Growing up in Alabama, food was always a huge part of Becca Salmonson's life and was the way she knew how to show someone love and care. As the youngest of five, Becca was her mother's petite bouchee or "pretty little bite". Although her mother had been disabled since Becca was a little girl, she was the one who taught her how to cook a full meal for their family at the age of 7. "The secret to making everything taste better", her mother remarked, "was to add a 'pincee d'amour', or a pinch of love."
The creative spirit that Becca's mother had instilled in her found its way through the various career opportunities Becca had pursued in her young adulthood, from aerospace engineering to fashion and design. However, it wasn't until she decided to return to nutrition school and became a board certified health coach that she felt like reconnected to her true passion: food.
When Becca found out that her close friend and workout buddy of 3 years was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, she did not even think twice about making him something to eat. "Kevin and I always had our mats side by side at our bootcamp", Becca chuckles, "We were known by everyone as the 'cake toppers' because we would always partner up to do the hardest stations first. He was such a kind person and his smile and charisma could light up a room".
Unfortunately, Kevin's cancer was already in its terminal stage and it was not a matter of if he was going to live, but for how long. Kevin's biggest wish, however, was to be able to spend more time with his son, KK, who was about 7 or 8 at that time. Determined to help her friend improve his nutrition, Becca consulted books, notes from school, local research centers and websites to craft with a healthy snack for her friend to enjoy. From January to June, she baked every single day, tweaking the ingredient by the most minute amount each time until she felt it was good enough for her friend. "I still have my spreadsheet from that year and it probably has over 100 entries from trial and error", Becca recalls.
Each ingredient in the Original Bouchee Snack Mix was carefully chosen by Becca as a holistic approach to tackle her friend's illness. "I treated Kevin's immune system like an infant's so I avoided ingredients with major allergens like gluten, grain, dairy and used raw and organic whenever possible. Almonds have a great source of antioxidants and cashews have anti-depressant properties, so I added those. The selenium found in pumpkin seeds would help him sleep and the coconut oil provided healthy fats. Ginger would help soothe feelings of nausea and combined with lemon, cardamom, cinnamon, they could alleviate any bitter taste, reduce inflammation and fight bacterias."
As Kevin was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at that time, a lot of food tasted metallic to him, including his favorite granola which he had to mask with a lot of sugar. Instead of using honey, which many would consider a healthier sweetener, Becca opted for maple syrup, a vegan alternative instead. "I had an uncle who was also diagnosed with cancer a while back adopt a vegan diet. His PSA levels dropped to almost nothing and he has been in remission since for almost 5 years."
Becca would leave a jar of snack mix outside of Kevin's class for him to eat or share with his wife. Curious bystanders would ask to sample or to buy her snacks, to which Becca refused as she made them special for her friend. However, the Southern woman in her also decided to just make bigger batches to offer everyone so that they did not have to steal Kevin's.
Although Kevin later passed away, he was able to live for almost a year after his diagnosis, compared to the two months doctors had originally informed him. When asked about her favorite memory of Kevin, Becca says it would have to be when he was so touched by the warmth and support everyone showered him that one day he brought fresh fruits to one of her classes. Seeing her strong-willed friend waiting by the doorway motivated her to give 110% more to her workout and embrace him even harder when they reunited.
Becca later decided to turn her snacks into a business and use the proceeds to help send KK to college. Her goal with Becca's Petites is to nurture the world one healthier person at a time with Bouchees, a little bite of love.