I first met Kitsa through a cookie – her luxurious coconut and sour cherry macaroon to be precise. Then, I moved into her cultured veg – my go to brand when I haven’t got the time to make my own. Then, we became friends. I have so much admiration and respect for Kitsa and her talents. She is an incredible source of information for allergy sufferers and food intolerance, as well as a wonderful sharer of useful, helpful information. She was the pioneering woman in Australia to bring back cultured vegetables for tummy health. Her commitment to health, both for her family and for others is beautiful. Enjoy learning from the lovely Kitsa, with these few questions I asked her recently, Alexx.
Being of Greek heritage I grew up eating traditional foods with an emphasis on fruit, vegetables, salads and organ meats. My mum is a great cook and reinterpreted a lot of the heavier Greek recipes into healthier versions. However as I got older I was influenced by other cuisines and the various dietary theories of the time and dabbled in low fat eating, vegetable oils, detoxes, cleanses and reheating with a microwave for convenience. I had some food intolerances which became more apparent once I’d finished university and went to work as a lawyer. This meant that due to working long hours I missed meals or my meal choices were not always ideal. So over time the stress of a demanding job took a toll on my health and I started to have issues with my digestion with lots of other vague symptoms due to being run down and nutritionally deficient. In my late twenties I started researching and trialling other ways of eating. By the time I was in my mid thirties I had created a diet for myself which worked but it was based on a lot of avoidance of the foods which would trigger my symptoms.
Fast forward half a dozen years and my son is born. Of course as a mum you want to give your child the best possible start in life so I enthusiastically put into place all I’d learned to raise my gorgeous boy. However as we know our children are often our best teachers and mine was no exception. When I started to introduce solids it became apparent that he was having trouble digesting solid food so I continued to breastfeed him exclusively until he was 12 months and tried again. It was a little easier but things were still not right – in hindsight when I look at his baby photos knowing what I know now I can see all the symptoms of allergy in his face ; flushed cheeks, red ears, some darkness under the eyes but all I could see was a happy baby full of love.
He started waking up every night in pain and would take hours to resettle and get back to sleep- we were told it was probably teething, to give him panadol and that he’d grow out of it. The next few years passed in a sleep deprived blur as I kept trying various things to help him.
What was your AHA moment; your move into discovering traditional foods, or have you always been a traditional foods lover?
My ‘AHA’ moment came when I went to a seminar one night put on by the MINDD Foundation featuring Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride of the Gut & Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS) and Donna Gates of The Body Ecology Diet (BED). Suddenly I could make sense of my son’s symptoms as well as my own. We were definitely a GAPS family with a history of digestive issues, low stomach acid, constipation, gallbladder problems and lack of good flora on both sides of the family going back a couple of generations. My son had cleverly restricted himself to pretty much the GAPS Diet apart from buckwheat and chickpeas which are seen as too starchy. What I found fascinating was that despite the differences in their dietary approaches both Dr Natasha and Donna promoted the use of fermented foods for gut healing. So I started to research and discovered that fermented foods are eaten all over the world as part of traditional diets, the difference being that in more modern times the traditional preparation techniques had been abandoned for the sake of convenience and the sauerkraut that you could buy from the supermarket or health food store that was stored on the shelf had been pasteurised so there were no beneficial live enzymes left in the product at all.
You’re famous now for your fermented veggies. What attracted you initially to fermented foods?
Honestly, initially I wasn’t attracted at all as it all seemed so overwhelming that I kept putting it off as it was so out of my comfort zone and I wondered how my son would take to eating something so tangy but I kept getting this niggle that it was the missing link….I was also worried about poisoning him/us – what if I got it wrong and made us really sick? I kept reading of all the benefits- aiding digestion by helping to break down the foods eaten with them, helping re establish our inner ecosystem by crowding out the bad bacteria and replacing with the good guys, that the nutritional benefit of a food is increased one hundred fold once cultured, that they strengthen the immune system, they are alkaline and very cleansing, they aid with constipation, are natural chelators of heavy metals. The list goes on for these powerhouses of probiotic nutrition! In a twist of fate I met a lovely lady of German origin at a seminar who offered to show me the ropes and that’s what pushed me to get started.
How did you find it, moving to preparing all your foods yourself for your family in busy modern life?
I’d always loved cooking – I was the teenager in the library reading French cookbooks and Vogue Entertaining magazine instead of Dolly! So despite having been hands on in the kitchen, it was a very humbling moment when I went into my pantry and realised it all had to go (if we were to take our health to the next level) and only the fresh produce in the fridge remained. What made it easier for me I think was that I didn’t try to create gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free etc replicas of what we were eating as it seemed a waste of time when the final result would never be the same anyway. It also meant I didn’t get seduced by the gluten free aisles at the supermarket or health food store as a lot of the replacement ingredients are often worse. I also had to become even more organised and prioritise my time so that I could get all the cooking done. Initially though and this is going back now about 12 years, the most time consuming thing was sourcing all the food – it would often take a couple of days of driving everywhere as things were not so bountiful in the organic scene back then. Cooking big batches and freezing, using a slow cooker and my oven often daily, spending time on the weekend to get all the food prepping done for the week by roasting trays of vegetables in healthy fats, making stocks, meatballs for snacks and then storing in glass pyrex containers so they could be added to meals through the week. It is definitely time consuming but I made a decision early on that I’d rather spend time in the kitchen than be up every night with a child in pain. My hidden asset was and still is my husband – I definitely couldn’t do it all without him.
At what point did you decide to turn it into a business?
4. Turning this into a business was one of those times when synchronicity comes into play. It started by friends asking me to make some vegetables for them and their families and soon word spread until practitioners started asking me to make it for their patients – so really by word of mouth. It’s a great sign of the changing times that I now have a number of doctors referring their patients.
If you could share 3 nutritional things with other mums and dads, that you’ve learned about how best to feed your little one, what would they be?
5. (a) Prepare their bodies pre conception. Better nutrition, fresh air, sunshine, good sleep and movement and being aware of our thinking as toxic thoughts can be just as debilitating as eating bad food. Plan to make maintaining a nourishing diet whilst breastfeeding a priority without your eye on the scales or your pre baby jeans. So much time is spent during pregnancy planning for the perfect birth (which rarely goes to plan anyway) – instead focus on preparing for breastfeeding and filling your freezer with home cooked meals to get you through those early sleep deprived weeks adjusting to motherhood.
(b) Give a lot of thought to introducing solids to your child. Start babies off with real nutrient dense foods like homemade meat stocks, freshly pressed vegetable juices, fermented foods like sauerkraut, soups, egg yolks and good fats like coconut oil, olive oil, butter, ghee, sour cream and yoghurt as we want to nourish their brains and bodies. Children lucky enough to be fed this way develop a wonderful palate and are more adventurous in their eating habits as they get older, as well as possessing a much more even temperament. If your child displays signs of fussy eating or food intolerances take action early. Instead of just removing foods which they can’t tolerate look at the source of the problem. Investigate the GAPS Diet which heals the gut, so in time a wider variety of foods can be tolerated www.gaps.me. Too many times I’ve seen in my GAPS Nutrition practice, children who’ve been on exclusion diets for a long time and instead of getting better they start to tolerate less and less foods.
(c) Be organised with meals and shopping. Make it a family affair – my son still loves going to the Farmers Market every Saturday morning as everyone knows him and he gets to eat his way around the stalls. Plan ahead as meals come around very quickly and little ones have no patience when they’re hungry. Make friends with your food suppliers, investigate the provenance of your food and you’ll always get the best quality produce. Get together with your friends or mothers’ group and do some big batch cooking and fill your fridges and your hearts.
Look beyond food as well – explore how your environment could be contributing to ill health and question everything you put on yourself and your baby’s body and find toxin free alternatives for your everyday items.
What’s your favourite item in your online shop?
That’s an easy one! My favourite item would be my cultured vegetables. I can’t imagine a meal without them – on the odd occasion that we eat out I’ve been known to smuggle them in my handbag.
Your 5 dessert Island ingredients?
Only 5? You obviously haven’t seen all the food I pack to travel! Sea salt, coconut oil, eggs, and an endless supply of cultured vegetables and meat stocks.
So there’s a little window into Kitsa’s background and life. You must check out her order list, which you can do by enquiring online through her site here.
Giveaway time! This comp is now closed. Thanks to everyone for entering! Awesome to see so many cultured people out there 😉 Winner will be announced on Monday, 18th February.
If you’d like to dabble in a little fermentation fun, all you have to do is say what fermented veggies you’d love to have a go at making right here in the comments section, to win a fantastic, specialist Picklit jar & 2 delicious Kitsa’s Macaroons, totalling $50 in value. Winner will be announced on Monday.
Real Food. Happy Bodies
Disclosure: I wasn’t paid nor given free product for publishing this post. The people and businesses I feature in the Real Food Rockstar / Low Tox Legend series are people I seek to share their story as something I want to bring to you all, Alexx.