Jean Paré, the Canadian cookbook author and a wildly successful self-publisher, died on December 24. She was 95.
Paré wrote her first cookbook in 1981, when she was 54, the New York Times reported. She had been working for nearly 20 years as a caterer in Vermilion, Alberta, and was repeatedly asked for the recipes for her food, which she wrote out by hand. Eventually she decided to publish them in a book.
Her son Grant Lovig recalled that book publishers weren't interested in the cookbook, saying it was exclusively desserts at a time when "people don't eat sugar anymore." So, without any publishing experience, he and his mother created Company's Coming Publishing. "It was a really big risk," he said. "But ignorance is bliss and we were enthusiastic, and we believed in it." Paré turned out to be an excellent marketer and saleswoman, the Times noted. "She loaded boxes of books in the trunk of her Oldsmobile and traveled to rural towns, calling small stores, pharmacies, gift shops and even a lumber store to ask if they would sell her book." That first book, 150 Delicious Squares, "a collection of some of her most popular dessert recipes," sold some 1.5 million copies.
Paré developed a test kitchen, and the company grew "to more than 100 full-time employees, including recipe developers and testers, a nutritionist and a food economist." Nonetheless, the Times added, her books "retained the homey quality of recipes for everyday cooking from a regular Canadian mom. The recipes were easy to follow and used common, affordable ingredients. Ms. Paré insisted that her books have a flat binding so readers could easily lay them on their counters, and she wanted realistic pictures of the recipes."
Altogether she published some 200 books under the Company's Coming name and by the time she retired, they had sold more than 30 million copies. A dozen years ago, she and her son sold the business to Canada Book Distributors, which has Paré's most popular titles in print and has added new books to the series. Lone Pine Publishing has been distributing Paré's titles in the U.S. since 2011.