I had the great fortune and pleasure of attending one of my favourite events, a Business Chicks breakfast this morning in Sydney. It was made extra special by the guest today being the incredible Nigella Lawson.
Nigella was instrumental, as I’m sure for many of you, in helping me develop my delight in cooking both for myself and others. She showed me it didn’t have to be complicated. She showed me I could be relaxed about it. She told me it was ok to eat chocolate in bed. What’s not to love about this kind of wisdom, right? I believe it was her relaxed attitude that has helped me as an advocate for organics, eating local and crowding out the bad stuff. I don’t care at all that she might choose to use condensed milk or tinned mushy peas in a recipe here or there. I am not here to judge anyone. I am here to do the work I believe I want and should do in this world, which for me is to help people avoid processed food in part, sure… Much more because of the system and the values of the companies that create those foods, rather than for reasons of having the odd pudding with a bit of something processed in it for health reasons… In almost all cases, it’s what happens most of the time that affects us, not what happens the odd time.
There’s enough negativity and criticism out there and I for one believe that we’d all be happier to focus on the wonderful things that people bring to the table. Her wisdom and attitude far outweighs the odd ingredient choice I’d do differently. Who, quite frankly, cares.
Where she has influenced me
Predominantly, it’s been in maintaining a relaxed and happy approach to my efforts, in teaching myself, and then being of service to others. I knew as I discovered my gluten intolerance (after a year of denial and several episodes of tears as I parted ways with croissants!) that there had to be a positive, delicious way to do gluten free. It was simple recipes like Nigella’s flourless chocolate cake and buckwheat soba that made me feel like I could do the whole ‘gluten free’ thing, when I was starting out – there wasn’t the infinite inspiration there is today for us gluten intolerant lot, 12 years ago. There was nothing, in fact.
Then on from gluten and starting to read all those labels to find hidden gluten in packaged foods, I learnt about additives, food systems, politics and the strong hold of the big corporations on food. I knew that in my desire to move towards unprocessed foods and away from fake packet weirdness, that I didn’t want to become angry, preachy or ‘right’ when I decided to start sharing what I was discovering with others – that would be you! I knew that with all change we had to or wanted to make in learning about food, how to cook, how to makes better choices… It all had to feel good and inclusive, otherwise what on earth is the point? We have to live with these ‘better’ choices every day and if somewhere inside it isn’t feeling good, we’re not doing it right.
I’ve always known I wanted to find the healthy MENTAL aspect to healthier choices in my own life and have felt a huge responsibility to inject that positive vibe into the community you and I have built. Better food choices in the mainstream, are still very much playing in the land of points, strict exclusions, science wars and thinness = achievement. I truly believe that moving towards unprocessed foods that are as fresh and local as possible as our major food source that from there, each of us will take greater pleasure and health from all manner of different combinations. Some of us indeed must, with special dietary interventions for various health concerns and challenges, and many of us just want to ‘go real’ at least for the most part. Wherever you’re coming from I truly believe there is far more to celebrate and unite over, than be worried about as we look to add great foods IN the mix of our daily eating.
Nigella’s joyous and relaxed way of approaching food was abundantly clear this morning as she spoke. And I LOVE that it was kept out of tabloid and ‘answer to the rumours’ land. Refreshing to actually focus on what someone’s doing and their talents! Here are my favourite bites from her so-well-put-together words, spoken from just below her perfect cheek bones. I am a fan girl, yes it’s true.
On food and cooking…
“Cooking for others is an act of kindness, but we so often overlook the act of kindness in cooking for ourselves. It’s like in the airplane where we are told to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before our child. We must see the importance in cooking for ourselves as an act of kindness too, for if we do nothing but give to others and be kind to others at the expense of taking time to be kind to ourselves, resentment can often build.”
“Cooking is my mindfulness; my meditation if you will. Take risotto for example. You cannot rush it. You MUST stir continuously. You will be there for 20 minutes stirring, adding stock, stirring adding stock and so on. It’s a wonderful way to buy yourself 20 minutes of peaceful time.”
“I was not a good eater as a child… but my mother did use us all as assistants – little line chefs – in the kitchen, always. Me at my rickety stool by the gas stove – I was always in the kitchen and in the end, well, I love food. I always say to parents who ask me how to get their children to eat, just persevere as it doesn’t always start well.”
“Everyone makes makes mistakes in and out of the kitchen. To live life as if it were an exam where you feared making an error is not to live life.”
“I don’t like the term ‘clean eating’ because it implies that one can be ‘dirty eating’ and there’s a strong current of shame in that notion.”
“It’s what you add to a diet that’s important – and by diet I mean collection of things one eats, not restriction of things… what you ‘take away’ is less important.”
“We all make our best decisions from positivity. If you make people feel ashamed then it becomes about depravation and guilt” – took the words from my mouth!!! Positivity, or we lose the critical importance of a healthy mental outlook in making good decisions around food.
“I always hate it when food is used as a form of moral superiority or smugness.”
On work life…
“Don’t be so focused on success that you’re not prepared to risk failure. Success is indeed born most often FROM failure” – YES! Try stuff whether it works or whether it doesn’t, you’ve tried something and learnt from it.
“You need to have a workplace where people feel it’s safe to lend a dissenting voice. Everyone is not always ‘right’ and to have uniquely positive messages can prevent us from doing better work.”
“Stress isn’t necessarily wrong, but when it comes to the point where you can’t decide between peppermint or camomile tea because it’s ‘too much to decide’ then you’re at a point where you are too stressed. There’s such a thing as too much stress most definitely.”
“Whatever the little things in daily life give you, they are worth your gratitude. It’s not always the ‘big things’ that we should focus on celebrating. The day to day and all the little things in that day to day are where we are living our lives.”
“Just do it. An email you feel uncomfortable about responding to and delay… well, that discomfort then sits with you until you finally do respond. Respond straight away and don’t let it occupy your brain space. Just do whatever it is you know you ought to do. Do what it is you know you WANT to do. Just do it.”
“I don’t have people over to dinner that I’m worried about cooking for. No stress in the home. Go out. Have a coffee, whatever, but if I were to feel the slightest ill at ease in my own home, then it’s not right to invite them.”
“You must in life do things that frighten you a bit. You must take risks, absolutely. But not at home. Home is for comfort. Home is a safe space – a haven.”
And there you have it. A wonderful morning of jam packed wisdom on the wonderful way in which to enjoy the many aspects of life. We might not all choose the exact same food. I won’t be making nutella brownies any time soon and I don’t say that because I snub PEOPLE who use nutella, I say it because in doing my research on it, it’s not in line with my personal values for the reasons of palm oil and false advertising. Everyone’s where they’re at with the choices they make today and that’s fine. Low Tox Life continues to be a positive hub to provide education, empowerment and positive motivation to explore the real food, low tox, happy minded way of making choices that serve us and our planet the best way we can learn how. There’s plenty of space to enjoy what we all share in common and plenty of energy to support those wanting to learn more and newer to making more conscious decisions.
Of course, I felt compelled to bake a little something for her as a busy working traveller. I was nervous, I won’t lie. Thanks to those who chimed in on this facebook post yesterday with the unmistakeable winning vote for my Spiced Fig and Ginger bread. I hope she enjoys it and what do you think: This means I can now say “I’ve cooked for Nigella Lawson” right? She was so lovely, despite the speed with which we were churned through to say hello!
I’d love to hear whether Nigella has influenced your home cooking over the years? I often say I learnt how to cook whenever I had a big cold or the flu in my 20s, because I would binge watched Nigella cooking shows and then make things when I was better!
I hope you enjoyed the little highlights from the morning. So many things she said affirmed what I want for us here as we live the low tox life – it’s not just about WHAT we’re doing, cooking, putting on our skin, but it’s our attitude to it – our celebrating of positive decisions born from positive environments to discuss things safely as we explore our options.
The Sydney Opera House event from Wednesday night did a wrap of their event – a totally different yet equally awesome chat with Annabel Crabb – which you can read here – saves me summing that one up too!
Real Food. Happy Bodies. Happy mindset
photo credits: Businesschicks.com.au