By Eithne Cullen
‘Food For Thought’… there’s a theme to work with. I’m certain at the time of writing we will have plenty of submissions on this theme. Everyone loves food: talking about it, preparing it, eating it and oh, yes, photographing it!
The first time I saw someone photographing her food I was in a very ornate café in Portugal, with mirrors, marble and waiters in floor-length aprons. Yet, the woman at the table next to me began to take photos of what was, basically, a toasted cheese sandwich. I was puzzled then and am still puzzled when I see people photographing their meals. I must admit, I do it myself: if I have baked something delightful, or for a celebration, eg. a decorated wedding, birthday or Christmas cake. I asked around on the Pen to Print team and was relieved to hear they are pretty much with me. Madeleine has photographed food from her heritage and shared with siblings and the others talked about a special meal or a decorated cake. Michelle mentioned the cakes she paints and I was intrigued. She shared some pictures with me and they are truly fascinating.
Michelle’s art is available for you to see on Twitter: @msuttonart.
I’ve been really lucky being able to talk to Laura Douglas about her work as a Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach. She has a real enthusiasm for food and knows so much about the little changes we can make to our diets for health and wellbeing. She has a good, clear way of talking about food and doesn’t blind us with science!
I start by asking Laura to describe how she came to make a career out of nutrition.
LD: I’ve always had a love of good food and started my career as a secondary school teacher of Home Economics: Food & Nutrition. At the start, my ideas of healthy eating weren’t quite the same as they are now. Over my years in school with research, my knowledge of food and nutrition changed and strengthened and I started to teach the kids about healthy eating from a more balanced, natural perspective. I have many fond memories of my older students asking daily what was in my smoothie and the look of disgust on their faces when I told them! I used to bring in smoothies, amongst many other things, for them to sample. We talked all things food: from what to eat to help them with their exams, to what could help them deal with their acne.
In my time at school, my own health started to decline and I sought the advice of a Nutritional Therapist. On her advice, things changed dramatically and overnight. I really wanted to correct my nutritional imbalances and sort out the inflammatory processes constantly occurring in my body. As well as removing all alcohol for good, I made the dietary changes she suggested. I also enrolled on a three-year course at the College of Naturopathic Medicine, where I studied Nutrition and Naturopathy over four years (my newborn delayed the process ever so slightly). I undertook this course to understand fully the hows and whys of supporting my own health. However, with only a year into biomedicine, I knew this was something I wanted to help others with too.
Thirteen years of teaching, four years of study and one newborn later, I was a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach. I left teaching in 2018 to allow myself to concentrate on childcare as well as my new clients, who needed the same support I had once had.
EC: You seem to share your interest in food and eating well with your little girl. Do you have any tips for parents around healthy eating for children?
LD: Absolutely, my main point would be to never give up! They say it takes 19 exposures to accept a new food and unfortunately many give up serving up that food long before the child has seen/felt/sampled it 19 times. Even if I know Olivia will tell me she doesn’t like it, I will still put new foods on the side of her plate. She can touch/ smell/ look at them; if she tastes them, even better!
I am lucky in that, as a four-year-old, she is now pretty good with her food. She is open to trying most new things and eats a great variety of fish, meat, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. She is able to tell me why it’s important to eat certain foods, e.g. salmon “to make her brainy” and fruit and vegetables “to help her go poo-poo and make her strong.” I think giving this information from a young age is powerful.
Getting children helping out in the kitchen from a young age is fundamental. When they’re involved in creating something, they’re definitely more inclined to want to try it. We all know, when they are very young, helping us out with the dinner, etc. can actually be a hindrance at times. However, allowing them to wash the carrots, peel a potato or help (with supervision) chop an apple really can make all the difference to their appreciation of food.
At the moment, we are concentrating our efforts on Olivia’s understanding of where foods come from. She’s been growing tomatoes and lettuces in the garden and we are often sprouting seeds on the kitchen windowsill. She is also keen to come to the organic farm Co-op, which I attend weekly as a volunteer, helping to weed/harvest/sow new vegetables and legumes. In the not-so–distant future, we are also hoping to keep a few hens. This will provide responsibility for both of us in helping to look after, and care for, the animals that produce our food. Instilling this knowledge and passion for whole, unprocessed food from an early age is paramount.
However, believe me, as much as we all eat well, it doesn’t mean there are no treats! It’s all about balance and we try to make healthier snacks at home (Olivia’s favourite are Black Bean Brownies and Hazelnut Chocolate Balls) and share them with friends. However, this isn’t always possible; sometimes, we just have to go with it! This is particularly important when eating out at/with friends or attending parties. Olivia is also a fan of popcorn and Haribo but, only in small amounts and on special occasions.
EC: What’s your guilty pleasure?
LD: My guilty pleasure is definitely good quality, dark chocolate. Many, many moons ago I wouldn’t have even touched the stuff but my sister bought me some after giving up all chocolate for Lent over 12 years ago and it was the nicest chocolate I have ever tasted! Since then, my love of dark chocolate has grown and matured. My favourite bar is the Ombar — not only does it taste amazing, but it also ticks all the right boxes for me: it’s organic, fair trade, dairy and gluten-free (naturally) and contains no refined sugar. In comparison to other chocolate, it’s expensive but, to me, worth every penny (and I don’t buy it very often).
By now, I am keen to find out how I can enjoy some of the good food Laura is so enthusiastic about, so I ask her to share a favourite recipe with us.
LD: Above, I mentioned my daughter’s two favourite homemade treats, so I thought I would share our Black Bean Brownie recipe with you. As they contain beans, they are a good source of protein and fibre which helps to balance your blood sugars and makes you feel full.
Top tip: Don’t tell your family/friends what’s in the brownies; they are totally plant-based, no flour, eggs or butter. So good for you and yet taste delicious!
INGREDIENTS (makes 20-24 brownie squares)
2 x cans of black beans
6 tbsp cacao powder
80g oats (whizzed in blender)
4 tbsp maple syrup
12 pitted dates
4 tbsp melted coconut oil
4 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 tbsps almond/ coconut milk
1 tsp baking powder
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Place the oats into the food processor and blitz to create coarse flour.
- Add everything else, except the milk, in the food processor and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.
- Add the milk and blend again to achieve a loose, but not runny mixture.
- Line a Swiss roll tray with baking paper and spoon the mixture onto the tray.
- Bake in the oven for 16-20 minutes until a skewer comes out cleanly.
- Cool, then cut and serve.
Best eaten in the first few days. However, they can be kept in the fridge for five to six days, or be frozen in portions for up to one month. Also, these are great with a few whole raspberries mixed through before adding to the tin.
Next, we have two submissions from ‘Write Next Door’ writers. The first is a poem from Nina Simon. I felt really full just reading it. I love the way she feels the short walk to the car makes it all worthwhile!
Out For Dinner
So much food on the table,
flatbreads, hummus, taramasalata,
falafel and olives with feta cheese.
Plates are piled mountain-high
with lamb, pork, chicken pieces,
fat, golden chips, cheesy pasta, fried potatoes
and green salad with tomatoes and olives.
Forks shovel food into hungry mouths
till stretched stomachs groan
beneath the pressure of greedy eyes
yet there’s still room to squeeze in
a portion of baklava or cake
since the three-course set menu
was cheaper than one main
and it’s important to get value for money.
Luckily it’s only a short walk to the car,
where buttons can be undone, clothes loosened
and the food baby patted affectionately
oblivious to the large fat globules
settling comfortably around the
heart, liver and kidneys
(C) Nina Simon, 2020
This next piece, from Evangeline Vincent-Davis, is a thoughtful examination of what the expression ‘Food For Thought’ really means.
How interesting!! Some people have no food, but thoughts of what to do to acquire it, do come
Dire occasions like these can be a catalyst for initiatives and positive outcomes.
It is said that what we feed our mind with, that is what we become,
Do we then think about the field of work in which we could be welcome?
Who finally decides the quality and health benefits of the food we consume?
Who decides our purpose for living and how to pursue, fulfil our dreams or when to resume?
Whether we want to be an NHS worker, a teacher, a pilot, a labourer, a housewife or midwife?.
Shall we ponder and research the food we need to make us become what we desire in life?
Let’s feed our minds with thoughts that are positive and uplifting
So we can see the substance that we hope for really come into being
Let’s ponder on our uniqueness, though twins, we are the only one of a kind
Ponder on the talents and giftedness and inner peace that we can find
Have you ever thought that the words we utter we may have to” eat” them?
Then let our words be soft and palatable to avoid any embarrassment or problem
It is said that whatever we give out in life comes back into our own
Would we like to receive blessings? Then our giving blessings must be known
Take personal responsibility for our actions and the attending consequences
To our own selves be true, admit that, empower ourselves and avoid the many excuses
Smile, overcome obstacles and negative and useless thoughts with love
Demonstrate confidence and acknowledge this positive mindset is given from above.
A pure fountain-like precious food for thought, spews clean transparent potable water
Our words come from our thoughts which flow out from our hearts and slides out of our tongues, Remember?
Just think! No one is better than the other instead we should complement each other wherever we are
Then we can bounce elbows together and encourage one another to live much better forever.
(C) Evangeline Vincent-Davis, 2020
Pen to Print writer, Mary Walsh, recorded a piece about her larder and what a picture of world food it presents to her. Like Mary, I find food can evoke all kinds of memories and take us to places we’d almost forgotten about.
You can listen to Mary’s piece here:
And finally, we’re carrying on with the overarching theme of ‘Kaleidoscope Of Colours’ and would welcome pieces about how colours can be gendered and how colour can affect the balance of our lives. Keep sending in your submissions.
I find food can evoke all kinds of memories and take us to places we’d almost forgotten about.