Hi fellow food lovers. I’m Susan – AKA the Kiwi Cook – from, you guessed it… the best little country in the world – New Zealand (Aotearoa). I live in Levin, a large town within the Horowhenua District (in the lower half of the North Island) – in a beautiful area nestled between the ranges and the west coast. The photo above is looking out from the top of the lower ranges (yes, I actually managed to walk up there!), out over Levin and towards the sea.
New Zealand is a melting-pot of indigenous Maori and settlers from all around the world. My Dutch father came to New Zealand along with the first wave of Dutch immigrants in 1952 and married my Kiwi mum. Her forebears arrived in the mid-late 1800s from England, Ireland and Scotland. So, I’m a Kiwi-Dutch-British-Irish hybrid – a rather interesting mix! As you can imagine, the food I grew up with reflected those cultures and mum (as the chief cook and bottle washer) deftly combined them into a perfectly coordinated repertoire of meals.
Unlike my mum, who had to learn how to cook quick-smart from the age of 18, I seem to have started late in the game. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’d tell you how surprised they were when I started a food blog at the ripe old age of 50! Yes, I ate food (all too well).. but as much as possible, avoided cooking it. Any time spent in the kitchen was a necessity rather than a calling. However, when my old oven died (actually it had been dying for years and all I really used was the stove top) and I was forced to get a new one (well, an old new one), I suddenly discovered the unadulterated joy of baking. No-one was more surprised than me!
A few years on, and the passion for cooking and baking hasn’t subsided. What has changed along the way, though, is my food philosophy. When I started out with this blog, I just wanted to make anything and everything – I was like a kid with a new box of toys. I joined The Daring Kitchen to help me expand my repertoire of skills and, one by one, knocked off all the dessert classics – pastries, breads, cakes, French baked custards (my favourite!). I was in culinary heaven; only problem was, my body didn’t agree. Food sensitivities turned into allergies and I started growing my very own muffin-top (oh how ironic that term is!). My doctor told me I had insulin resistance. Clearly, things had to change.
So I began to read voraciously about food and health and realised just how intertwined the two were (I mean, duh, right?). Along the way I became aware of a real shift in food awareness happening ‘out there’, much of which has been brought about by people who, like me, have been forced to eat differently for the sake of their health. This shift moves beyond simply eliminating or reducing problematic foods from your diet – rather, it’s about consciously choosing foods that are inherently healthy and eating them in their raw, or ‘whole’, state in order to retain their vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
Curiosity led me to try some of these whole-food recipes I was seeing in books and blogs. In particular, I was intrigued (not to mention sceptical!) by the idea that desserts and treats could actually be both healthy and delicious, and was enormously surprised to discover that, by and large, it was true (yes, it does require a little reconfiguring of the taste buds, but before long you’ll find the new level of ‘sweet’ more than sweet enough). I also noticed that as I brought more natural foods into my diet I was feeling increasingly better; my weight was going down and my energy was going up. I finally admitted to myself that there was no turning back, unless I was okay about heading towards chronic ill-health later on.
So… where does that leave me now? Well, I can’t pretend I’ve achieved Saint-status. However, I avoid, as much as possible, the foods I know I have a problem with – i.e. gluten-based products, refined sugar, packaged foods. I eat very healthily through the week (lots of fruit & veges, nuts & seeds, meat, eggs and organic yoghurt), but indulge a little on the weekends – that’s when I get to enjoy some of my favourite (albeit less than healthy) desserts or bakes! I try not to ‘should’ on myself, or feel guilty if I’ve over-indulged, but I do try to move towards increased health and well-being and, for me, food is at the heart of that.
So that’s me… Thanks for taking the time to read about my food journey. I hope you feel inspired to go and cook something delicious and share it with the people you’re closest to. After all, that’s what’s so great about cooking, isn’t it…
Cooking is love made visible