She's a Jack of all trades. Trained in photography, she's had stints as a photo lab assistant, a snowboard instructor at Whistler Blackcomb, a kids' camp instructor and a landscaper.
But it was a personal health issue combined with the entrepreneurial genes she comes by honestly - almost everyone in her Greek/Italian family back in Sudbury is an entrepreneur or owns their own business - that led Maria Mattei to open her first business and me to her fridge.
Maria owns In the Raw Organics in Squamish, a great little store that shares space with Gelato Carina on Cleveland Avenue in the heart of "downtown" Squamish. Here you'll find one-stop shopping reinvented.
You can get your quality organic bulk goods, your locally made soaps, interesting spices, odd sods like compost bins, your intriguing Euro-style deli favourites - olives, good cheese and olive oil, imported condiments - and your fresh local/organic produce, then relax and have an espresso, a panino (singular of "panini") or, of course, a gelato before you visit the "wool wall." Think retro village shop redux.
Almost all of the products are organic and/or local, plus you'll find a wide range of gluten-free items and healthy teas. The irony is that Maria worked with a naturopath and followed a special diet for a year, including no gluten to restore her health, and it's these same types of products that form the heart of her store. But she no longer eats that way.
"Since I've opened up my business, my diet and my lifestyle have not been that great," she says with a laugh. "It's gone totally downhill to be quite honest with you. I used to be really good in my food choices, but I have to say they've changed a lot."
But as you'll soon see, if what we find is "downhill," I can't imagine how healthy her diet once was. To me, it's an intersection of the ideal with the practical - principals shaped by real life - that we find in the fridge Maria shares with her two roommates.
Here it sits in their comfortable townhome in Squamish's Shannon Estates, a classic white General Electric that's about as quintessentially Canadian as Tim Hortons. It's a freezer-on-top model sporting art and handbills, including one suggesting 25 healthy ways to feel better. No. 1: Put on your favourite music and write in your journal.
The bright yellow and white kitchen contains an island where two can perch for a quick meal. Like her store, this is a pleasant, practical people space. Roommates could cook separate meals here without killing each other and, as in most communal homes, what we're about to find inside the fridge reflects three separate lives.