I am on a mission to eat well be well. I love food, I enjoy eating food and I am in my happy place cooking food. I grew up in a household where food was all about love; my mother loved cooking for her family and we all loved her cooking. No one ever visited her with fears that they would not eat well at her table.
I now work in the health and fitness industry, many parts of which seem to be supremely anti-food. From promoting our slurping of supplements to gain nutrients (instead of just chewing and swallowing actual food) to exorcising entire food groups, with the latest food fad or detox. Health and fitness seems to hate actual, simple, real and delicious food. The industry seems to have forgotten that to be well you have to eat well. That is, food that is real, nutrition dense and delicious.
I know that over-consumption and a lack of healthy eating can cause us problems and, in the past, I’ve fallen for fads too. But I get so tired of seeing the anti-science, no-common-sense-applied stuff that gets thrown around (mainly on social media, but the tabloids in the UK are not immune) about food.
Do we really need to add food to the list of the anxieties in our modern Western lifestyles? You might have seen recent articles charting the backlash against “clean eating“, which seems to be the apex of the wellbeing industry’s disordered relationship with food. Whilst the idea of us in the West easting less food that is harmful and just less food in general is a good one, from what I have seen I think that clean eating has just become another one of our food neurosis, another way to make people feel bad about themselves. I hope that this is just the start of the process, although there are still too few books like this (a take down of food fads by Anthony Warner aka Angry Chef) in comparison with best selling books by the banish grain/sugar etc brigade.
Cooking to eat well
I have a simple idea, learning to understand and enjoy ingredients will help us to cook well, eat well and be well. I try to cook from scratch as much as possible, as I love cooking, baking and noodling over food prep and great recipes. Making and tasting great food is wonderful, sharing it with loved ones, even better. Did you know that sharing food has positive psychological benefits?
If we have eaten a delicious and satisfying meal, one that engages all our senses and fulfils all our requirements, there should be a good chance that we manage our diets (as in food intake) better and simply be well through eating well.
Learning to cook
I recently realised that I had never really learned to cook well. I mean, I know how to get food from raw-to-the-plate and not poison anyone. The thing is that I’ve never really been taught a range of cooking techniques or the science behind food and cooking.
I’m an intuitive cook, that’s how my mother taught me (that’s how her mother taught her) we don’t measure anything we just “know”. I can skin a chicken thigh (it takes lots of kitchen paper) and gutting a fish holds no fear for me. But I’ve noticed that my scrambled eggs are Sahara dry and bumpy. As for something like making stock? The cubes are so much easier, right?
Having grown up with a West African food culture (faced with the prospect of bringing up their children in a different country my Ghanaian parents were keen to give us food as a link to our West African heritage) food had never been about healthy eating. It’s a wonderful gift, as Londoners, we are now presented with an unbelievable array of foods to enjoy from all around the world; but nothing sings home, security, family and roots like my mother’s spinach stew.
What this means is that my cooking skills were honed by a certain type of food. Ghanaian food tends to be one substantial dish (not starter and additions) less about aesthetics (pile it high, no-space-for-garnish, fill ’em up) and great for doing a day of hard labour in the fields, because it traditionally revolves around stews filled with protein atop a solid carbohydrate base. To be fair, what Ghanian foods lacks in healthy eating it makes up in comfort, satisfaction and fuel.
Cookery books for decoration?
After leaving home I took to recipe books and cutting recipes out of newspapers and magazines; whilst the BBC food site has always been a treasure trove. You know how it goes, you never get round to actually making any of the recipes you’ve collected, but who knows, one day I might actually need to know how to cook lobster thermidor for 20 people.
Then I found healthy food cookbooks and more recently the army of healthy eating bloggers and started to wonder, what was I missing? I realised that most of the bloggers didn’t present much of an understanding or love of food, ingredients and cooking skill.
Learning to cook and be well
I suspect that I’ve been missing certain things by not knowing how to cook properly, I’ve missed out on opportunities to eat well. That realisation has inspired me to go back to basics, to not only to cook from scratch, but to learn some actual cooking techniques so that I can cook well and create delicious, nutritious recipes which will allow me to really eat well.
Right now I’m working my way through some excellent books on cooking basics and picking up tips and techniques. So far this summer I have actually understood how long to boil an egg for to get that perfect soft yolk, taken corn-off-the-cob with a knife, not my teeth and made a couple of types of pesto. Who knew that there were so many types of pesto?
Eat well be well: a healthy cooking project is born
As I get more into cooking, I hope to cook more Ghanaian food and work some of the classic dishes (jolloff rice or peanut butter soup) into delicious healthy eating experiences. I also want to learn more about the classical French and other traditional ways of cooking, whilst trying out the science and increasing my food knowledge.
I hope that sounds like a…. recipe for success? Yup, I went there.
Please join me on my healthy cooking adventures as I learn how to really cook and work my way through and develope some tasty recipes. I’ll share the most delicious and nutritious foods and food knowledge that I can find.
So, when can you trust a skinny chef? Hopefully when she write about Pilates, teaches Pilates and invites you on her food adventure…..
Be fit. Be well. Be Happy.