The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of The Wholesome Cook
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born and raised in Poland and real food was always part of my upbringing. I grew up in and around Warsaw, the capital, and the city’s food scene was an interesting mixture of the old and the new. So you would have daily fresh produce markets, neighbourhood grocers selling veggies (I loved buying fermented pickles as snacks after school) as well as the modern fast food chains opening outlets in the city for the first time and big supermarkets setting up shop. It was a very interesting time in terms of exposure to the new but culturally we were still respecting traditions and cooking from scratch. Indeed, it was in one of my fifth-grade home economics classes that I learnt to make sauerkraut (recipe page 69).
I completed my high school studies here in Sydney, then dabbled in law and business administration studies before realising I needed a more creative outlet, so I completed a communications degree. Food, however, has always remained my true passion and styling and photography followed suit naturally and are a big part of what I do now.
2.What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I was around twelve years old when I first discovered my passion for cooking and the joy it could bring to others as well as me. On weekends, I’d rummage through the fridge, pantry and freezer then write up a dinner menu for my parents to order from. Then I’d get cooking.
Most of my fondest childhood memories revolve around food, family celebrations and meals enjoyed together. When I turned eighteen cooking was not really considered a career choice so I went off to do a whole range of things but none of them made me truly happy. It wasn’t until I got closer to thirty that I realised where my heart lay, and food became the main focus for me again. This time, having recovered from a junk food past that put me on the edge of obesity, I wanted to share my story and make sure that my cooking, the recipes I shared with my friends, family and readers were all about real food, (and an occasional indulgence).
3.What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
4.What were three big events in your life or the world around you that had a great effect on you and influenced your cooking?
Moving to Australia definitely opened my taste buds to a whole new world of food — fresh seafood and South East Asian flavour influences and ingredient availability — which I absolutely adored. However, it also introduced me to a whole new range of processed and fast foods. Despite a short-term infatuation with junk food in my early twenties, real food has been one of the most grounding forces in my cooking. I’ve realised it is the easiest single choice we can make for our health and well-being. Cooking from scratch and eating real food that’s best for our bodies with an occasional indulgence is a philosophy I’ve adopted after completing studies with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition — another game changer for me. It’s also a philosophy I now live with my family and share in The Wholesome Cook.
5.What are some dishes you wouldn’t eat as a child that you love now?
I was never a fussy eater: I thoroughly enjoyed tripe and liver and had fermented pickles as a snack almost every day. However, and I think many might agree with me here, Brussels sprouts were not really my thing. Our school diner used to serve soup filled with overcooked mushy Brussels sprouts that sent the pungent aroma permeating through the entire school. It was nauseating. No one was a big fan. I’ve since learnt to prepare them in a more palatable way. They are fantastic shredded into a raw slaw or gently charred, roasted or stir-fried (see page 111 for recipe). They are sweet, slightly nutty and delicious that way.
6.Please tell us about your latest book…
The Wholesome Cook is not a diet book or an eat-that-but-not-this book. It’s all about making a lifestyle change for the long term that suits you; it focuses on eating clean, real food that’s best for you, most of the time. It contains over 170 refined sugar-free recipes for how we eat now — the bioindividual way. What it means is that every recipe has a gluten-free option and many come with options for other dietary needs such as diary-free, paleo, vegetarian and vegan. Many are also egg- and nut-free. They are all delicious.
As mentioned earlier, I was brought up with wholesome food — packets and processed food weren’t allowed in our house — but when I hit my twenties, I fell in love with junk food. The result? Within a year I had piled on 20 kilograms and when I stopped fitting into my favourite work suits that ran out at size 14, I knew I had to make a change. It wasn’t the size or particular numbers on the scales that scared me, although they helped make it real, it was the threat of being technically and truly obese that made me decide enough was enough. I needed to take back control of my cravings, my weight and my life. But I wanted this change to be permanent. And so, I went back to basics: the basics of eating real food.
7.If you had to create one dish to show off your repertoire, what would it be?
It would most likely be Pulled Lamb Nachos (page 240) because they are a simple slow cooker number that uses deboned shoulder — a secondary meat cut from pasture-raised animals. Both have become fashionable terms, but having grown up with a grandfather who was a butcher and uncle who had a cattle farm, this kind of sustainable nose-to-tail eating was commonplace in our family. It is something that had, perhaps, waned in popularity but is now starting to see a comeback.
The dish is a favourite with the kids and most of our guests who have tried it are really pleasantly surprised with the use of lamb and a few additional tricks I’ve learned over the years to make the junk food to wholefood makeover easier. It’s served with a good choice of fresh salads, good fats from the avocado and probiotic-rich yoghurt instead of sour cream. Even the corn chips are plain — a little indulgence without the junk.
8.Whom do you most admire and why?
I always find stories of those who have made a sea change inspiring, especially those who have done so to grow real food. I admire the courage it takes to drop everything for a simpler (if not necessarily easier) and happier life.
9.Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
My goal is to create a ripple effect by highlighting the merits of eating real, wholefood while at the same time acknowledging that we are all a little different and no single diet fits everyone the same, no matter how fashionable it may be. My goal is also to teach our kids that being able to cook real food from scratch and listening to their body is not hard, nor does it have to be super expensive or time consuming. I believe it’s a skill that will set them up for life of real nourishment. While I will continue to share recipes on the blog, I would love to write another cookbook/wellness guide focused on the benefits of eating well seasonally.
10.What advice do you give aspiring chefs?
Never stop exploring and learning. Practical experience is invaluable, whether it’s through travel, eating out, working in a restaurant kitchen or a farmer’s market or by helping out with animal-rearing. And always keep an open mind to fuel your creativity.
Thank you for playing, Martyna.
The Wholesome Cook
These days we all want to eat the kind of food that doesn’t compromise on flavour or health: clean wholefoods, fresh fruit and vegetables, pasture-raised meat. But it’s also true that what works in your diet for you, may not work for someone else. In The Wholesome Cook, talented cook and award-winning blogger Martyna Angell offers 170 nutritious and delicious recipes that are endlessly adaptable, cater to dietary restrictions and inspire lifestyle changes.
Every recipe is gluten – and processed sugar – free with an emphasis on wholefoods, and many also accommodate dairy-free, nut-free, paleo, vegan and vegetarian diets. These recipes are all about options … Read more
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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