The Story of

Loving Spoonfuls

It all started in north-end Winnipeg. The concept behind the new docu-comedy Loving Spoonfuls came to creator Allan Novak as he sat in a tiny kitchen watching his favorite aunt cook her specialties while cracking jokes and telling tales. With an extensive career in directing and editing comedy and satire, Novak was searching for a novel idea. Struck by the explosion of cooking shows, he conceived of a series that combined cooking, comedy, and quirky characters.

He didn’t have to look farther than his own family. His aunt, Ruth Zimmer, a grandmother, a great cook, and a real character offered something that hadn’t been done on television before – authentic ethnic cooking, poignant real-life stories, and unscripted, spontaneous fun from a real grandmother.

"When I looked at the grandmothers in my own extended family," says Novak, " I realized that not only did they embody the true heart and soul of good food, but they are also hysterically funny. If this was true in my family, it had to be true in others."

Another part of Novak’s concept was a host who could charm and cajole the grandmothers into being themselves on camera. An obvious choice was performer David Gale, a lifelong friend also from Winnipeg. Gale and Novak had collaborated with experimental comedy videos since 1981. While travelling through Asia in 1990, they videotaped a host of unusual local characters. Gale improvised with them, while Novak captured these spontaneous comedic moments on videotape. Loving Spoonfuls is based on the same concept – finding grandmas from different backgrounds to be charmed and delighted by Gale, while charming and delighting audiences themselves.

It’s no surprise that whether travelling or producing videos, Novak searches for the offbeat and unexpected, while injecting his special touch of humour and pacing. "I didn’t know what genre I would work in, but I knew that when I produced my own series, it would be funny," he says.

With two known commodities on board for the pilot -- his Auntie Ruthie as the featured grandmother and David Gale as the host – the next hurdle was a technical one. Getting into the tiny and awkward kitchens of the grandmothers presented a challenge. However, the recent advent of small digital video cameras made it possible and Novak hired the top hand-held cameramen able to do wonders in minuscule corners and inaccessible spaces.

The pilot involved a full day of videotaping, but the results were as good as Novak had dreamed they’d be. A Gemini-award winning editor, Novak crafted a fast-paced half-hour program that was fresh, funny, and original. With pilot in hand, he went to the Banff Television Festival in 1999 and pitched the series to WTN. "They fell in love with the concept and signed for a 13-part series," says Novak.

When Novak pulled together a team of top professionals, again the Winnipeg connection kicked in. He chose former Winnipeger Gail Singer to direct six episodes. "I loved the quirky and humorous documentaries Singer had produced and directed and thought she’d be perfect for this project. She’s also a great cook and lover of good food," says Novak. He brought another former Winnipeger in to compose original music – Bob Wiseman, formerly of Blue Rodeo.

This combination of lovable, quirky grandmothers with award-winning production professionals has resulted in a docu-comedy with panache that’s sure to delight and surprise viewers everywhere.