The beginning of my ‘Norene story’ of is not all that different from most of those who grew up with Norene’s influence in their kitchens. The orange cookbook with the black binding known as Second Helpings, Please was the culinary bible that held the secrets to my Mom Z”L‘s delicious meatballs, apple cake and so many more of our family favourites growing up.
Years later, as a new bride, I received my own copy. The Pleasures of Your Processor (the version with the ingenious yellow jacket that doubled as a cookbook stand) was soon added to my bookshelf. I think it may have been a gift from my Hubby for our first Hanukkah as Husband and Wife…Smart man:) I was also lucky enough to have gotten married around the time that Meal-Lean-i-Yumm came out. That book spoke to me A LOT. In addition to so many new recipes, Norene began to ‘healthify’ some of her existing classics which was right up my alley. Healthy helpings made it into my collection and the list goes on…
Norene’s recipes became the basis for so many of my own recipes. Either I prepared them as recommended or I would adapt or adjust them to, for example, use canola oil instead of butter, or cut out some of the sugar content. That said, Norene’s books were my first go-to-resource. From meatballs, to pepper steak, to cholent to crepes to homemade coleslaw, Norene was my guide.
Before launching montrealmom.com over 10 years ago, I reached out to Norene to ask if she would give me permission to share some of her recipes on my upcoming website. I remember composing the email and feeling very nervous about reaching out to Norene, who, in my eyes, was a larger-than-life celebrity, and hoping that she would even have the time to read and to respond to me.
I found the original email. I am sharing part of what I wrote, with the parts that most of us can relate to in bold:
…For my launch, the recipes are my own. I am contacting you because some of the best recipes I continue to use in my own home are yours. I was wondering if you would be Ok with me sharing a few of your recipes? I would, of course, credit you & the cookbook from which I got the recipe. While I no doubt have enough recipes in my “arsenal” to keep adding to & updating my site, I feel some of yours are so good that I feel it would be a shame not to share them. In any case I wanted to ask if it would be ok.
I would greatly appreciate it if you would let me know.
In the meantime I would like to wish you all the best for 2010 & thank you for being one of the original influencing forces in the “foodie” that I have become….
Imagine my surprise and joy when this ‘original influencing force’, this culinary icon, this famous cookbook author got back to me…less than 2 hours after I originally had written to her.
NO WORDS. I was so excited to hear back from her that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I forwarded the email to my husband!
Norene graciously agreed to let me use some of her recipes (while crediting them appropriately, of course). She also brought me up to speed on which books had replaced which books (I was still using some ‘originals’ LOL).
But given that Norene is Norene…she did not stop there.
She invited me to join her Facebook Group called ‘Norene’s Kitchen: Here’s Cooking at You!’, which I readily joined. That group evolved over the years to a community of 10K ‘Noreners‘, a community of 10K helpers from around the globe, all linked by one common force: the love of Norene.
When I launched montrealmom.com a few weeks after originally reaching out, Norene not only sent me encouraging and complimentary words about the site together with wishes for lots of luck and ‘Mazal Tov’ (for those who don’t know, this means ‘Good luck’ in Hebrew and Yiddish), but she began sharing the link to my website on Facebook and via email. I know this because she would forward me feedback from her friends who received the link from her.
As the site became more popular she found different ways to support and encourage me. When montrealmom.com was nominated as a Top Canadian Mom Blog, she encouraged others to visit the site and to vote for me….
When I was interviewed as a Mompreneur, she shared the interview so that Moms with families to care for could be inspired to start their own businesses.
When I shared my first YouTube video ever: Apple Cinnamon Challah for Rosh Hashana– she supported me and she shared it.
When I made a subsequent video based on her own Brisket recipe, SHE THANKED ME….Wait…What?!?!?!?
When I stuffed her phenomenal Hamentaschen dough with Mars Bars on Breakfast Television, she shared it.
The list goes on…
I once had the privilege of helping Norene. She wanted a better understanding of how to use Twitter and I gave her a ‘crash course’. I can’t express what it felt like to do a tiny bit to help this incredible woman who had inspired me and had helped me so much- both directly and indirectly. Norene decided to express her gratitude in one of my favourite FB posts of all time:
Norene definitely ‘fed’ countless families through the sharing of her wonderful and delicious recipes, but she also fed our souls. She nourished and she nurtured. She did this with food and she did this with love. She connected with people and connected people with each other.
I finally had the privilege of meeting Norene face-to-face in November of 2012 and was thrilled to give her a real hug of gratitude as opposed to the ‘virtual’ ones I had sent over the airwaves so many times.
We continued to stay in touch through the years, mostly via Facebook. I would share her recipes that I had brought to life in my kitchen and she would send her praises as well as tips and advice.
I recently learned via Facebook that Norene was unwell. I reached out to check up on her and of course she replied.
A good friend contacted me last week and told me that she had visited with Norene and asked her how she would feel about ‘her friend Tanya’ reviewing her new cookbook. Her most recent book The Brain Boosting Diet – Feed Your Memory which she wrote together with Edward Wein, PhD was just published in December of 2019. Norene replied that ‘That would be lovely’. Of course there was no question that I was going to do it. Given that I was up north for spring break with my daughter, I reserved a copy by phone for pick up at Indigo and my husband picked it up that night and brought it up north when he joined us the next day. As I was getting into bed just after midnight on Sunday night (Monday morning), I got a text from my friend telling me that Norene had passed….before I had a chance to write my review.
I was heartbroken. I AM heartbroken.
The world has lost a shining light.
I spent Monday in a bit of a daze.
I remembered all of the support that Norene sent my way over the years. I feel like I had let her down. I know that I will still review her fantastic book and write about it, but I would have liked for her to have read it. I keep telling myself that she will know that I wrote it because she is in a place where she will see and she will know.
I decided to look up the meaning of the name Norene. It is the diminutive of Nora which means ‘honour’. How fitting for a woman who conducted herself with honour and dignity always.
Thank you for all of the times that you have been there for me. Thank you for all that you have taught me. Thank you for all that you have taught us all. Your legacy will be passed on to future generations, just like it was passed down from our mothers to us.
You have always been and will forever be remembered as:
- A culinary icon
- An inspiration
- A class act
- One of a kind
- A leader
- An influencer
- An entrepreneur
- An author
- A teacher
- A Mother
- A mentor
- A Mensch
While we mourn you here, we celebrate all that you have gifted us with. We will treasure it forever. I will personally hold all that I have learned from you close to my heart.
I suspect that you will continue to do great things from where you are now. You were an angel here on earth and now you will be an angel up above.
I believe your next chapter would be suitably titled ‘A Little Taste of Heaven’.
Rest in Peace Beautiful Norene.
With Gratitude and Love,