Four of the original Best of Bridge authors meet with the new generation: Mary Halpen (left)

Four of the original Best of Bridge authors meet with the new generation: Mary Halpen (left)

The culinary baton has been passed

A new generation of Best of Bridge ladies continue the tradition that began more than 40 years ago

It’s been more than 40 years since a group of friends came up with what turned out to be one of the most successful brands in Canadian publishing.

And now a new generation of authors is taking over the Best of Bridge with the publication of The Family Slow Cooker.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth and Julie Van Rosendaal, both of Calgary, and Sue Duncan of Vernon are the new Best of Bridge team and all three have the full support and approval of the original Bridge ladies.

The original group of eight friends used to gather for weekend getaways to play bridge, where a highlight of the weekend was the food that they prepared and enjoyed together. The idea for a cookbook began in 1975 during one of those weekends and the Best of Bridge was born.

Four million copies later, and they have passed the baton to a new group of friends, who have just published their first Best of Bridge book, The Family Slow Cooker.

The new authors bring fresh ideas and recipes to the table, while remaining true to the original Bridge motto of offering “simple recipes with gourmet results,” all using easy-to-find ingredients found in local grocery stores.

“We all grew up with them — my mom had the books,” said Duncan. “Four of the ladies are still alive and are in their 70s, and looking to retire. A little while ago, they sold the rights to (publisher) Robert Rose, and were looking to refresh the brand.

“People tell us that the recipes just work. The original books had recipes that were really reliable, and the books were very funny.”

Originally from Calgary, Duncan has lived in Vernon for about 15 years. She is co-author with Van Rosendaal of the best-selling cookbook Spilling the Beans, which won a Taste Canada Award for best single-subject cookbook in 2013.

Van Rosendaal is the author of eight best-selling cookbooks, editor of Parents Canada magazine, contributing food editor for Western Living magazine and food columnist for CBC Radio Calgary’s Eyeopener; Chorney-Booth writes for Today’s Parent, Avenue magazine, The Calgary Herald, Swerve, Culinaire and City Palate.

“Julie and I have known each other since junior high, so when Robert Rose approached her about this, she felt it should still be a group of women,” said Duncan.

The new group brings their own modern style to the brand while still honouring the dependable results, humour and enthusiasm of the original ladies.

Best of Bridge recipes are staples at potlucks, family dinners and reunions across the country, and the generation of children raised on them is now cooking for themselves.

The Family Slow Cooker is the second slow cooker cookbook for Best of Bridge and it focuses on classic slow cooking with convenient recipes for busy people and families. Duncan said the trusty slow cooker has had a resurgence in popularity, thanks to the ease of assembling a few ingredients early in the day, pushing a button and not having to worry until it’s time to eat.

“They are much more popular now because people are looking to manage budgets a little bit more,” she said. “And a lot of things don’t cook for a full day anymore — having something that cooks for four to six hours can be more convenient than something that cooks for eight hours.”

There are 225 recipes in The Family Slow Cooker that will take you through every meal and every occasion so whether you’re looking for some breakfast and brunch inspiration or for a chili recipe to make on a cold winter’s day, it’s all there.

“There are quite a few recipes that jump out as favourites — the mincemeat smells amazing and there are some terrific desserts in there, like the pots de crème.”

In putting the book together, Duncan said the first order of business was coming up with a table of contents and from there, the cookbook took shape.

“Then I would look at a Mulligatawny soup for example and see how it worked, so you try something and other times you think something would be a good idea but wasn’t,” she said. “I like to cook a little of everything because there were quite a few recipes needed for the book. We all did a bit in every section.”

Duncan advises that anyone purchasing a slow cooker for the first time, do some research into the various types.

“There is quite a bit of variation between slow cookers, some cook a lot faster than others, and some come with a timer so you can cook it on low for a set time.

“Our tastes have changed over the years — when slow cookers first came out, a lot of people were eating tinned spaghetti but we’re a little more discerning now.”

Best of Bridge: The Family Slow Cooker retails for $29.95 and is available at local book stores.