In 1975, at a weekend getaway, eight women friends had an idea: Since a consistent highlight of their decade-old bridge group was the food they prepared and enjoyed together, perhaps they should think about writing a cookbook. This spur-of-the-moment notion was the impetus for The Best of Bridge, which went on to become one of the most successful brands in Canadian publishing.
From the outset, “The Ladies of the Best of Bridge,” as they like to be known, had an unconventional vision of how their business would be run. It would be a partnership of equals, a celebration of friendship and — perhaps most of all — it would be fun. The bank manager who approved their first loan warned them they would never stay friends. They vowed to prove him wrong.
More than 30 years and 3.2 million copies later, the Ladies are enjoying the last laugh. In addition to creating a phenomenally successful business, they have remained close friends with fond memories of all the good times they’ve shared. “We had a lot of fun,” they say now. “And the media loved us because we were just regular mothers who showed up wearing our matching aprons. Sometimes people seemed astonished that the recipes actually worked, which amazed us because we knew what we were doing.”
Not surprisingly, from time to time, life intervened to rock their idyll. “Like a large family, we’ve experienced everything — divorce, major illnesses and deaths,” they comment. Not only have they lost parents, husbands and children, two of the partners are deceased.
But the brand lives on — not only in kitchens, but also in the hearts and minds of Canadians from coast to coast. Best of Bridge recipes are staples at potlucks and family dinners and reunions across the country, and the generation of children raised on them is now cooking for themselves. “They want to make dishes that were always served at family celebrations. Our recipes have become part of their domestic traditions,” according to the Ladies.
The Best of Bridge is more than a company. It’s an institution that is deeply interwoven into the fabric of Canadian life. But more than that, it’s a testament to the spirit and wherewithal of eight exceptional women whose collective head for business is matched by their commitment to each other.
Now, more than 30 years later, Ladies of The Best of Bridge are headed towards retirement but, wanting their legacy to last, they were lucky enough to be put in touch with food writer, cooking professional and culinary whiz, Sally Vaughan-Johnston. Sally says she could not have found a better group of friends and that working so closely with these amazing women was a truly marvelous experience.
So, the culinary baton was passed, a new Bridge friend was welcomed into the group, and the result was Bravo! The Best Of Bridge. The majority of the recipes are Sally’s, but all were appraised and critiqued by the Ladies. Sally has included new and ethnic ingredients and updated the recipe style a touch (there are fewer calls for canned soup), but every single dish has been multi-tested by both the Ladies and Sally. If the Ladies weren’t delighted, the recipe simply didn’t make it into the book.
The Ladies and new Bridge friend Sally are all happy to say “Our motto remains: ‘Simple recipes with gourmet results’ and, as our loyal fans have come to expect, the recipes work and the one-liners will keep you smiling.”
- The best of Bridge – 1976
- Enjoy! – 1979
- Winners – 1984
- Grand Slam – 1988
- Aces – 1992
- That’s Trump – 1995
- The Best of the Best and More – 2004
- A Year of the Best – 2008
- The Rest of the Best and More – 2008
- The Complete Best of Bridge Cookbooks, Volume 1 – 2008
- Bravo! Best of Bridge Cookbook – 2009
- The Complete Best of Bridge Cookbooks, Volume 2 – 2010