Sonya Koeck. Sonya is on her path to healing an aggressive form of breast cancer that she was diagnosed with five years ago and she is leaving no path untraveled in doing so.
I am writing this today to share Sonya's story but also to shine a light on the difficult decisions that people diagnosed with cancer and many other serious illnesses are confronted with.
Which healing path to take? Sonya so rightly makes the point that in Australia the approach to treatment is very much western medicine versus natural medicine, it is either/or, whereas in countries such as Germany the two are integrated. There are in Australia exceptions: doctors, specialists, natural medicine practitioners who are open to integrating both approaches but they are few and far between and seeking these people out can be an exhaustive process physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. It shouldn't be this way.
Sonya's healing path has taken her from New South Wales away from her beloved husband and young children, to Germany where she is receiving wholistic treatment unavailable in Australia. Sonya is deeply committed to her healing, doing everything within her power meditating daily, eating a purely organic diet, remaining positive and staying connected to her faith, she is responding well to treatment in Germany but is having to say no to certain treatments available there because they are costly and her funds are low. I don't believe not having enough money should be a barrier to accessing effective health care for any person. To my mind this is purely a matter of distribution of currency, meaning money moves around the world all day every day some people have a lot some people have a little and everyone spends it differently. I believe in philanthropy and I don't believe you need to have a million dollars in the bank to be a philanthropist. I believe in the power of giving, the amount is one thing but the act of giving is another.
Sonya has learnt a tremendous amount about western medicine and natural medicine on her healing journey and when she is well she would like to share that knowledge with people who find themselves in her position to help guide them where no guide book exists.
In her pro-active way, Sonya has set up a crowd-funding page so she can continue receiving treatment in Germany and return home well to her family.
You can read in detail Sonya's story on her funding page and if you are able to make a financial contribution you can do so directly on the page. Every dollar adds up. I donated $20 last night because that is what I had, when I consider I spend $30 a week on buying coffee I figure I can afford to donate more during the next month.
I have never met Sonya. I have met her beautiful family, Sonya and her family are beloved friends of people close in my life, and as a woman, a wife and mother I am deeply moved by their situation.
I share this story today because I can, because social media can be positively life changing. This post is not just to ask you to donate money, perhaps you can't right now. I also share it because cancer is an all too common diagnosis and I invite you take a moment to let go of what is not important and join me in being immensely grateful for good health when you have it.
Big blessings to the beautiful Sonya from the Wholefood Mama community, and blessings to each of you too dear readers especially those whose lives in one way or another have been affected by cancer. Thank you for reading this today. xx
To donate or share Sonya's page go here - Onya Sonya - Sonya's Future Fund
Monday, April 29, 2013
Friday, April 26, 2013
I received an invitation during the week from Sonia over at Natural New Age Mum, asking me if I wanted to come to her blog party today and join other natural new age mamas revealing the contents of their handbags. We can't talk about food all the time can we? Well ok we can but for today you're subjected to the contents of my handbag before we get to the links.
The photo of my beloved old bag does not do the brilliant colour justice, Pete bought it for my birthday about four years ago I think I'll ask for an update this birthday.
The contents always surprises me, what a random mix of things:
Sunglasses that need repair
Sunglasses that I wear
A selection of toy cars, wild animals, a rubber ball and a pirate, I whip these out anytime Sol needs entertaining when we are out and about
My pratten wallet that I bought the year Pete gave me the bag
A handmade zip up purse sewn by me, handy for lip gloss, hairbands, tampons, anything small I don't want rolling around the bottom of my bag
Theatre tickets, a keepsake of my day out with River to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Fabric paints I picked up with the idea of the boys decorating t-shirts sometime
Another overdue library book reminder notice
Mobile phone (I wish they'd never been invented)
I'm so old fashioned I actually get photos printed out!!
A packet of mild curry spice from gourmet organic herbs I picked up for my aunty who I am so proud of for diligently sticking to her 3 month detox with Dr Gruba
Happy handbag party natural new age mamas. Thanks for the invite Sonia!
Now on with friday's links:
For those of you who didn't quit sugar, or those of you who did and didn't feel great about it I found a site and ebook written by a couple of Aussie nutritionists called 'I Didn't Quit Sugar'. Interesting!
Living greener lives is something we all must do, click on over to The Spruiker and Tiny Green Hands and pick up a few tips. Welcome to blogging land ladies look forward to watching you grow and inspire us all to think of the earth first.
From Zara, a new reader here, comes this carrot cake recipe that calls for steamed carrots and a pinch of cloves.
Noe if you are reading, where did your beautiful blog go? ...I planned to link to it today and it seems to have disappeared. Email me if you prefer.
Have you seen Michael Pollan's latest book? Cooked
Marianne Williamson's latest book is off topic but it's on my wishlist The Law of Divine Compensation I loved this interview Marianne did with Marie Forleo.
If you are considering buying a Thermomix or have no idea what one is, the Mamabake ladies have a great post for you and while you're over there check out their latest recipes paleo gluten free chicken kiev anyone? what about easy vegan sweet potato and quinoa?
Oh and thanks to a link by Sonia there's been a an influx of likers on my facebook page. hello and welcome! And if you are on fb and haven't found The Wholefood Mama page yet, here it is.
Hooray the weekend is here again. I hope yours is delicious and that you get at least one bliss filled moment that's just for you. I'm getting a whole day without children in Melbourne at a cooking class - lucky me! More about that next week x
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Pete, my ever loving, creative, social justice campaigning husband, works with Indigenous communities around Australia recording photos and stories about culture and the environment, he has produced a number of books including the widely read Elders-Wisdom from Australia's Indigenous Leaders. Of the wisdom Pete has soaked up and treasured over the years, two words he shared with me from an Elder "waste nothing" often come into my mind in the kitchen.
The amount of food waste that occurs in developed countries really is shameful. Pete and I both love the creative challenge of coming up with a meal that makes use of what we have on hand. And it is out of this thinking that today's recipe came together.
I had leftover basmati rice from River and Sol's cooking session. There was sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin that needed to be used and I threw in a potato just because I felt like it. Once the vegetables were boiled soft I mashed them and mixed in the cold cooked rice. In went a couple of tablespoons of finely grated parmesan, about half a cup of fresh basil leaves from garden cut into slim strips, a generous teaspoon of ground cumin and to bind it all together one whisked egg. Whatever I am cooking, making it enticing to the children at our table is always a motivating factor. I find anything crumbed or in pastry is usually met with applause. So, once I had shaped the veggie mix into small patties I coated them in gluten free rice crumbs and fried them golden in a hot pan of melted butter.
My aunty and uncle made a surprise visit and timed it well to sample some for lunch. My aunty loved them so much she went home and made a batch that night replacing the rice with quinoa.
Cumin, basil and parmesan may seem like a curious combo but it worked. There are no rules especially if you follow Pete's theory (tried & tested in our kitchen) that whatever you have on hand wants to go together in a dish.
Do you have favorite dishes made from leftovers? Could you be wasting less food? Go on be honest :) Meal planning is a sure fire way to avoid waste. What are your tips?
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
For many families cooking with kids equals baking. I've been thinking about this and about the influence it has on developing a taste for cake and biscuits over vegetables.
I announced to Sol and River one afternoon last week "You two are cooking dinner tonight". (Sol is age 3 and River age 6) "Okay" replied River casually, following up with "What are we going to cook?" "Chicken fried rice" I answered.
I have a few reasons for making a point of involving the boys in cooking on a daily basis rather than just for fun baking cakes now and then:
1. Having them contribute to the running of our home from a young age (obviously in ways appropriate for their age) is something Pete and I both believe is a great foundation for them. And for us - we do not want to be running a hotel by the time they are teenagers!
2. They learn about food preparation and cooking and my aim is that by the time they are 8 or 9 they can cook dinner once a week. (What do you think mamas with older children, is 8 or 9 realistic?)
3. I think that involving them in the planning and preparation of dinner they will be enticed to eat what they cook - including trying vegetables they would otherwise say they do not like.
Reason number 3 definitely worked with this dish. They both ate the whole bowl with excitement and pride. Munching their way through carrots and garden herbs, River said between mouthfuls "Everything tastes better when Sol and I cook it". Perfect. Just as I planned!
I kept the recipe very simple and the ingredients to a minimum. We had leftover chicken in the fridge from a roast the night before so the boys cut the chicken up. I cut carrots in half so they would sit flat and be safe for the boys to chop. They enjoyed using kitchen scissors to cut up the fresh herbs from the garden. Cracking and whisking eggs for the omelette to include was another easy task for little learning hands. Peeling and crushing garlic took some focus. I had cooked brown and white rice earlier in the day with this recipe in mind. Leftover rice from the day before makes great fried rice because it has dried out but if you don't have leftovers cook some a few hours before you need it and it will work out fine. Sol cracked and whisked the eggs. I supervised River to do the cooking of the omelette and then the whole rice dish, he was so thrilled to be able to hold the handle of the frypan and use the egg-slide to check the omelette and then take charge of the wok.
River and Sol's chicken fried rice
2-3 cups Cooked rice
2 carrots, cut into 2cm sticks
2 eggs whisked
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
1 cup of cooked chicken, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 cup fresh herbs (from our garden we had basil and garlic chives)
Heat some butter or oil in a wok or fry pan and cook the omelette by pouring the whisked eggs into the pan and tipping the pan from side to side so the egg covers the pan in a thin layer. Cook for about a minute and then flip over with a spatula and cook for a minute on the other side. Set aside to cool for a moment then cut into bite sized pieces.
In a wok or large fry pan heat some butter or oil of your choice toss in carrots and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Next add garlic and cook for one minute.
Add rice, chicken and omelette turn heat down to medium and cook until rice and chicken are heated through.
Dinner is ready!
Serve with tamari and if you like chopped spring onion scattered over the top.
* of course you can make this dish vegetarian by leaving out the chicken and adding in tofu or tempeh or another vegetable or tossing in a handful of nuts.
Any kids in your kitchen? What are they cooking?
Monday, April 22, 2013
There is a theme emerging here. Cake last Monday, crumble today, must be the cooler autumn weather bringing on all this baking.
I picked up a bunch of rhubarb from our local organic farm along with half a dozen beautiful plums and what else was there to do but make crumble?
Rhubarb is ridiculously easy to grow, well so I am told we haven't ever given it a go but I think I will because it is such a beautiful colour and I love to eat it plus I've just read up on the fact that it is rich in the B vitamins as well as vitamin A and K. For those who don't know already, the leaves on a rhubarb plant are poisonous so do not use them in your crumble.
A word about sweeteners: I used honey and raw sugar in this and I found the crumble topping a bit too sugary. That is because I generally don't eat sugar. I had been using powdered stevia but recently decided I really wasn't totally happy with the taste or texture it gives to cakes and biscuits so I haven't bought any for a while. I keep raw sugar in the cupboard for visitors cups of tea and coffee, that is how I came to include it in this recipe and if I were to do it again I would reduce the amount, but you can do what suits your tastebuds. I am imagining that a crumble made with maple syrup would be pretty delicious. Which sweeteners are you using at the moment? What do you sweeten your crumble with?
Recipe: rhubarb, apple and plum crumble
6 stems of rhubarb chopped into 1.5-2cm pieces
1 medium size granny smith apple, cored and roughly chopped (I leave the peel on)
1 or two plums such as blood plums, remove stone and roughly chop
1 tbsp honey
3/4 cup self-raising flour (I used gluten free)
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut
100gm butter cubed
2-3 tbsp raw or rapadura sugar
*optional you could add some chopped walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts and some seeds to the crumble
Preheat oven to 180C
Grease an oven proof dish with butter, I used a small rectangular pan you could use a round one or individual ramekins
Place fruit into baking dish
Mix honey through the fruit and make sure the fruit is in an even layer
In a mixing bowl combine flour, oats, coconut and sugar
Rub butter into flour mixture until the butter cubes are completely rubbed in
Scatter crumble mixture evenly over the top of the fruit
Bake for 40-45 minutes until fruit is cooked and top is golden brown
Serve with custard or ice cream, or natural unsweetened yoghurt as pictured above.
Enjoy and hide the rest from your husband like I had to!
What is your favorite crumble combo? Pear and ginger is next on my ideas list.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Here's my list of links from around the healthy wholefood web this week:
I recently posted about Karen Le Billon's book French Children Eat Everything. This week I came across a Q & A with Karen on Kacie's beautiful blog A Collection of Passions.
Tania over at Ivy Nest has written this really interesting and informative post about changing the food her family eats to a more traditional diet, lots of interesting comments too from her readers.
I am tempted to enrol in Heather's 30 day vegan online workshop starting soon. I'm not vegan but I love the sound of Heather's recipes and approach to eating vegan as a way of cleansing.
Here's a little story I wrote, published in The Age Epicure this week, about the kitchen garden at Montalto winery here on the Mornington Peninsula. The story includes a recipe for tomato tart with goat's cheese from Montalto's head chef Barry Davis. To visit Mornington Peninsula Wineries take a look at tours by Wine Compass.
Oh that Lucy Feagins over at The Design Files is there nothing this talented gal can't do?! Check out her colour and flavour packed recipe (& her food styling) for Rainbow Red Quinoa Salad with BBQ'd Corn.
Have you entered Meg's giveaway to win Jude Blereau's latest book 'Wholefood Baking'?
Very happy to be going to a seminar this evening hosted by Palate Earth yoga to hear Saraswathi Vasudevan speak. Saraswathi is a yoga teacher, trainer and therapist from Chennai in India, in addition to her knowledge of yoga Saraswathi has her Masters degrees in psychology and nutrition. Fascinated already.
Highlight of my weekend will be having our Byron buddy, Dave come to stay for a couple of days and enjoying endless cups of chai and delicious wholefood meals together.
Happy weekend to everyone. Thanks for reading. xx
this post contains affiliate links.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
When I was a child growing up in the seventies and eighties I knew nothing about gut health, good and bad bacteria, pre and probiotics or lacto-fermentation. I also didn't hear people talk about leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome and coeliac disease. And food allergies were something that children claimed they had so they could get out of eating broccoli "I'm allergic to it mum really!"
In contrast, my sons at age 3 and 6 ask if they can have acidophilus powder (a powdered probiotic supplement) and lacto-fermented vegetables are often on our plates. Times have changed. Or are they coming full circle? Let me explain.
If we consider how far as a society we have moved away from a natural diet, with processed and convenience foods becoming staples it is little wonder that for many people their digestive system is overworked and their gut health compromised.
What causes poor gut health? One of the most common causes of an imbalance in the good and bad bacteria in the gut is through taking antibiotic medication. While antibiotics are in certain instances life saving drugs, they are also (in my humble opinion) overprescribed. Overuse of antibiotics can set up a vicious cycle of weakening gut health and immunity, leading to recurrent infections and more antibiotics. When my children are sick I often take them to our local GP for a diagnosis and then depending on the severity of the ailment I might choose to treat them with homeopathy under the guidance of a qualified homeopath and with chiropractic care, rather than giving them antibiotics. In the instances that I have given them antibiotics I have followed up with an acidophilus supplement to help replenish their gut.
Other causes of poor gut health include:
* a diet low in fibre
* a highly processed diet
* undiagnosed or treated food intolerances
* tendency to rush when eating (rather than chewing well) means food is poorly digested before it reaches the gut and food particles can feed bad bacteria
Recent research shows that the gut health of babies can be compromised by being delivered by caesarean section and by not being breastfed. Let me just point out that it is not my intention in any way to make mothers feel like they have deprived their child of good gut health at birth! I acknowledge that caesarean delivery can be a life saving procedure for both mothers and babies, and that for some women breastfeeding just does not work out despite the fact that they really want it to. I believe though that there is too much medical intervention in pregnancy and birth that leads to a high percentage of babies being born by caesarean and there is little information given about related health issues such as this.
What are the symptoms of poor gut health? An imbalance in good and bad bacteria in your gut can result in mild to severe symptoms and illness that affect not only your physical body but your emotional well-being too. The gut is known as the second brain, about 80% of our body's serotonin (the hormone that makes you happy) is found in the gut if this is out of balance depression can be the result. Others include:
Leaky gut syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome
To name a few!
So, how do we restore and maintain good gut health? This is where we come full circle and look to our ancestors. In her book Nourishing Traditions Sally Fallon dedicates a chapter to the traditional fruit and vegetable preservation method known as lacto-fermentation. This fermentation process imparts the fruit and vegetables with lactobacilli (good bacteria) making the food easier to digest and "promotes the growth of health flora throughout the intestine"(p.89)
For an easy fermentation vegetable recipe take a look at Meg's post over on My Wholefood Romance.
For a fabulously detailed series of posts on gut health and lacto-fermentation read Vanessa's posts here and this one includes a recipe for cultured mayonnaise - yes please!
And then of course there are probiotic (good bacteria) supplements you can buy from the refrigerator at health foodstores and now even in many pharmacies. The reason that probiotics are refrigerated is because they contain live bacteria that die if they are not kept cool.
I am skeptical about the new probiotics coming on to the market that do not require refrigeration. I found this interesting review of non refrigerated probiotic supplements sold in America, many were tested and found not to contain the strains of bacteria they claimed to.
Here is an interesting list of myths associated with taking probiotic supplements.
I suggest that you ask your health practitioner to recommend a probiotic supplement that is suitable for your particular need as there are many brands and many strains all with varying strengths and benefits.
Are probiotic supplements suitable for kids?
There are probiotic supplements on the market branded especially for children. Both my sons had oral thrush as babies and it was suggested to me by my chiropractor that I make a paste of acidophilus powder and water and put it on my nipples at feeding time, this cleared the thrush. The other times I have given them acidophilus is when they have had antibiotics which thankfully has been about 3 times between them. If you think that your child would benefit from taking a supplement do seek advice from a natural health professional.
Where are you at with this topic? Do you take a supplement? Or do you eat fermented foods? Have you made changes to your diet that improved your gut health? I'd love to hear your story.
Further reading: Kris Carr's detailed post 'How to improve your gut health' spells out what gut health is, why it is important and how to get it.
Disclaimer: I write here from personal experience and research. I am not a doctor or scientist. To all readers, please consult your doctor or natural health practitioner if you have any concerns at all about your health, or if you would like to go down a new path to improve your health and wellness seek experienced support.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
This post has nothing to do with the television program of the same title, it was just a sneaky way for me to name the post and veer slightly off topic and on to the mysterious knack of keeping house with children who are still learning the 'house rules'.
I have a friend who I admire, we'll call her D, D has an almost magical ability to keep her home in impeccable order without it feeling clinical or uninviting. In fact it is just the opposite, her home is aesthetically beautiful and the order imbues it with a sense of calm making it a warm and welcoming space to be in. She has two sons under the age of 7 and you can arrive unannounced day or night and order reigns supreme.
I marvel about her to other friends "I have this friend who..." and those friends say "oh but she must spend her whole day cleaning and tidying".
I recently came clean (pardon the pun) and asked D her secret. She laughed that I wanted to know and then happily filled me in.
I thought her answer may interest you too (sorry to those who couldn't care!) I am always curious about how other people 'do' life and am eternally searching for better ways to do things myself.
D says, "I can't think clearly if the space around me is disorganised. I am just one of those people who needs things to be ordered. And no I definitely don't spend all day cleaning up".
I suggested that really all people probably function best when their space is ordered but it is the how to make that happen that is a mystery to many, especially when you have professional house messer upperers (children) to derail your order.
Here is D's strategy:
Get rid of stuff. Regularly - "less stuff = less to organise, put away, tidy etc;"
Storage - "a place for everything and everything in its place"
Morning ritual - "washing goes on as soon as I get up. Beds are made as soon as everyone is up"
Dishes - "I never let them stack up. I let them drip dry but I wash them as we go."
Toys - "I have taught my boys to clean as they go. They pack up one game before they start the next."
Sounds pretty simple, yes? Or no?
Something else occurred to me about D's secret to success: her sense of style. D has a great eye for putting things together. Some people have a natural flair for this. I'm not entirely convinced that it comes naturally to me, and I used to think that putting a lot of time and effort into how things look was er dare I say, superficial.
I've changed my mind. Creating a home that is aesthetically pleasing is not superficial, there is an organic way to go about that too by seeking out recycled furniture and fabrics rather than buying new. And because of my perfectionist tendencies I've been slow to learn that it takes time to master things, even your own sense of style and it is ok to ask for help from those you admire.
How are you at keeping house? Are you in a happy space? Or couldn't care about that pile of dishes?
Monday, April 15, 2013
Let's start the week with cake shall we? It had been a while since we'd done any baking but when Autumn's cooler weather arrived on the weekend River and Sol were asking "Can we bake a cake?"
I didn't have a recipe in mind, I wanted to work with ingredients that were in the cupboard and this chocolate honey spice cake is what Sol and I came up with after I googled around for some ideas. While Sol and I measured ingredients, mixed and stirred the cake River opted to watch E.T. for the first time but was quick to appear when the bowl needing licking. How I remember crying my way through the end of that movie when I was 6.
I had to hold Sol back from eating the squares of butter as I cut them up, and felt continually nervous as I used the electric beater that he would attempt to dive his little fingers into the bowl to pinch another butter square. Ah, cooking with children it is messy and slow and satisfying.
Chocolate honey spice cake
125g butter, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (I used gluten free)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp hot water
1/2 cup icing sugar
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 180C
Grease and line a small rectangular or round baking dish/cake tin (or you could make cupcakes).
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs one at a time, stir in vanilla.
Beat in honey until smooth.
Fold in flour, cocoa and cinnamon.
Stir in milk until smooth.
Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 20-30 minutes until edges are cooked and centre just springs back when you press on it. It is better to take it out a little early than overcook and have a dry cake.
For the icing
I began this mixture wanting to avoid using the icing sugar so I mixed the honey, cocoa and water together to make a sort of sauce but the cocoa was a bit overpowering so I decided to add some icing sugar just enough to keep the sauce consistency. It is quite sweet and not something I would make all the time but once every now and again is ok in my book.
You could add garam masala to the cake if you wanted to increase the spicyness.
A friend arrived just as this was coming out of the oven, with the help of my three chocolate cake lovers and our guest there wasn't much left by the time he departed. I managed to whisk a piece away into the fridge for River's lunch box. Chocolate cake isn't a usual addition to River's school lunch but in his words "mum, we're celebrating the start of term 2".
Do you have an alternative to making icing with icing sugar? I'd love to hear. Happy back to school for those returning today. And happy holidays to those just beginning, I am envious! x
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
I started today with a green smoothie of frozen banana, a beautiful ripe fig, a big handful of baby spinach leaves, filtered water and a smidge of raw honey. I followed that up with a walk and some time to write. Pete has taken the boys to play by the ocean. A perfect start to the day!
For those on school holidays I hope you've had a wonderful time, that everyone stayed well and sibling bickering, tears and tantrums were kept to a minimum. School resumes here on Monday. I am savouring the weekend days ahead. Autumn has been very kind to us with plenty of sunshine to enjoy park and beach plays, markets and long walks.
A holiday highlight for me was taking River to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, an excellent production not a flat or boring moment to be seen.
On with today's links:
Natural New Age mum has written yet another great post, this time a how-to on meal planning
There is growing evidence linking gut health and autism, read about it here on Real Food Forager
In case you missed my friend Luci and I sharing our birth stories in the newspaper last weekend here is the link...keep the tissues handy it is a story of love, loss and healing.
Very excited to see Jude Blereau's latest book Wholefood Baking is close to being launched. Jude is running a competition on her facebook page where you can win a copy of her book. To enter you need to submit a favorite recipe that you would like Jude to re-write so that it is a healthier or allergy free version ie no wheat/dairy/gluten/refined sugar. You can find details here. Good luck!
Happy weekending xx
Are you a green smoothie fan? What is your favorite green smoo recipe?
Monday, April 08, 2013
I enjoyed every page. So much I actually slowed my reading towards the end because I didn't want the book to finish.
Aside from the tips and rules for encouraging children to eat well, it was Karen's humorous anecdotes of what it was like to be a North American living in France with a young family that had me hanging on her every word.
Karen convinced her French husband, Philippe, that it would be a good idea to move their young family from their Canadian home to live for one year in the small village in northern France where Philippe grew up. Her idea was met with resistance from Philippe and her in-laws who impressed upon her that living in France was not like holidaying in France.
Undeterred, Karen was thrilled when the time came to pack up with Sophie age four and Claire a toddler and immerse themselves in the French way of life.
One of my favorite moments in the book is when they arrive in France and attend an information afternoon at the early learning centre that Claire would attend. Karen describes in detail the trays of amuse-bouches "(a term used for cocktail nibbles that literally means "entertain the mouth")", she dived in and as she was enjoying each bite looked around to see the French parents watching her quizzically. The impeccably prepared food, featuring a selection of vegetable purees atop delicate puff pastry, was in fact...for the children. This was to be the first of many cultural learning curves Karen was to slide down.
I admired Karen's resolve to take every opportunity to embrace the French way of life even when her daughters were upset and it would have been momentarily easier to give in and hand them a North American style snack.
The book contains 10 rules for raising happy, healthy eaters but Karen also takes us into her interior world when she has many times throughout the year that she wishes she was back in Canada. The focus of the book is on children and food but it is also Karen's story of being a mother and wife and trying to find her way in France with her in-laws and socially.
Aside from the 10 rules, there were two considerations that stood out to me in the book. In France, the approach to food centres around appetite and pleasure, they go together. Without appetite, there is no pleasure in eating and one of the biggest appetite suppressants is snacking. As Karen learned, French mothers do not carry around snack packs for their children because the French don't snack and their children are taught that from a young age "it is ok to be hungry between meals". The only exception to this is the gouter which roughly translates as "snack" and is served to children in the afternoon at around 4.30pm. This may sound like a rigid approach but in reality what happens is that because there is no snacking children have great appetite for their meals and eat well at meal times.
Pleasure is a major consideration in the French approach to eating. The pleasure of thinking up the menu, of shopping at the market, selecting the produce, preparing the food, the pleasure of sitting together to share food and conversation and finally the pleasure of actually eating. As Karen learned, this sits in stark contrast to the associations of guilt and stress that accompany food for many North Americans (and may I add many others eating outside European traditions). Karen shows us that because the French diet is varied and balanced and sweet indulgences are kept in perspective there is no need to feel guilty about enjoying chocolate mousse or lemon tart on occasion. And the stress that Karen had felt about meal preparation when she lived in Canada soon melted when she changed her attitude and decided to focus on enjoying each aspect of menu planning, cooking and eating with her family.
These are the 10 rules that Karen wrote out and stuck to their fridge in France:
1. Parents you are in charge of food education
2. Avoid emotional eating - no food rewards or bribes
3. Parents schedule meals and menus. Kids eat what adults eat. No short order cooking
4. Eat family meals together. No distractions (television, computers, mobile phones)
5. Eat your veggies. Key: think variety
6. You don't have to LIKE it but you do have to TASTE it. Say this at every meal
7. No snacking. It's ok to feel hungry between meals
8. Slow food is happy food, as in - eat slow
9. Eat mostly real food. treats and special occasions ok
10. Remember eating is joyful - relax
At the end of the book you will find a selection of family friendly French inspired recipes to start your family on the way to ending fussiness and embracing the pleasure of eating real food including vegetables!
When I have chatted to friends about this book a couple of them (who haven't read it) have had the same response, "Oh the French they think they are so superior and it is all well and fine to have French rules in France but I doubt they will work outside of France." That my friends, is where you are wrong. There is much to be learned from this book and Karen writes about how she adapts what she has learnt in France when they return home to Vancouver where short lunch breaks, snacking and fast food dominate.
To read more about Karen and her book go to her website. Bon appetit!
Saturday, April 06, 2013
For readers who can get their hands on a copy of The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald today, if you look in the GoodWeekend liftout in the Two of Us column you'll find my friend Luci and I sharing our birth stories. I haven't even seen it yet! The lovely Kellie from dear Olive gave me the heads up. You may need tissues handy xx
Friday, April 05, 2013
Driving long distances with young children is a great test of endurance and patience in my opinion. "Are we there yet?" is a fantastic picture book by Alison Lester but it is not a question I want to hear every 10 minutes for seven hours.
This Easter we drove 630 kilometres up the coast to camp and then stay with friends for a few days on their beautiful property near Bega and then drove home. I am relieved to report that the car trip was actually...easy. In-'flight' entertainment consisted of an audio story and one of those old-fashioned 'Magnadoodle' boards (where you draw with a 'magic' pen and then erase the drawing by sliding a plastic tab across the board), we didn't even play eye-spy once and we don't do technology games or in car movies but somehow the whole road trip experience was smooth.
Wholefood highlights from the trip included: a thermos of dandelion tea that we sipped at our road stops, blueberry buckwheat 'damper' on the campfire, freshly caught salmon cooked on the campfire, a chai picnic on our very own secluded beach, more chai this time from Red Cafe in Bega, organic chicken roasted with herbs and root veggies served with gravy, breakfast of homegrown garlic crushed and fried in butter with an egg fresh from the hen house cracked over the garlic and fried then served on sourdough, homebaked scrumptious spelt hot cross buns, one batch with sultanas and currants and spice the other batch no fruit just chocolate chips!
On Easter Sunday we were at my nan's house where the Easter bunny left the boys a very restrained handful of mini solid eggs.
It was a wonderful road trip adventure and now we are enjoying being back home with ten more days of school holidays stretched before us.
I hope you had a delicious Easter (with or without chocolate!) and now I have some links for you and look forward to being back here with more wholefood happenings.
Pears are in season in these parts, the Mamabake ladies have a sweet recipe for pear, almond and cardomom cake (gluten free)
I love Steph's 'from this to that' posts
Vanessa's posts on lactofermentation (One & Two) are well worth a read especially for those of us going into the cold and flu time of year...healthy guts keep our immune systems strong
This makes me smile: "You should sit in meditation everyday for 20 minutes - unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour" - old Zen adage.
Happy weekending xx