I had been thinking about this for a long time, a way to record my recipes and adaptations; a way to begin to write again about something I have a passion and a bit of a talent for, and making it public means I need to have a less slapdash approach than I do for most other things in my life.
I finally became vegetarian in 2007, I say finally, because it was a bit of an evolution. Meat became less and less desirable, more and more of my surrounding friends were vegetarian, and gradually I realised I probably was too. My status as a vegetarian is still evolving, every book I read and every new recipe I try, I realise there is always an animal free alternative out there, and it’s not the poor relation some people think it is. My family are becoming increasingly dairy free and in 2013 we installed a small flock of hens in the back garden to give us our own true free-range, organic eggs. My dietary obsessions range far wider than a passion for animal welfare though.
By the end of 2009 my first daughter began stealing food from my plate, and while I felt confidence that the milk she’d been suckling up to then was the finest nutrition she could have, I was not so confident about the food she was about to eat, (or more accurately, smear all over her face).
Bit by bit habits changed… vegetables became organic where possible, carbohydrates became complex, sugars became natural and fats became ‘good’ (whatever that means!) and everything was distilled down to its simplest components. If I was going to fend off the ‘So, are you bringing up your daughter as a vegetarian?’ onslaught, I was going to do it with an arsenal of virtuous food habits and a lightning knowledge of basic plant based nutrition… And luckily, my darling daughter was a strapping young toddler, so the myth of the pail waif-like vegetarian was banished.
Again, things have evolved, with two daughters ruling the house, me in part-time work, and my partner working from home (with his talent and his love, which is never the most lucrative business option), we find ourselves officially just above the poverty line, (according to an online calculator, although, I’d argue that poverty has its definition not just in monetary wealth). Yet we still feel that food is the most important thing in our lives, it is our fuel, it’s what makes us, it’s what keeps us strong and healthy and satisfied, and if we can’t afford the ‘best’ food there is then we’ll damn well find a way to make it.
I have written ‘best’ in inverted commas because it means something different to everyone; the ‘best’ food to me must be ethical, and therefore vegetarian and nowadays mostly dairy free, equally it must be organic where possible (both for nutrition and the environment), preferably seasonal and local, and virtually always from an ethical retailer (be that an ethically minded supermarket, or honey from the man two doors down with the bee hives in his garden); it also must cover a variety of flavours and textures and moods while offering near-optimal nutritional value. Now obviously this sets me up to spend a premium on this organic, local, ethical food… a premium that a family like us can’t really afford, so I’ve found loopholes, and short cuts, and long ways round to make sure we get the best of everything… and we can still afford the internet connection so I can write this blog.
Written on 19th January 2014, photographs by Andrew Kahumbu Photography added 6th of November 2015.