Published on July 1st, 2014 | by Lorraine Leslie0
Mairlyn Smith – Accepting Me For Whom I Am…
In the fall of 2013, I was invited to attend the Annual Taste Canada event in Toronto by Susanne Mikler, the owner of Liaison College, and her good friend and Women with Vision writer, Donna Messer of Connect Us Canada. What a fabulous opportunity it was to meet some of Canada’s top chefs and cook book Author’s, and to taste some of Toronto’s finest cuisine and wines.
After the awards presentation I approached one of my favourite television personalities for a photo…it was Mairlyn Smith, from Breakfast Television® and CityLine®, who is their ‘go to’ Home Economist – P.H.Ec. I asked Mairlyn if I could take a photo and with a great big smile she posed with her award. I handed her my business card and said I’d be interested in an interview… ‘Ask and you shall receive
Mairlyn and I met at a small little cafe in downtown Toronto called Tabule that is known for its yummy Middle Eastern cuisine. Settling in we ordered some babaghanouj, hummus, and gluten free flat bread and ginger cinnamon tea. I started the interview by asking where she was born; to which Mairlyn chuckled and with a glint in her eye said “I was born in Vancouver BC many years ago”…
“I grew up in downtown Vancouver where I attended Sir Matthew Begbie Elementary School. I liked to hang out with my brother John, who is three years older than me. We’d play outside until the street lights went on and then we knew we had to go home. We had a fort in the backyard with a grassy field and a pond behind that. One day my girlfriend and I (I think we were about nine years old at the time), found a rock that had “Jesus Saves” on it. We actually thought we had found a miracle. So we would go to the rock every day and pray. She would bring her rosary and tell me she wanted to become a Nun. I told her I was going to be a Nun with her and she said I couldn’t because I wasn’t Catholic. I said to her, ‘what kind of crummy rule is that?’ We had a big fight about it so her mother told me, ‘you can’t become a Nun right now – maybe things will change when you get older’, and that was the end of the discussion.”
“I was an active child – I drove my parents’ crazy! I wanted to be like my big brother John so I was a huge tomboy. As a little girl, my girlfriend and I used to play pretend. We’d play Miss Canada, school teacher, getting married, tv cooking show host, and working in a grocery store.
“I’ve always been creative and used to love imaginative games. Looking back now I realize I’ve been improvising my entire life. No wonder, as a young adult I ended up working on Second City… I was training for it from age six!”
“My mother would save all her old boxes and we’d play grocery store, school teacher and cooking show-all the things we played I ended up becoming. We had a television but we could only watch it as a treat, like Walt Disney. My mother, Roberta was a stay at home mother, until I was off to school at the age of six and then she worked part time one day a week.
“Being a middle child I was pretty independent. I was a free spirit…still am. As kids we found it fascinating to just lay on the lawn and look up at the clouds and find animals etc. out of the ‘white fluff ’.
I also have a younger sister Kathleen. My father Jack worked for BC Tel so we had a pretty normal life, not what you’d call normal today for sure…”
“The universe brought me what I believed I was destined to do. My intention was to be a TV cooking show host, a dancer and an actor, and I’ve been blessed with being able to do two out of the three.”
I think it’s hilarious that all of those things actually happened in my life. I took dancing lessons, singing and drama classes, went to church, was a Brownie and Girl Guide, sang in the church choir…basically I was so active, there wasn’t a spare moment in my day”.
“I attended Vancouver Technical High School, where both my parents went as teens. I never had a part time job as my parents believed that we (my brother and sister included) should have fun while we were in high school, but we were expected to get a job after we graduated.
I went on to study Home Economics at the University of British Columbia. While attending university I became part of MUSSOC – a musical society, where I started doing musicals.”
“After graduating in 1976 from university I went out to change the world, the only problem was no one wanted me to. I ended up working at BC Tel for a year before venturing off to Europe for three months… After much thought and time to think I ended up going back home and going back to UBC to get my teaching certificate.”
“My first and only teaching job was as a half time Home Economics teacher and a half time Drama teacher. I ended up being the head of the Department of Fine Arts at Balmoral Junior High where I put on musicals and plays for the three years I was there.”
“I didn’t want to die trying to be a be a full time actor; at age twenty six, I found I was a bit too old, but still had the acting bug so bad that I signed up to take some summer courses at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. Then, like most Canadian actors in the 1980s I moved to Toronto to find work and an agent. Signed, I came back to Vancouver to work on a children’s show but unfortunately I got hurt in a rodeo accident… during the shooting of the kid’s show I was bucked off a steer, Ouch! I landed on my neck and I was never able to dance or do musicals again.”
“I returned to Toronto in the fall of the year, but this time I was no longer a musical theatre actor… so my agent sent me on an audition for Second City. My fifteen minutes of Improvisation landed me a job and I was thrilled. When I told my friends they were so surprised.” Mairlyn said with a simple smile and a glint in her eye.
“The steer accident changed my life! I had always wanted to be a musical theatre actor – I loved to sing and dance – but everything changed. What’s the old saying, when one door closes another one opens…and in this case it was an even better door with this amazing opportunity at Second City. It was my lucky door. Eventually the next door opened and I became part of the non-equity touring company, then the equity touring company and then the Canadian national equity Touring company which gave me hope of one day performing on a main stage in Toronto – in my case I ended up working with the Second City Comedy Troupe.”
“As a professional Home Economist – P.H.Ec., and an alumnus of the Second City Comedy Troupe, not only do I bring knowledge about foods and nutrition to the table, but I do it with a smile and a giggle.”
“My husband and I still take Improvisation classes together once a week – it is the only time I have because I am so busy. It gives me time to live in the moment – it’s like yoga for the brain. When I moved here I received this great gift of being ‘that cooking person’ on TV because I could think on my feet, making it easy for me to interact with others effortlessly. I owe Second City a ton…with my P.H.Ec. background, being a teacher and my sense of humour it all came so naturally to me. I went on to do many commercials and voice over commercials, I was on a TV show called Adderley (1986–1988), did guest appearances on Street Legal and did some other films/shows that were based and filmed in Toronto. ”
“I’ve had several challenging physical accidents and what I’ve learned is wailing at the moon doesn’t get you anywhere. Being able to accept my new life and move forward became the new me. Fighting against one’s old obstacles and wanting things to be as they were never lets anyone move forward and be in the moment.”
“My partner, Scott, has been a huge positive influence on my adult life. He has taught me that in accepting new circumstances you have the chance to release and get unstuck, so you can move on no matter what happens to you next.”
“I started to realize I was acting out…. maybe I was having my own pity party as I wailed against the outcome of the accident. This was my way of coping and it wasn’t working.”
Scott said, “You can either stay this way or accept the new you and move on.”
“He was right! So after a car accident it was time for me to accept that I would never be able to be as active as I had been and that I had to work with the chronic pain. Strangely enough, once I did accept the new version of me the pain was better. I have since worked with physiotherapists, acupuncturists as well as massage therapists and I am mostly pain free….yeah!”
“From Second City I went on to do more than fifty television commercials, appeared in live theatre, numerous movies and eventually landed a cooking segment on the Discovery Channel.”
Mairlyn’s versatility in acting and cooking with a comedic flair landed her the perfect job as a cooking show host for four years with Harrowsmith Country Life…Eggplant and Steak was the name of the segment which subsequently received a Gemini Nomination.
After the show it was time for Mairlyn to reinvent herself… “Around this time I was looking to write my first book…basically I did some research through hundreds of cook books to know what to look for and to select what type of cook book I wanted to write. A lot of the recipes I had done on Harrowsmith and my family favourites were my focus. I looked for a publishing company, and the one I liked was McMillan, which is defunct now. I went to see them and when they saw what I had to offer they said okay, so I wrote my first book called Lick the Spoon. I wanted to call it Bite Me! but the publisher was appalled and offended – of course just five years ago someone else came out with a book called Bite Me and I said…that’s my book name. Lick the Spoon was a complication of recipes I truly liked – so here I was, writing cook books and doing more TV as a ‘foodie’ which has brought me to where I am today.
“Like a lot of people I enjoy moderate exercising such as bike riding and the occasional hike (as long as I don’t overdo it), reading, walking, exploring new places, watching movies and doing new and fun things. Cooking started as a hobby and now it is a fabulous career. My cooking has provided me time to create new recipes, write a number of cook books and appear regularly on Breakfast Television® and CityLine® in Toronto.”
“Thinking back now, some funny incidents that impacted me as a young person also influenced a change in my character and outlook on life.
My father has an amazing sense of humour. He taught me to never cry about life so much as to laugh about it – even the bad experiences are good experiences as I can now look back and laugh about them…”
Mairlyn is a freelance writer with articles appearing in major magazines in Canada, and is a regular contributor for a local newspaper in Vancouver which her mother loves to read.
“Healthy Starts Here! is my baby – The book I finally got to write about healthy eating and nutrition all presented with comedic flare…oh, and there are 130 recipes that taste too good to be good for you as well.”
“The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook, I worked on as concept developer, recipe tester, writer and editor with The Ontario Home Economics Association which was shortlisted for a Taste Canada Food Writing Award.”
Mairlyn and I met the night she won the CBC’s People Choice Award at the Taste Canada Food Writing Awards in 2013.
We laughed a lot as we chatted and enjoyed lunch while getting to know each other… Thanks Mairlyn, I’m so pleased you’ve brought the home economist back out in me!
© copyright Lorraine Leslie – Women with Vision Magazine September, 2014