are driving but radio is very personal and while we are driving through the signal zone, which can be limited on the coast and in the mountains, we don’t have time to connect with the format, the local “radio personalities” or even the advertisers. If we cannot tolerate the music at the moment we tune in we search for another station. The effect is a pastiche of sound bites, a cacophony of riffs and a babble of voices. We are not aware enough of the station to tolerate something we don’t like in anticipation of something that we do like. So the easy solution is to switch off and either listen to our own music or the sound of the tires on the road. Most time the silence is golden.

So, you say, we could check the internet for news. Sure it’s possible but without a constant connection we don’t have time during a coffee shop wifi break. After we check our e-mail and upload the blogs, the clerks are starting to shoot us glances and unseated customers are making repeated trips past our table looking for any sign of our departure. Our cheap motel didn’t offer a wifi connection last night and we were forced to work off-line.

Our final source for news is our phone, but have you ever paid roaming fees? We have our Blackberries on for calls but the data plans are turned off except in emergencies; no news available there.

I may not be addicted but I certainly need more media when I am at home than I have discovered I need on the road.

That’s what I am thinking about.

Jon Hall

Purists seem to think that there is a clear line between what is considered a local, artisanal product and therefore desirable and a mass produced, commercial product that is not so desirable. I can tell you that the two worlds are just shades of grey with lots of light to be shone on both sides of the argument.

When Gail Hall and her culinary group were in Italy they toured a Parmesan cheese producer. The cheese maker worked for a farmer’s cooperative and each day received the milk from the farmers and made cheese in a time honoured and traditional manner. He heated the milk, captured the curd and formed it into large wheels of cheese which he put through a finishing process and aged for up to two years. Each day he produced 18 wheels of cheese and had about 2000 wheels in storage. In other creameries, other cheese makers were doing the same thing with milk from their farmer’s cattle. The process in each facility was carefully monitored by a government official to ensure health, purity and processing rules were followed closely.

In every telling of this story the artisanal and heritage aspects of the creative process is highlighted.

This week we visited the Tillamook County Creamery Association cheese factory in Oregon. This is a farmer’s co-operative and each day the creamery receives the milk from the farmers and makes cheese in accordance with a 100 year old process and recipe. The milk is heated, the curd and whey are separated and the curd is formed into large 42 pound blocks of cheese. These are vacuum packed, boxed and aged for up to three years. At the appropriate time the cheese is cut into smaller blocks, weighed, packaged and shipped to stores around the Pacific Northwest. The entire process from cow to store is carefully monitored by the cooperative, government health and agriculture officials and even a rabbi.

This process, despite its long history, high standards and desirable end product is considered commercial and not artisanal.

The locals in both cheese production plans are proud of the history, culture (no pun intended) and quality of their product. Both groups call their product local and celebrate the effect of it on the local economy, self esteem and community pride. Is the product of a smaller producer any better in any quantifiable metric? Is the mass produced product inferior just because of the size of the production plant?

I cannot resolve the question. I just appreciate that the argument exists.

That’s what I am thinking about.

Jon Hall

I am living with two women at the same time. No this is not some sister wife arrangement. One of them is fully aware of the situation while the second or newest woman is blissfully unaware of the other woman; and she doesn’t seem to care. Both women comment about my driving and provide invaluable assistance in navigation.

The first one is my life mate and wife, Gail. While we motor along she reminds me to drive slower, to stay away from the edge of the road and not to follow the car in front too closely. She has certain needs and instructs me to stop frequently for coffee, unique food experiences and to use the internet. She is quick to advise me if I slip through a stop sign or fail to notice a speed change. However, she cannot read a map with any clarity and cannot make sense of guide book directions. On a few occasions when her advice has proven to be right she will make mention of the incident over an extended period of time.

The other woman is Maggie. She came into my life just days before we left on this trip. My brother bought her to give to his son. But when he could not use her my brother sent her to me. No this is not some white slave trade story. Maggie lives inside the Magellan GPS unit and acquired her name within the first 48 hours of her arrival. Maggie also tells me where to go but in a totally different way. Maggie cares little about how fast I am going or where I am in relation to other vehicles. She is, however, obsessed with helping me find my destination by the most efficient route possible. Once I have fully informed her of my destination she plots a route and makes constant note of my speed, elevation, distance to destination (in miles, kilometres and minutes) and estimated time of arrival (based on the current time and speed). On a complicated route she will advise when we are two miles from a required turn; then remind me at one mile and again at ½ mile. When the turn is imminent she sounds a cheerful chine. On a long stretch without any deviations she may be silent for hundreds of miles. Then suddenly she will announce a turn and instruct me on the proper lane and if there are manoeuvres required immediately after the turn.

Maggie’s tone never changes and unlike other GPS operators does not make a big fuss if she has to recalculate a route. She is, however, very insistent that I return to her preferred route as soon as I deviate. When I turn off the highway for gas or a pit stop she immediately instructs me to “Make the first legal U-turn.” If after a few hundred metres she can see another route back to our destination she will map it out on her screen and happily provide a new set of instructions. She never seems to hold a grudge and returns to her duties without injecting any spite or malice into the journey.

Maggie is also a deep well of information about POI (points of interest) or service suppliers like gas stations, campgrounds and wineries. However all she knows is where they are located and how long it will take to get there. She doesn’t even pretend to know if they will be able to meet our needs or come up to our standards. That’s Gail’s job. By consulting a guidebook or simply scanning the yard, she knows if we will be using the service or staying at the campsite.

I suppose if you have to live with two women then having them do different jobs means that they are never in conflict. So far Maggie (who is unaware of Gail`s existence) and Gail seem to be getting along. The only requirement to continued harmony is to turn Maggie off when we reach our destination and never to take her to bed with me.

That`s what I am thinking about.

Jon Hall

Reflections on Travel

We are blessed by the thoughtfulness of our predecessors who have since the early 1900’s developed a network of roads linking one community with another. Since the middle of the last century the highway network has developed with more pavement, interchanges and roadside amenities. We can zip from one community to another at speeds over 100 km per hour and seek help and assistance along the way as needed from service centres or trucks dispatched by the AAA.

In BC, where the road ends there is a ferry waiting to transport us and our vehicle to the further shore. It is only when we seek a remote winery or agricultural producer that we have to venture onto a gravel road or rural track.

While the choice of destinations is endless, the methods of access are often limited. To get to Powell River from Gibsons Landing, you have to follow the only road as it twists and winds through the seasides and forests of the coast. Don’t get me wrong, the view is fantastic but the choice is limited. You see whatever is present that day with no options for detours or choice of route. Maggie, the lady inside the GPS is silent as she waits to advise us to turn left in 186.3 km.
The early settlers had much limited choices and slower routes of access. The followers of Captain Vancouver and the indigenous people before him, travelled up and down the coast pulling into the shore only when beaches and inlets provided access. There might have been a village or a cabin to visit but on-shore travel was limited to paths and trails.

The horseback explorers of the plains preceded the settlers in wagons but they had no guideposts to direct them and no assistance or accommodation choices along the way. And that was only 150 years ago. We’ve come a long way in these few short years.

That’s what’s on my mind today.

Jon Hall