Hello and welcome to Spiral Roots Kitchen, I hope you will join me on my journey where I will develop recipes and share them with you along the way. I would appreciate any feedback to help me perfect things for my upcoming cookbook!
When I first became vegetarian as a child I didn’t even know what a vegetarian was. I was very conscious of the fact that I was eating a living being and that it felt wrong, so much so that I could not bring myself to do it anymore. Being the 1980s, there wasn’t as much awareness of vegetarianism within mainstream culture as there is now, and it was many years before I even met another vegetarian; in the meantime, I had to put up with quite a lot of flak and being made to feel weird about my behaviour. It wasn’t until I was dragged to the Doctor about it that I learned the term ‘vegetarian,’ and the fact that I wasn’t the only one out there!
Although I was certain that I didn’t like eating sentient beings, I still wasn’t conscious about the other ingredients I was putting into my body, or even aware of the concept of a ‘healthy diet.’ I ate a lot of junk and processed food and was a vegetarian that didn’t like vegetables. I didn’t gain much pleasure from food at all: in fact, I viewed eating as a mechanical task that I had to do to not starve to death, which stands in such contrast to my experience in later years.
The beginning of my growth in awareness about the importance of healthy food – and the experience of enjoying eating it – really began first with falling into the world of green festivals, and also with moving to the vegetarian and vegan dominated town of Brighton in the mid-1990s…finally, my weirdness was cool and catered for! The festival cafés continued to be a great inspiration for me for many years and were such a wonderful way to explore food. My favourite cafe back then was probably Buddhafields café, which inspired some of my first recipes as I tried to recreate the pleasure when I got home from my time in the fields.
The birth of my daughters in my early twenties, (1997 – 1998), really helped me get more on track with food: suddenly I was responsible for these beautiful little people which provided the motivation for me to get stuck into learning and applying a new way of being. The first recipe book I owned was a vegetarian mother and child book which taught me about the benefits of making my own baby food rather than shop bought jars, which in turn introduced me to my first food blender. From there began a gradual transition into healthier eating.
I had developed an awareness of what was healthy and what was not, but it still took many years to fully transition to the mostly healthy side of things. I still had some cravings and bad habits that followed me about, but I was continuously learning and building upon the foundations of the healthier path which continued to grow with me until the unhealthier things kept just dropping away. I am human and still get cravings for sweet stuff! I find that keeping a good stock of ingredients to hand helps to reduce the amount of convenient junk food I consume, by enabling me to throw together indulgent treats at the drop of a hat, in the healthiest way possible. All my recipes are dairy and refined sugar-free.
My career in cooking began very spontaneously around 2004 when I was offered a small café space in Kensington Gardens in the North Laines of Brighton. This town was the vegetarian & vegan capital of the UK and the North Laines was the vibrant & alternative cultured area of the town where it was all happening! I had recently been getting into juicing and superfoods, as well as being in a town that was fully embracing & championing raw foods, so I decided to open Uddagunanas Organic Cafe & Juice Bar.
Uddagunanas was like a healthy greasy spoon cafe, which reflected my own diet at the time, serving veggie and vegan cooked or raw breakfasts, homemade healthy burgers, fresh vegetable juices, smoothies and raw salad platters. We were very vocal about promoting the use of local, organic and friendly produce. I grew some of the vegetables and salad ingredients on my allotment as well as sprouting our own sprouts in the cafe. Our eggs were from a local rescue centre called Hen Heaven, run by Linda who rescued battery hens and used the eggs to fund their care until they died natural deaths. She even named each chicken and gave them funerals when they passed away: you can’t get much friendlier than that!
Uddagunanas was a busy and lively community hub with a great vibe and wonderful staff which unfortunately had to close when the landlord suddenly sold the property. However, it was a great learning curve to be thrown into the deep end like that with no previous experience of catering, let alone setting up and running a business.
Raw food was much more basic back then than it is now, but I will still include some of the old raw food recipes from Uddagunanas in my cookbook and on this site. I have expanded my raw food skills since those days, particularly with regards to the sweeter side of food, but I must admit that the movement has surpassed me and I still have much to play with and learn, which is exciting! I’m still in awe at the amount of creativity & drive that has gone into the raw food movement since it’s early days. I have a lot of old pamphlets and magazines with recipes in from the early 1990’s and it’s really interesting to see how it has evolved.
My further experiences of working in catering include being a school dinner lady for a while. I also did some crew food catering at festivals before starting to work with a friend who set up the Tarner Community Cafe, run from inside a Council & NHS owned children’s centre. The community café offered very low cost nutritious meals due to the overheads being swallowed up by the council. It was great to be able to address food poverty and apply my skills to serving the community, particularly through introducing children and young mums to simple nutritious food. I focused on expanding the vegetarian & vegan side of the menu and introduced the same salad system that we had in Uddagunanas, including a children’s raw finger food platter for them to play with and sample.
The Tarner Community Cafe has a basic menu but the main attraction is the specials board which we changed every week, with 2 or 3 different vegetarian/vegan choices, (as well as 2 or 3 meat choices.) This really gave us both a chance to expand our repertoire and learn new skills, as well as keep things exciting for the customers. We used local produce as well as getting much of our supplies from Infinity Foods Co-operative. We also did some outside catering from this kitchen, ranging from council meetings to weddings in a field. We later offered work placements for people with learning disabilities to gain experience and build confidence to enable them to find employment. Unfortunately, I had to stop working there in 2012 when a medical condition flared up forcing me to slow down in life, which brings me to my current life chapter.
Since 2012 I have found myself on a big journey to improve my health and wellbeing whilst getting to grips with a chronic pain condition. The nutritional approach to healing has made some positive differences: I would encourage anyone struggling with their health to really focus on their diet and spend some time adjusting and transitioning to a better way of sustaining their body, giving it all it needs to heal anything that can be repaired. The body has great abilities to self-heal if you feed it the right stuff and learn to love yourself.
As much as I am a champion of healthy food, it is not the only important aspect of health and wellbeing. I have focused much of my energy in the last few years on my mind and spirit to help heal and regulate my nervous system, something we all easily overlook in our quest to stay healthy or recover from illness. It was certainly an area I had neglected over the course of my life: even at the beginning of my illness I was more focused on foods and supplements than I was on the emotional and spiritual side of things. Emotional wellbeing is so important to both our physical health and to the regulation of our nervous system which drives everything. Which brings me to writing this cookbook.
I have spent much of the past 6 years isolated from my usual busy social & work life. Being disconnected from, (and not being able to contribute to), society is not conducive to emotional wellbeing. As much as I have come to a place of acceptance regarding my situation, and am able to feel grounded and good enough just as I am, there is still a pervading feeling that I am missing out on the world and that the world is missing out on me! My skills have been laid to waste!
After a smooth run of better health, I woke up one morning, made my usual pot of herbal tea and sat with the back door open listening to the rain, watching it drop from the leaves of the big tree. I felt really grounded and at peace with the world. It was then that the idea of the cookbook manifested again and from that day I started writing notes every time I prepared food. The passion for developing new recipes was reignited, engaging the creative part of my brain once again. It felt so right and I feel so ready for it!
I wake up with a sense of purpose and place in the world. I have been operating from the heart through an act of self-love as well as a need to share. The project has taken on a life of its own; I’m just doing the admin duties for it as it all unfolds! After one year of engaging with this project and watching it develop and grow, I now feel it is ripe enough to start sharing it with you all. I’m starting to feel reconnected with the world and ready to serve you from Spiral Roots Kitchen, prepare to be nourished.