I love food. • a massive shock to many of you I'm sure. If you know me, or even if you don't but you've been reading up, then you'll know that food pretty much dictates a lot of what I do. Where I go (including holiday destinations), what I do (activities that hopefully involve good food), and who I'm with (99% of the time with people who actually love food too).
I wanted to talk about food because since my last post on New Years resolutions, a couple of important things have happened that I felt like sharing with y'all:
1 • I am eating raw vegetables like there's no tomorrow (this is new, who am I?)
2 • Apparently it's trendy to be a vegan now (very 2018)
🥒 Let's take the first one: raw vegetables. They have been everywhere in my day-to-day life over this last week. There was that one day when I was late to work and missed breakfast - so, I spent the morning munching continuously on carrot, cucumber and red pepper sticks. Then there was that other day when I craved radish. Who craves radish? Me, that's who. So off I went and just ate a pack of radish. Real casual. Then enter last night, I was craving something warm to eat (it is winter after all), rather than just the salads I've been chowing down on every night (with garlic bread of course, I'm not a rabbit), so I made something warm (chicken, my favourite) and then caved in and added radish to it because it just "needed some freshness and crunch". What is happening to me?
I can only understand what's happening to my eating habits in one of two ways.
1 • I have some sort of raw vegetable deficiency and my body is just craving it (but seriously, what benefits do radish have that I might lack in?!).
2 • The subliminal yet in my face #veganuary has finally penetrated my little head and I can no longer resist ALL OF THE VEGETABLES.
🏄 Either way, who cares. I'm going to embrace it because it's probably offsetting the hot chocolates I love drinking and the chocolate biscuits I love snacking on. Lots of people consciously make an effort to "eat healthier" yet my body just seems to have a mind of its own, so I ain't about to complain - I'mma ride that wave and ride it real good.
In all seriousness though, I want to properly talk about 1 • cravings and 2 • going vegan (flash warning before anyone switches off: I am not a vegan and I am not planning to be either, but it's a lifestyle I find quite fascinating). We all have very personal relationships with food. As much as I love it, and center my life around it, I have to also appreciate that this (in a way) is a complete luxury. The ability to love, try, experiment, experience food the way I do is an absolute privilege. Many people around the world still lack food (1 in 7 are hungry), and are severely malnourished (13% of those living in developing countries) - and yes, it is 2018. Anything over and above access to the basics is a genuine luxury. I'm not calling out these stats to bum everyone out; I am highlighting them so we can all contextualise our own situations and our own relationships with food - be it making the decision to eat less meat ("to reduce your carbon footprint"), or to only eat the basics ("because that's all you really need to survive"), or to eat incredible food (to celebrate our ability to transform simple ingredients into something beautiful and tasty AF). Whatever your choice, we should always contextualise it.
🍫 1 • cravings are fascinating (to me anyway). Are they genuine (your body lacking a particular nutrient and instinctively craving it) or just an excuse for us to eat whatever we want without feeling "the guilt" (hello packet of chocolate biscuits)? I've been brought up to think the first - my mum and godmother hugely believe in the philosophy of "don't deny the body of a craving", listen to what it needs and feed it that. I agree with this the majority of the time - we should all be in tune with our bodies and what it needs rather than mindlessly feeding it - be it for a particular food or just the feeling of "I'm full and I don't need any more food". I feel like everyone, me included, would benefit from listening to what our bodies want more. It's not just a thing that happens to pregnant women. However, I do also love an excuse to eat a packet of chocolate biscuits.
🍃 2 • going vegan (aside from suddenly being very trendy right now) also fascinates me. One of my oldest pals (Ellie) has gone vegan recently, after being vegetarian all of her life - a move I can understand. I also noticed a few pals actually "going vegan" over the last couple of years - all male and between 25-35 years old - two of whom have gone back to being non-vegans but one is still going strong. I understand the reasoning behind being vegan - I've learned a lot from both born-vegans and converted-vegans - however, I don't understand it when people make this choice because it just seems to be the thing to do right now. A bit like when everyone (exaggeration but y'all get me) suddenly turned celiac or wheat and/or lacto-intolerant overnight (hello almond/coconut/soy milk/everything). For me, there is a clear difference between choosing this lifestyle and having no choice but to embrace this lifestyle. On one hand, I am pleased for those intolerant to certain foods or choose not to eat animal products because the rise in the demand has meant that companies have really tried hard to provide options, variety, whilst maintaining the fun in food. Enter products like Hippeas, Wicked Healthy, and Booja Booja. On the other hand, I question how well we understand and research these products - I have a particular hatred for products advertised as "free from" because more often than not what it's "free from" has been replaced with an ingredient which is at least just as bad, or in some cases worse for you. Always better to be cautious now than sorry later.
With food, I like to live by one rule and one rule only: eat it if you know where it comes from, and you're comfortable with that source. Even better if you've gone and seen with your very own eyes where the food you're putting in your mouth comes from. If you eat fish and you don't like it cooked with the head and the fins on, well fair play - as long as you're happy it was originally a living breathing fully blown fish with a head and fins. If you eat chicken and you don't like the bones, well fair play - as long as you're happy it was originally a living breathing fully blown chicken running (or caged) around. And if you eat tofu because you don't agree with eating animals, well fair play - as long as you're happy it is a bean curd cultivated from coagulated soy milk which are then pressed into little, soft, white blocks, with soy being one of the most common genetically modified foods in the world. Eat what you want to eat, but just know where it comes from and make the choices that work for you, and your lifestyle. After all, it is your body.
😋 Seven reasons why • I love food
💭 1 • Memories. My favourite thing about food is how much it can bring back memories (mostly good) of places, people, and life moments. One of my earliest and best is of my grandma's warm peach compote. Whenever I stayed at my grandparents house, in the morning grandma would go out into the garden and pick peaches off the trees in our garden. She'd then cook up one of the most amazing peach compotes I have ever tasted - I can taste it now just thinking about it. Mama's peach compote, heaven. Straight from tree to a little bowl in bed, this is hands down one of my favourite memories of my grandma. I've never been able to quite replicate the recipe but I will keep trying until one day I hope I'll be able to share it with my grandchildren (watch this big old space).
👯 2 • Sharing. There is this phrase which people around me love to use: sharing is caring. Ain't that just the truth though. I feel lucky that I enjoy cooking. I may not be the best at it but I really enjoy putting something (hopefully) tasty together. And most of all, I love sharing food. Whether I've cooked it, or I've gone out for a meal with friends and family, I just love it. I love watching people's faces and reactions when they're enjoying a good meal, that moment of silence and gratitude and mmm. It's such a delicious moment, and slightly addictive. So, I try to cook and feed my friends as much as I can because it makes me well happy.
📚 3 • Learning. Although I really enjoy cooking myself, I also love watching other people cook - I find it fascinating and weirdly therapeutic. It's also a great way to learn while you're getting excited about eating something delicious without doing any of the work, LOLs. Like any activity, everyone has a different approach to cooking and generally just handling food - and this is exciting because it means no one dish can ever be exactly the same, and a surprise taste/flavour/ingredient can always be lurking around the corner. It can also be an eye opener into other cultures and how they enjoy and prepare food in a particular style. Over the last couple of years, I've been trying to get recipes off my parents and grandpa so that I can learn some of my favourite dishes from them, but also to better understand them as people - their tastes, what inspires them to cook, and what secret family recipes are out there that I need to get my little greedy hands on.
🌍 4 • Universal. Food is universal. Fact. We all need it to live, so we all shop it, we all cook it (or get someone else to cook it for us), and we all eat it. Whether you buy food at a supermarket or at a market on the side of a busy road, it's all food. You would recognise the carrots, the bananas, the ginger, the garlic, but the fun part is you might also discover something new while you're browsing and experimenting away. You don't have to speak the same language or come from the same background when it comes to food, it is absolutely one thing that universally connects us all. I just wish we were more curious as humans, rather than scared of foods from other cultures - because ultimately it's all edible.
🎨 5 • Creative. Some people paint, some people sing, some people draw - well, I cook. It's probably in my "top three of creative things Cathia does" ha. I find it relaxing, I love all the colours, I love the smells and I love just making it all up as I go. I own a few cookbooks, but I am probably guilty of not using them as much as I could. The main reason being that I like to cook by eye, taste and smell - oh, and just hoping for the best. Whilst writing on my first blog, I was very lucky to get invited to a few cooking classes (one at Leith's School of Food and Wine, one at the Cookery School at Little Portland Street, and one at Cactus Kitchens - all highly recommended) - which were probably my favourite perks of being a "food blogger" back in the day. I loved learning from someone in person, getting creative with ingredients, and producing something that hopefully looked "food blog pretty" worthy. It's just so much fun, and at the end of it I feel like I've created something with my own personal stamp. The only difference with painting is that your masterpiece then disappears into someone's belly - but hopefully, also their memories.
💪 6 • Transformational. Food can also be pretty powerful. We've all heard that phrase: you are what you eat. In a lot of cases, this can really be the case. A balanced diet is important (we also hear this a lot) but for me every person's body is different and you need to understand it to understand what you should feed it so you can be the strongest version of yourself. I've been anemic for a lot of my life, it's quite common, and essentially means I am slightly short of iron in my blood cells - which I manage by increasing the share of iron-rich foods I eat (hellooo kale, spinach, certain iron-rich cereals, brown rice, eggs, and beans). And when I can't sleep at night, a warm cup of milk with honey always seems to get me on track for sleepiness. My mum actually takes food intake to another level entirely - she grew up "in the jungle" and a lot of the food my grandparents made for their children was based on the nutrients and healing qualities of the plants, fruit and veg they could harvest and access in their little jungle-garden. So, whenever I feel tired or not great, mum doesn't offer me drugs, she usually offers a specific foodstuff first - which 90% of the time works wonders. Food can be truly transformational - it can massively strengthen the way you feel, so don't underestimate it. And eat your greens. They'll make you taller and give you straight hair (this is all a lie).
💗 7 • Brings everyone together. Finally, and my favourite reason, food has this ability to bring people together in whatever circumstance. Whether it's a Sunday roast in the UK or a potluck in Madagascar, everyone turns up. Differences go out the window, and everyone just eats. Together. Most of my favourite memories have involved everyone coming together to eat - be it my 30th birthday dinner, my welcome-back-to-Madagascar meals (where everyone cooks a dish each and we bring it all together to share), or Christmas-just-gone dinner with pops-chops, his other half and her kids (when I say kids, we're all 30+ but whatever). I also really enjoy getting to know people through cooking - recipes from my grandpa, mum, pops-chops, and pals make me feel closer to that person, as if we're sharing a moment together even if we're not in the same room. I love eating, it's great, but it's deliciously great when your people come together to enjoy it with you.
You might be reading this now and thinking - how did she just write a whole post on the topic of food. Well, I'm not sure either, but it was most enjoyable and you are a legend for indulging in my love for the edible.
🙆 See y'all soon!