If you did not grow up in Dublin in the 70's and 80's, then it is impossible really to explain just what it meant to have a mother who knew how to cook, and cook beyond what she had been taught by her own mother, or in school! We were encouraged to cook too, all five of us, and all things were endured, no matter how unusual or challenging, through our various fads and fancies, including my announcement at 11 that I had decided to become a vegetarian.
To this day, my absolute, hands down, favourite thing in the world is our family gatherings, when we all converge in the kitchen of my parents house, and proceed to put together a Meal of Excellence, overseen, of course, by our own Maitre d', our Mum. Like any good meal, there are many layers to it, and that goes for the preparation too. One person is an excellent saucier, another likes to be given the role of tournant, filling in wherever needed, another is definitely the patissier, and there will always be a number of sous-chefs, happy to interchange with one another, depending on how busy, or enthusiastic they are on the day. And of course, there is the one or two who are happy to act as stewards, a fine Meal of Excellence in return for clean up duties, a fair exchange, in their book. All of these roles happily transposing between us all.
|Goat's cheese stuffed butternut squash.|
Over the years, my own interest in food and nutrition has been a constant, initially, as a young teenager, due to my choice to not eat meat in a country that thrived on the meat-and-two-veg variety of meals, but there was also the influence by my inheritance of books from a great aunt that really helped to set me off on a path of bettering things. I didn't really pay much heed to books like 'How to Levitate', but it was the old home remedies ones that really got me. Two in particular, Folk Medicine, A Vermont Doctor's Guide To Good Health by D. C. Jarvis, and Folk Remedies by Lelord Kordel. I'd like to say thank you to my Mum for her patience with me in my explorations in this as a young teenager!
I'm not sure if I somehow knew I would need this knowledge and dedication in later life, but it turns out I did. As I have mentioned occasionally here, for years now I haven't eaten gluten or sugar, and at this point in my life I find, while I am not a vegan, per se, I do eat a largely plant based diet, with little or no dairy, or animal protein.
|Rice noodles with crispy tofu.|
This has been a long and gradual journey, with many bumps and rocky bits, and I can tell you it is by no means over. It is not easy. I have gone through so many different phases, diets, versions of diets, it'd make your head spin. However, it is quite amazing to look around now and see just how common it is, this whole food exclusion thing.
I am aware that there are lots of people out there who 'don't believe' it all, that think it's a fad or fashion, but I don't believe it is, not given the very real symptoms I, and many others I know, are living with daily. I also have my own theory about why we find ourselves increasingly unable to digest, or process, a growing list of very ordinary, and common, foods.
|Lentil cakes with homemade pesto, wilted greens, and lemon thyme courgette fries.|
So here it is.
In the last twenty years, for the first time in the history of the world, humans in the western world can eat whatever they want, whenever they want.
All year round.
And that is the problem. We eat what we like.
All year round.
Our bodies have reached saturation point.
If we were eating locally and seasonally, as our not so distant ancestors did, then we would be rotating food, and our bodies would get a break from things throughout the year. Let's take wheat, for example, probably the most common food intolerance going. Think about it, your average person eats wheat literally for every meal. Every day.
All year round.
It's no wonder our bodies reach a point of 'WAIT! I've had enough, I don't NEED any more right now!' But we continue to eat it, because, sure what else would we eat? And we like it. The same could be said of dairy, another extremely common intolerance.
We simply eat too much, too often, of too many things.
|Butternut squash gnocchi with sage butter.|
Now this, of course is my inexpert, and non professional, tuppence worth about the whole thing, but it makes sense to me.
But it is so hard to eat any other way, isn't it? Eating habits are extremely hard to break, or change. I know, I've been doing it for many years now. And it's been an incredible journey, and I've learned a few things about myself along the way which have surprised me. The main one being that I have willpower and can actually do something difficult that I really don't want to do! I always thought I couldn't.
So, in the process of all this discovery, food has become quite a focus for me. From the time I finally gave up all the things I couldn't eat, I spent about four years in a bit of a downer when it came to food. Eating held no pleasure for me any more, everything was such an effort and with such little reward, because it rarely tasted anyway remotely delicious, and always like a sad excuse for food. It was dreadful.
|Red lentil and hazelnut patties.|
So, about six months ago I decided I'd had enough, and I set about finding food that I could not only eat, but that I could relish, and also confidently serve to 'normal' dinner guests. All I can say is, thanks be for the internet! Thanks to Pinterest, and through it the discovery of incredible food blogs out there, I now have a growing menu of delicious recipes and food ideas that are beyond anything I've eaten before, and over the next while, mixed in just the right proportion, I hope, I'd like to share some of these recipes with you. I promise you don't need to be intolerant to anything, in fact, you don't need to be anything other than interested in Good Clean Food. I promise you won't be disappointed!
These photos are to whet your appetite, so to speak, and I hope they do!
But I am curious, do any of you find you can't, or choose not to, eat certain things? Or if not, do you have someone in your life who does? I'd love to know what your experience has been, and I welcome all questions and comments!