Cook's Companion: Former mayor's life transformed by book
WHEN former Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell bought her then teen-aged daughter a copy of Stephanie Alexander's definitive book "The Cook's Companion" little did she know it was a moment that would still be impacting on both their lives even today.
First published in 1996, the book, which lurks in many of our book shelves even now, helped inspire Jenny's daughter to become a chef but it's impact on the former mayor's life didn't stop there.
Jenny Dowell OAM- who has a love affair with books and libraries - will head north on 8 November to host "In conversation with Stephanie Alexander" at the Tweed Heads Civic and Cultural Centre Auditorium.
She admits she is looking forward to the trip and the event and is busy reading Alexander's biography and back catalogue of books in preparation. And while at first glance Jenny, who was Lismore mayor for eight years and on council for 12 and a half years before retiring at the past election two years ago, might be an odd choice to host the event in Tweed, it is almost like she's been preparing for it for a long time.
"In 1976 she opened her restaurant in Melbourne, Stephanies and I use to go there," the former councilor explained.
"While I was mayor I opened the kitchen garden at the Tuntable Falls school made possible through the Stephanie Alexander foundation."
The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation helped to fund gardens in schools around Australia as part of Stephanie's vision to help foster a love of food and gardening and form positive food habits for life.
And of course as a long time supporter of the Richmond-Tweed Library system, spending more than 12 years on their committee as well as continuing to write book reviews even now for their newsletter, it's actually little surprise she got the gig.
But then her library commitment is just one of the many events that the still very community minded former mayor is involved with across the region.
Though she swears she is not as busy as when she was on council, never-the-less she still has many and varied interests to keep her occupied (including being a voracious reader who ploughs through two-three books a week).
She currently has a contract with Local Government NSW as a Mayor's Mentor - working as a mentor for 12 mayors across the state when they need help and support. As well as that she is on the board of NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts) and is involved in Rail Trail Inc, Jody's Inspiration Cancer Charity, Friends of Lismore Rainforest Botanic Gardens and the Northern Rivers Suicide Prevention Awareness Program.
"I've taken up running and recently ran my first 10km race," she explained of her life after council and how she spends her time.
"I've also done two stage performances with a local theatre company".
And if all that hasn't made you tired just thinking about it, Jenny has run several community marmalade-making workshops and is set to run a Christmas cake and pudding workshop in the lead up to Christmas as well as volunteering at the Red Cross Tea Rooms. And if you ever need to know what's going on in and around Lismore - check out her very active Facebook profile!
"Life is good," she laughed.
"Änd I am nowhere near as busy as I was when I was mayor!"
Tweed Heads library will present Jenny Dowell "In conversation with Stephanie Alexander", Thursday 8 November at 10am. Tweed Heads Civic and Cultural Centre Auditorium.
Books by Stephanie Alexander will be available for purchase on the day, thanks to Boardwalk Books (Kingscliff).
Bookings are essential, please phone Tweed Heads library on (07)55693150.