It’s time for my next interview in the Non-Diet Approach to Health & Life series.
If you have missed past interviews, check out my last interview with Sarah McMahon from Body Matters Australasia. Oh – and there also is a ton of background info on the Non-Diet Approach to Health here.
Ok. This week, again we have an inspirational Australian. I am delighted (understatement) to say THE STEPHANIE ALEXANDER has graciously given up some time to give her thoughts on food, cooking, dieting and health.
Stephanie Alexander AO is regarded as one of Australia’s great food educators. Her reputation has been earned through her thirty years as an owner-chef in several restaurants, as the author of 14 influential books and for her groundbreaking work in creating the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. Everything she has achieved and worked towards has been driven by her desire to break down anxieties about cooking, to emphasise the beauty of produce fresh from the garden and to promote the pleasures of sharing around a table. Her fifth book, The Cook’s Companion is regarded as an Australian classic, and has sold 500,000 copies. In 2014 Stephanie became an Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of her work with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.
So let’s go. Here are Stephanie’s thoughts…
Was there one particular moment when you decided you wanted to create food for a living?
It was sort of serendipitous decision – offering food to others and the actual alchemy of cooking was always a favourite activity.
What do you love most about cooking?
Eating great food every day and knowing that I can do anything I want to with ingredients.
Obviously there are quite a few fad diets out there at the moment (including from chefs). What are your thoughts on diets?
Most of us know that diets only work whilst you follow them which is rarely for long because most involve deprivation. I probably eat more than I need to given my reluctance to do much exercise, but portion control is also hard when the food is fresh and delicious. Genetics plays a part.
And being healthy is far more important than striving for an unattainable body shape.
You might not know it, but we think your wonderful approach to food and how we grow, prepare and share it makes you a fantastic role model for people of all ages in Australia. Who else do you respect (or who is a trailblazer) in promoting healthy relationships with food?
Most Italian families I know have an instinctive understanding of what is delicious, what is seasonal, how to enjoy food with others around a table, that wine is a natural part of eating a good meal, as is extra virgin olive oil, and most they enjoy growing at least some of their own food.
Young foodies can be influenced by such ideas, and I suppose that is why I continue to talk about it, and write about it so much but it is so heartwarming to see those to whom it is as natural as breathing.
What does ‘being healthy’ mean to you?
I think Michael Pollan’s mantra is a good one to remember;
‘Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.’
In practice I think it means to move the emphasis away from huge portions of meat, eat large quantities of salads and vegetable dishes, plenty of fish, not too much bread, and be mindful of the quantity of fat you are consuming (I have to remember that olive oil is also a fat!!). I cannot live without my 2 glasses of wine a night. I have zero interest in takeaway convenience foods.
Be as active as you can, not so easy once one develops arthritis, but I still try to exercise 3 times a week.
Many of us struggle with busy lives and creating a good work life balance. With this, comes difficulties being organised with food. This can lead to ‘mindless eating’ for some people. Can you give us your best practical tip for someone to get more organised with shopping and meal preparation?
If eating great food is a priority in your life it deserves a bit of planning.
In the morning before i get out of bed I am asking myself what I will eat for dinner. Is there something good left in the refrigerator? Where will I be today? Will I be near to my favourite fish shop? Or fresh food market? Or where I can buy carefully-selected meat.
If I have to travel more than 30 minutes from shop to home I would consider keeping an insulated bag in the boot of the car for transporting a chicken or a parcel of fish.
I always have fall-back options like free-range eggs, pasta, tins of great anchovies, cheese, chick peas and so on in the cupboard. And I grow my own herbs, and tomatoes (finished now of course) and salad leaves, and silver beet .
Can you tell us one fun thing about you that we don’t know ?
How many know that The Cook’s Companion is now available in its entirety as an App (plus videos, photos, and browsing opportunities). Such fun. Go to the App Store and have a look. I have it on my iPad and iPhone and use it almost every day.
It’s easier to take away for a weekend than the book itself !
What are you working on in 2015 – what exciting things should we look out for?
The paperback version of the Kitchen Garden Companion in a new format for 2016
And other projects still under wraps…
And continuing to promote the marvellous work of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation to more and more primary school children in Australia.
A big thanks to Stephanie for taking part in this interview series.
- More info on Stephanie, her books and projects can be found HERE AT HER WEBSITE.
- If you have enjoyed reading Stephanie’s thoughts, I’d love you to read past interviews with Kerry Beake and Sarah McMahon.
- If you are keen to learn more about how you can apply a non-dieting approach to your own health, please check out some other blog posts like what stops you from being healthy?, what is normal eating? and how to stop overeating - my top 3 strategies.
pssst - I have a top shelf health expert lined up for the next interview in the series – and am trying very hard to keep my lips sealed