Re­mem­ber­ing Liz Feltham

The long­time Coast restau­rant re­viewer as known—but not seen— by her for­mer edi­tor.

The Coast - - FOOD + DRINK - BY LYNNE PAT­TER­SON

Liz

Feltham was my Snuf­fle­u­pa­gus. Though un­like Big Bird, I was the per­son who didn’t get to see her.

I was sad to learn to­day that she died, suc­cumb­ing to Amy­otrophic Lat­eral Sclero­sis on Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 15. She was liv­ing in Vic­to­ria with her hus­band, Mike, and had been blog­ging about the dis­ease as it pro­gressed. Her fi­nal post—“Does this urn make my ash look big?“—de­scribes end-of-life plan­ning. Liz wrote it in March, just be­fore ALS stole mo­bil­ity from her hands and thus her abil­ity to type.

Be­tween 2002 and 2005 Liz and I cor­re­sponded weekly over email. I was the man­ag­ing edi­tor at The Coast and she was our food colum­nist. She wrote fair re­views, about ev­ery type of restau­rant in town, and she al­ways hit deadline. But I never, ever met her.

For the long­est time it didn’t bother me. My news­room days were in­sanely busy and there were enough writ­ers miss­ing dead­lines to keep me too pre­oc­cu­pied to re­ally no­tice. I knew she worked as a cook at the Casino and lived in Bedford. I prob­a­bly knew her postal code off by heart from pay­roll pa­per­work. But I didn’t know what she looked like.

I came to un­der­stand that’s what food writ­ers do, they stay anony­mous. OK, I said, I get it. The restau­rants can’t know who you are. But I can barely boil an egg. Surely you can meet me. Nope. It be­came a bit of a run­ning joke in the of­fice. In 2009, when Liz re­tired from the food colum­nist po­si­tion (and long af­ter my ten­ure), edi­tor Kyle Shaw wrote about fi­nally meet­ing her at the Best of Food party that year, as well as my un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to hand-deliver a cook­book to her house a few years ear­lier. Not sur­pris­ingly, I was out of town and un­able to make the Best of Food party.

Liz al­ways had an idea for her next col­umn and her list was an ed­u­ca­tion in it­self. She gave the same thought­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to each restau­rant—whether it was a trendy new hip­ster joint (back when hip­ster any­thing was new), a food court eatery or a mom-and-pop shop that had been around for 30 years.

I learned what a food snob was and how Liz was not one of them. She pro­vided de­tails about her meal and her din­ner com­pan­ion’s. Pre­sen­ta­tion and flavour. And customer ser­vice. Hip­ster restau­rants couldn’t just cater to the hip­sters. Let’s just say Liz had to re­visit a few restau­rants for a sec­ond chance and leave it at that.

Tonight I had fish­cakes for din­ner at a clas­sic Hal­i­fax pub. I couldn’t help but think of Liz. One, be­cause they were de­li­cious and the server was great. Sec­ond, be­cause of her Fab­u­lous Fish­cakes cook­book that I’ve had in my col­lec­tion for years. Funny enough, the cook­book does not re­call mem­o­ries of salted cod or a tasty chut­ney. In­stead, it re­minds me of how gob­s­macked I was when I found out Coast pho­tog­ra­pher Scott Munn did the pho­tos for the book. I still remember where I was stand­ing in the of­fice when I asked him: “You got to meet Liz? What is she like?!” In­fu­ri­at­ingly, he told me she was great and that he’d met her a few times on food col­umn photo as­sign­ments.

But I knew she was great. She taught me to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the food land­scape in Hal­i­fax and what to look for in other cities.

I was her edi­tor and a fan. While I still wish I had met her in per­son, I know I’m lucky to have worked with her in the food realm. And I can’t help but think she’d get a good chuckle out of the fact that she main­tained her anonymity to the end.

A rare photo of Liz, snapped at the 2009 Best of Food party.

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