Former Olympic rower and Dewittville native Douglas Vandor is adding to his collection of published children’s books this spring, with the release of his latest title, I Hate Bouillabaisse!.
The book, which follows the success of his 2020 debut, Salmon on Toast, will be widely available as of March 13 in English. A French version, Je Déteste la Bouillabaisse! will also be available by the end of the month.
Vandor dedicates the book to his 7-year-old daughter, Sophie, who shares her name with the main character. “Her favourite snack in kindergarten was blue cheese and baguette,” he laughs, over her rather “stinky” preference. As she grew older, however, she began to ask more questions about what she was being asked to eat. He says the book, which revolves around main character Sophie’s overactive imagination and hesitation to try new foods prepared by her Tante Annette, is “a bit of an homage or spoof of how I was raised.” Again, he laughs, saying he remembers his parents repeating at mealtimes, “You don’t have to like it, but you do have to eat it.” As a trained cook, and master of his family’s kitchen, he admits a similarly exasperated phrase occasionally escapes his lips around his children as well.
“Kids have wonderful imaginations and are quick to adapt,” he says of the international cuisine children are exposed to today. He says the idea behind the book was to play with some long, funny words that don’t necessarily roll of the tongue. “I like the illustrator (Stefanie St. Denis)and what we came up with. It plays on imagination,” says Vandor, of the images that depict Sophie’s creative interpretations of the ingredients in dishes such as vichyssoise and bouillabaisse.
The book was created on an iPhone while he was walking the five-kilometre distance home from the Northwest Culinary School in Vancouver where he was taking classes in 2013. “I remember the walk like it was yesterday, because it was an inspiration and it all just came pouring out,” he recounts. His children, who came along a few years later, were infused into the characters. Vandor says his kids also inspired him to have the book translated. Vandor writes in English, but,like him, his children are bilingual and are attending school in the French system. “To have the kids be able to read it in French and with their classmates was important,” he says, noting that he took his time releasing the book to ensure the translation was done well.
“Writing has always been a creative outlet for me, but it is only recently that my energies were not consumed by my rowing career,” he explains. After stepping away from his scull, he started writing for the RBC Olympian program and Rowing Canada while attending cooking school and working in a few restaurants in Vancouver. Now, he is focused solely on his career as a freelance writer, author, and stay-at-home dad. Vandor says his next story will focus on a version of his son Sammy, suggesting it is already written and, unlike his first two books, is not food-related.
“It is funny how something you have always only ever done as a passion is now bearing fruit,” he laughs, noting there around a dozen stories transferred from his old phone just waiting to be polished.