For years the recipe for success for Karin Laronde Antolick was her Eat Well — Food with Thought catering company and farmers market business.
After being sidelined with a rare form of cancer four years ago, this Charlottetown woman is back in business again with the release of a new cookbook, Eating Well with Karin: Recipes for Every Body.
Published by Acorn Press, Antolick’s book draws from her years of cooking experience with familiar comfort foods along with those with a more international flair and lots of vegan, dairy- and gluten-free options tossed in for good measure.
“That’s why it’s called Food for Every Body. I wanted it to be like that,” says this consummate cook whose interest dates back to her childhood when she was never far from her Dutch mother’s apron strings, watching intently as she crafted culinary delights from the Old World, many of which had an Indonesian flair.
Antolick later ventured into the food and beverage industry where she kept a sharp eye on what was happening in the kitchen.
“I was on the other side, I was serving but I learned. I saw a lot of great food and knew how food was cooked,” she says.
In 1991, Antolick trained at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown as part of her enrollment in the Hospitality Management Program at Holland College.
“It’s interesting. When you are cooking for a profit there is more science to it,” she says.
“It was really key for me to take that because you have to (manage) your food costs if you want to make a profit.”
When she started her business in 1999, she was a vegan so knew firsthand how difficult it was to find eating options outside her home space.
“If you went to a restaurant you might get a salad or something. It was really hard,” she remembers.
“So I saw there was a need for people who were on specialized diets to get good food. But I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make a living on P.E.I. feeding vegans or vegetarians. It was not enough.”
So Antolick started serving up dairy- and gluten-free recipes and with Weight Watchers-point-style ratings in addition to a meat-and-potato and international menu, which she delivered right to customers’ doors and served up weekly at the Charlottetown Farmers Market.
“I was very lucky with timing. People were starting to think about eating healthy and I was kind of the first person (locally) that was out there doing that (type of meal delivery business),” she says.
Antolick expanded to catering and became a fixture at weddings, functions and even a movie set.
In 2008, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called adenoid cystic carcinoma and by 2009 was told there were no treatment options available to her.
At that point, she decided to sell her company and concentrate entirely on the business of living.
“I said, ‘OK, it’s time to enjoy my life’ because I didn’t know how much time I had,” she remembers.
With encouragement from friends, Antolick began writing down the recipes that she had so carefully cultivated over the years.
“I’m not usually a recipe person. I just make stuff. . . . so I kind of had to (remember) how I would do it. I would write it down and then I would make it,” she says.
Creating the cookbook turned out to be a labour of love for Antolick in that it brought back so many great memories.
“The kitchen is a great place for me. Sometimes I’d have someone helping me so we’d have a lot of fun, and sometimes it would be just me and I could think and meditate,” she says.
“And then it reminded me of the people who I had formed relationships with because I would see them once a week (during meal drop-off times) and I
would know about their families and things like that. So all of that came back when I was working on the book.”
Although there are loads of healthy recipes included, there are also some time-honoured decadent favourites that would send the caloric counter into a tailspin, one being her famous How to Get Invited to a Christmas Party Squares that she has presented at countless potlucks.
“I would say, yes, eating healthy has really helped me,” says Antolick, who was initially given six months to live — and that was more than four years ago.
“Every day is a great day. . . . Today (for example) was a great day. I got to have breakfast with my dad so that was fun. Every day is a treat for me. No matter what it is.”