About three years ago I was visiting Sandra Frain in her transition playgroup at Shearwater Steiner School, in northern NSW. She was making beautiful whole meal bread with the children, and served it with a spread of home-made cream cheese that she had made with the children by hanging yogurt in a cheesecloth bag over a glass jar. Mmmm, this bread, and this cheese was so delicious! A far cry from the bread mix I was using with the children in my own groups. It tasted like REAL food, and I could FEEL how nourishing it was for me. Then she handed me a glass of water with whey, lemon juice and a little but of salt in it. It was like an energy drink! And indeed it carries all the zing and nutrients of energy drinks without the nasty preservatives, colourings and whatever else goes into them.
I was visiting Sandra because we Steiner early childhood teachers always like to visit new classrooms to see the way other teachers interpret their work, and to share ideas … but once Sandra showed me her “Nourishing Traditions” book by Sally Fallon, from which the recipe for bread, cream cheese and whey came, I completely forgot about the reason for my visit! I sat there reading and reading until it was time to go home. It is a cookbook that covers the use of whole, unprocessed foods, traditional foods and traditional cooking methods. In the side bars of each page are little comments and snippets of information that will have you obsessively reading … forgetting to browse through the recipes 🙂
Christmas that year I saw this same fat cookbook on a shelf in a Maleny co-op and immediately demanded it for Christmas. There was no point wrapping it. I spent the days before, during and after Christmas buried in this book!
I found myself thinking – all this food is glorious, but it takes so much preparation in order to serve it! Making stock takes a whole day, grains and nuts must be soaked over night, other ingredients must be slow-cooked for a whole day, even over night … cultures for yogurt, cheese, and bread need to be fed and kept alive. It all sounded a little overwhelming. I felt that you couldn’t have a full-time job and manage all this food preparation at the same time. You would need to live with a cook or a grandparent to do it! But in talking to my mum about it I had a revelation – this is my job!
I choose not to work full-time away from home because I want to be there to support a healthy family life for our children. Part of that is providing healthy food with life-giving nourishment. I have learned that this makes the difference between living, and living with vitality. And this means some preparation and planning, devoting time to the kitchen and stocking the pantry. But it had never struck me so clearly before. It was one of those “Ah Ha!” moments. This is what I am here for – for myself as much as for my family.
My mum looked at me as if I was a bit stupid!
“What did you think your job was?”
Well, I can see how she was a bit dumbfounded by my revelation. Mum has always presented us with health-giving foods. She and dad taught me how to cook from scratch: the first thing I remember learning to make was a white sauce and it has never occurred to me that I should buy this in a pre-mixed packet. Their pantry has always looked bare at first glance, but it full of food that is used to create meals – not full of food that are instant meals. My brother and I grew up on fruits, simple dairy, vegetables, brown rice, home-cooked stocks, whole meal pasta and homemade snacks. We had ice cream with maple syrup as a treat on Fridays. Sure we had occasional soft drinks, chocolate and the like – but it wasoccasional. Certainly not weekly. I would watch my grandparents grow, pick and cook their own fruit and vegetables, and now my own parents are doing the same on their own block of land. I am so grateful for this upbringing – but I rather took it for granted! I didn’t understand that not everyone eats like this.
And of course when I became a parent I continued offering my own family as healthy a diet as I could manage … but I just didn’t know there was more to it and this book opened my eyes. So since then I have been doing the best I can with our budget, which seems to be getting smaller and smaller each year as food becomes more expensive.
And now of course, my consciousness of the importance of vitality in foods has arisen within me again as I embark once more upon a restricted food diet – even though it may only be temporary I am still embracing it with enthusiasm to gain as much from it as I can to improve my asthma and digestion. I have found, through facebook connections, a website that brings to life all that Sally Fallon’s cook book introduced me to, and I am in love with it, even if I cannot eat all of the wonderful ingredients in the recipes at the moment.
The Nourished Kitchen is my new love. It is a blog all about how to use (and access) whole, life-giving foods that have been produced in as natural and nourishing way as possible. Jenny, the author of the blog, encourages you to rid your cupboard of all packaged goods and start cooking and preserving your own food from scratch. It does take a little forethought and effort, but it is so hard to go back to a packaged food diet when you have tasted such succulent and wonderous delights in your own kitchen!
Right now I am making chicken stock, with Jenny’s recipe, hoping that it will gel nicely to make preserving it easier – and looking forward to eating the chicken that has been slow-cooked with vegetables, herbs and cider vinegar. This was another of the things that my mum taught me: how to make a chicken last three or four meals – and she never used a really large chook either. Thanks Mum 🙂
Here’s to nourishment – in food and life!