A couple of months ago, in fact on the wednesday before my wedding, I stood up in front of a room full of people at the Rhino Room in Adelaide and gave a talk about my blog for the SA Writer's Centre's Quick and Dirty readings. The topic of the evening was "Food for Thought", and I and 5 other food writers got up and spewed forth our imaginings on this topic.
Here is what I said...
My name is Sally. I write a blog that is primarily vegan cooking which I started in July 2010. Initially, it started with short stories and recipes. I had always wanted to write a book but alas my attention span is far too short. A blog allowed me the perfect outlet to be creative and still put ideas and concepts out into the world. I write sporadically with no particular purpose other than to tell stories and share recipes.
Vegan cooking is exciting. It’s like a science experiment where everyday I play with my food and figure out ways to make it using non-traditional ingredients (at least in my house) that are delicious and satisfying. I like to play.
I grew up in a carb and meat house. Mum would often throw everything in a fry pan and add a tin of tomatoes. Her cooking was always adventurous and spur of the moment but was often based around pasta or rice with a bit of meat. We didn’t have much money, so mum was forced to get creative and we always were full.
My Nana’s cooking is traditionally English, with the whole meat and three veg and Yorkshire pudding thing, with broccoli and cheese and mash potato. I would often help with the cooking and learned pretty much all the basics from these two fine ladies as I grew up along side these family dinners.
Going vegan was initially incredibly challenging so much so that it took 10 years to finally give up cheese. These challenges were not only with my own will power. Growing up with such a traditional family meant I had to deal with worried family members who thought that I would become malnourished when I first went vegetarian as a 12 year old. I have been vegan for 5 years now and still have my nana regularly telling me that don’t know what I am missing out on as she is tucking into her steak. Yeah, I do. That is the point. I have heard every anti-vegan and vegetarian quip in the last 21 years, so much so, that I just don’t give a fuck about peoples muted realities in regards to what is on their plates, or more to the point, what isn’t on mine. I am not here to preach. I am here to share the love.
So, it’s not all negative. For me, veganism has bought with it many culinary adventures as I not only learned a whole new vocabulary in terms of food ingredients, but also learned to recreate these old comfort foods in a cruelty free fashion. This brings challenges, disappointments and also masses of delicious food that I have come to love and love to share.
The way to my heart is certainly through my stomach. My compassion extends to my plate, as the two are hardly interchangeable. When I first stated to really get into writing the blog, it was all basic and straightforward. After a while, I forgot about the concepts and the honesty as my adrenaline skewed with the amount of hits per day, the likes on Facebook and the offer of free cookbooks from publishing companies. As time went on, this online popularity contest caused me a great amount of anxiety and even jealousy about how well other bloggers seemed to be doing. I would often have “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments where I would kick myself because I didn’t feel as upbeat and popular as the online world can pretend to be. I would spend so much time online that I forgot about the world around me. I forgot to go outside. I stared at a screen as I wrote words like “Oh, my god! This is the most delicious cake you will ever eat!”. I tried to be overwhelmingly enthusiastic to bring other peoples enthusiasm my way.
This was bullshit. I felt false.
This realization hit me. I don’t actually care about people that comment horrible things on my blog. I have the ability to delete them. I don’t actually care about the invisible clicks that make up the stats on a sterile page. It was time to get real. I started to remember how to write about the events that were happening and the thoughts that occurred to me during the time that I was making the food. This isn’t to say that every post is some giant revelation, but it certainly feels so much more real to me. I am now more interactive with other bloggers and have a pen pal in Manchester who sends me UK vegan food in exchange for Australian vegan food. It’s fun.
I am a big believer in food as medicine. In my role as an RN working in the emergency department of your local friendly hospital, I see many people who’s eating habits are far too entangled in their emotions and they are physically sick because of it. Food is such an important part of our world. We use it to nourish and comfort us. We use it to celebrate with and converse over. Food makes us a part of something- of a culture and of a family. It’s how we function as individuals.
Somehow, my blog has turned more into a diary of thoughts, concepts and ideas and feels all the more honest because of it. I want to be honest with you and with the people that graciously take the time to read my blog.
We are so used to food being a product or a concept of who we can be. I want it to be a reality of who we are now.
I thought I could read you a couple of blog posts:
Blog post from March the 12th 2014.
I'm getting married in just under a month to the coolest boy I know. Sometimes I have to kick myself because the concept of marriage seems so weird to me. I grew up in a single parent house, which was completely normal in the time that I grew up, just as it is now. I see nothing wrong with that in any way. As a kid, I just assumed that the same would happen of me, not to say that I had imagined some giant relationship breakdown- I had just never imagined having a partner in the first place. I just saw me with my own child, making crafts and cooking. Sharing the love with a beautiful little mind.
Now, I have the relationship. I've had to go through many horrid ones that I would rather not reflect on before I found this relationship- let me tell you. But each relationship taught me how to be stronger and stronger and not settle for something that is less than the perfect fit.
I've known Gordy for years. We never really hung out but would often chat over Facebook.
And then 5 and half years ago we went on our first date.
Prior to this date I had written a list of what I wanted in a man, having been fed up of people that seem lovely but just clashed with my personality or were too competitive with me. That is something I particularly hate. Gordy and me are a team.
So, my list.
1. Must like art but not be better at it than me.
2. Must like vintage cars.
3. Must have a similar taste in music.
4. Must have green eyes and brown hair.
5. Must be open to vegetarian food. (I went vegan about a month after we got together.)
He fit the list perfectly.
Sometimes, I would say the list after a few drinks and would occasionally slip and say green hair.
Gordy had green hair two weeks before our first date.
And now we are a little family. Me, Gordy, the kittens and our illegitimate child (as he likes to call himself), housemate Josh.
I have so far bought 3 dresses for the wedding, all $90 each. The latest one I bought was too small, and so I am just restricting a few calories here and there to fit into it. Plus, we are going to the USA for our honeymoon and I know that I will be putting on weight over there so I usually like to loose a few kilos before I go overseas.
Essentially, I am just focusing on eating vegetables and fruit, and staying away from too many grains and oils.
This soup is really simple, healthy and low in calories with no fats. My kitten Harry is licking the bowl next to me as I write this.
Broccoli and Zucchini Soup.
Time: 15 minutes.
• One Onion.
• Two cloves of Garlic.
• One Zucchini.
• One head of Broccoli.
• About two cups of stock (Use more or less depending on how you like it.)
• Pepper to taste.
Chop the veggies and put them in a saucepan with the stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for ten minutes. Carefully blend until smooth. Add as much pepper as you like.
This post is from the 6th of May 2013.
How do you define success? I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I am working in a job that I feel completely blessed to have, but it's not where my heart lies. I find my passion lies in helping people to help themselves and although my job is wonderful, it just doesn't feel quite right. I miss seeing those "light bulb moments" in people.
Many people don't have the luxury to think about their jobs this way. For many, a job is simply a means to an end. Why live your life doing something you don't enjoy? I've always found that when I want something in life, I figure out what I need to make that happen, and although it doesn't always happen straight away, it does happen eventually. I couldn't possibly comprehend spending the next 35 years working in a job that does nothing for me emotionally. Every day is a blessing and I want to put myself in a position where I can learn and give in way that makes my heart fill full instead of being stressed and dreading rolling out of bed. Moral of the story? Life is short. Do what you love.
The hard part is figuring out what it is I love the most.
Before you go quitting your job, apply for those jobs you are interested in (and I stress, prior to quitting your current one) or take up studies as you work. It's a hard slog, but if you love it, it's worth it in the end.
I find myself pondering what "success" means. I mean, as long as there is food in my belly, clothes on my back, a roof over my head and the love of my friends and family, isn't that all I need? Money has never really meant much to me. I don't have a desire to have tons of it, so if I'm not chasing the dollar, what in turn can make me successful? Is it even a word that should be in our modern day vocabulary? I think perhaps "content" is a word better used in a day-to-day context.
What is it that makes us crave fulfillment?
And now something to create fulfillment in your belly. Porridge.
Do you remember that advert in the late 80's and through the 90's with the little Scottish kid giving porridge a cute little mouthful? He was always telling people "That's not how you make porridge" until he finally got to a spoonful of microwaved, pre-packed oats. It was cute.
I was sent a packet of porridge from lovely Caroline over at Tea and Sympatico. As we are getting into the cooler months here in Australia, I was inspired by the nutty, simple deliciousness of it.
I grabbed some oats and make a mix to keep in my cupboard so I can grab it at anytime and have a healthy and delicious meal.
I've never been a big one for breakfast, but I am really making an effort. I've been making my own yogurt lately thanks to the help of a wonderful reader, Nina. More on that to come once I have perfected the coconut yogurt. So far, I have made soy and I currently have almond brewing at the moment. Autumn is looking wonderful.
Time: 10 minutes.
Makes: About 10 serves.
• 4 Cups of oats. I used biodynamic oats. They have not been heat treated and so, when heated, they don't get as gluggy as porridge often does. Please feel free to use whatever you can find or afford.
• 1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon.
• 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg.
• 1 teaspoon of ground cloves.
• 1 Cup of almonds or other nuts.
• 1 Cup of dried fruit (I used muscatels, but apple, raisins, apricot, dates or even goji berries would work. Use whatever fruit and nut or seed combination you like).
• Half a Cup of coconut.
• Half a teaspoon of sea salt.
Chop the almonds. Place them in a fry pan over low heat. Stir for a few minutes until they are lightly browned and you can smell that beautiful smell in the air.
Pop them in a bowl with the other ingredients and mix together. Store in an airtight container in the cupboard.
When making your individual serves, take half a cup of the mixture and place in a bowl. Top with about three quarters of a cup to one cup of water and place in the microwave for three minutes. You may want to add more or less water depending on how you like your porridge. You may also choose to use nut milk instead of water, but hey oats and water create a milky result so I never worry about that.
You can also do this on the stovetop. Mix together in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until cooked.
Below, I served my porridge with some apple, soy yogurt and maple syrup. It was so warm and filling. I can't wait for breakfast tomorrow.