Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and drink: What's in your fridge, Jennie Helmer?

When ‘homemade’ takes on a whole new meaning



It's pretty new, ergo the brushed stainless steel exterior, and it's definitely electric. But Jennie Helmer's fridge is about as timeless as Neil Young's Unplugged album, and as surprising.

Jennie catches me red-handed after the reveal that her fridge is this new silvery-toned Maytag. "You were expecting an older one, weren't you?" she says, laughing. "You wanted to peg me!"

Busted. On the other hand her stove is a retro throwback, some 30 years old.

Like so much else, these two appliances happily co-exist in the eclectic, open-plan home she built with her partner, Veronika Vackova, on the Helmers' 70-some acre farm in potatoville's heartland - beautiful Pemberton Valley.

Here the Helmers grow organically and biodynamically some 15 different kinds of potatoes, primarily for sale. They also raise animals, keep bees and grow all kinds of other market-garden goodies for themselves and a few lucky chefs at high-end Vancouver restaurants, including C and Bishop's.

Mom and dad - Jeanette and Doug Helmer - have the main house that they built back in the '80s. Jennie and Veronika built their place above one of several barns. This one happens to have a huge tool shop and the root house for storing all the potatoes below.

Up above, the kitchen and living room are filled with natural light and tons of original artwork, including a metal and wood coffee table and a winking raven piece by Corrine Hunt, who designed the medals, and a big, juicy red tomato painting by Annette Effe. No plastic here - it's all wide-planked fir floors, recycled wood trim and wood-burning stove.

The main rooms also enjoy a view of Mount Currie and the duck pond. "So it's a bit of a contrast with a big mud pit in the springtime, then gorgeous Mount Currie in the backdrop," Jennie says.

The ducks are all there now, splashing around, frequently joined by the chickens, the turkeys and the dogs. What you can't see are the pigs and the two big black and white belted Galloway cows she just bought.

The fridge also enjoys a great view of Mount Currie and, if we are speaking of fridge as metaphor, which we are, Jennie assures us it really likes where it lives, as, it becomes evident, does she. You couldn't picture her living anywhere else, although she works part-time as a paramedic in Whistler.

"I'm really into eating stuff that rots eventually and my own stuff, so I can a ton and make jam and that sort of thing," she says as she swings the door open. "When I open my fridge, all I really see are canning jars."