Real food, what’s that?


And just for fun, here's a picture of me trying to 'kidnap' a baby goat on Inis Mór

So, I say, with a sigh of relief. I've just burned my next book to CD and will trot off to the post office with the two copies in a squishy envelope, one for the editor and one for the designer. It's been a tricky one this one, a book that demanded to stand up and be counted. I can't go too much into the jigs and the reels of it, as that would be a spoiler, but I realise that, as people kindly ask me (often at 1am in a crowded pub where I sit, cocktail in hand with an empty head), what's it about? So I say "food" and they raise an eyebrow and I realise I'm being an ass. 

So, what's it about? It's about food. Sorry, start again. It's about 'real food'. And what's that? 

Real food is food that's grown, raised, fished or found, food that comes from the earth or sea, made your hands or someone else's hands, food that's 'good for you' in the truest sense of the words. It's not about paleo, it's not about gluten-free, it's about getting back to eating in a way that nurtures a healthy digestive system and will, in a short time, improve your immune system giving you more energy and less illness. The work of Sally Fallon and Dr. Weston A.Price go into lots of detail. 

Real food, in the broad strokes is making meat stocks to nourish you, and from these stocks, make soups to keep you warm and full in winter. It's about finding the best meat you can afford and eating that, but the cheaper, fattier cuts and the organ meats, the livers and the chickens feet, this isn't about lean cuisine. I'm not interested in waistlines, though you will always lose weight when you switch to eating real food as you will ditch the processed, packaged 'edible food substances' on the way. It's basic, eat your veg, good unpasteurised milk full of good bacteria, cultured foods. In the old days we had buttermilk and everything was organic by default. Now we are scared of bacteria and don't have the freedom to choose where our food comes from. Its easier to buy a bottle of vodka and a packet of cigarettes than some unadulterated raw milk or cheese. 

I'm lucky to have grown up eating really well, my Mum made us a great dinner every day, stews, casseroles, curries, fish and fowl. On Sundays we had amazing deserts, always baked by her and she baked fantastic soda bread regularly. We were so spoiled that we wouldn't eat the bread once it had gone cold! We had vegetables, fruit and butter, always real butter. Sometimes those awful faddy margarines made their way onto the table, always to be sniffed at and swiftly replaced by the real thing. 

As one of a nation that seems to suffer far too many auto-immune diseases, I found myself in the grips of the misery of hypothyroidism three years ago. As my memory and concentration began to fail, where is my car, how do I use my phone? (no kidding) and the weight piled on, mainly to my face, and lets not go into the depression, I thought my life was ending as I seemed to be ageing faster than mayfly (the little things live but one great day). I was put on the meds, they made some difference. I started eating more organic food. I read about the GAPS diet and attended a conference that went into a of detail about why I needed to eat this way. Initially it meant giving up all grains (as unfermented grains are hard on our digestion), and eating lots of organ meats, drinking meat and chicken stocks and eating raw and fermented foods. I went home and made my first loaf of nut bread (in my first book Bread on the Table) and followed the basic outline of GAPS, easy as I cook anyway and nothing was that unusual and everything is made with ordinary, everyday food. Within two weeks I began to feel better, brighter, happier, converted, more energetic. I haven't had a cold in almost a year. I went back to exercising, there was hope for me. 

When I embarked on writing this book I began eating fermented foods regularly. Sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, the 'real' special K's. It was then that I really felt the lights going on; better sleep, better energy, and, the best one of all, an almost total disappearance of PMS symptoms. I was so excited that I went on Facebook and talked about mu findings and swiftly began teaching classes in this life-giving way of preparing food. The classes took off and I took the show on the road to colleges and organisations and I'm delighted to say that I did some work with a family who have a child with autism, showing them the basics. When they contacted me recently to say that their daughter was thriving since introducing these foods into her diet, I felt really happy to be able to help. For more info on GAPS and autism read here

The best part of my personal story is, once my health returned to good, I returned to eating delicious sourdough breads and good grains, and now pretty much eat everything, though my taste for sugary processed foods never returned. 

My book features delicious foods from the real world, easy, accessible and delicious. I feel happy to have written it and I hope that it will be something genuinely useful and not a dusty volume just full of nice photos and never used. 

But you'll have to wait, until next year, sorry, that's how long it takes to edit, design, proof and re proof a quality publication. 

Meanwhile keep an eye here for up and coming classes, articles and events on real food and fermenting, the Autumn schedule looks busy already and I'll post classes ASAP. 

Meanwhile for real food in Limerick go to the Milk Market and the fantastic Urban Co-op 

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