In 2010 my life as a cheese & specialty food shop owner was upended by a mystery illness…
By 2013, my symptoms had become much more acute and yet a diagnosis continued to elude me. Desperation and despair set into motion my discovery of clean eating.
Since then, I have taken a situation that felt punitive (having to leave behind the foods I built a beloved career around) and now aim to create beautiful, ingredient-driven food that is not only nutritious, but flavorful enough that it requires no explanation, no excuses, and no apologies.
In my specialty food shop, I was accustomed to having the most incredible ingredients at my fingertips. I could elevate most any salad with a shave of Parmigiano or crumble of tangy goat cheese; savory dishes were enhanced with umami-boosting bacon lardons or slivers of salty prosciutto, others enriched with a dollop of crème fraiche or splash of heavy cream.
What the hell was a girl to do?
I decided to look to the Cal-Med flavors I’ve always been drawn to: bursts of citrus, a well-placed briny bite of olive and depth-building anchovy paste. I discovered that heavy cream did not hold a monopoly; there were opportunities for coconut milk to seamlessly replace it in many recipes. I found that I could omit quite a large number of foods without sacrificing taste or texture, and it has changed my perception of food forever.
And what about the unspoken social implications of such an undertaking? Food is supposed to bring people together as we bond around the table; it’s where we connect! Eating differently than others can be polarizing and isolating. Even a single omission from one’s diet (such as gluten) can subject us to judgment, and I didn’t want to be viewed as one of “those” people.
So I set out to create a collection of recipes (just as I had done for years with fervor in my shop) that would free me from the daily hardship of wondering which foods I can eat. I wanted dishes that appealed to the senses, and were tasty enough to become perennial favorites, weaving themselves indistinguishably through daily life, a simple meal with friends, or weekend dinner parties.
The power of food should not be underestimated and optimal health simply cannot be achieved while ignoring the nutritional component. So with your health and happiness in mind, my goal is to inspire you to cook with ingredients that fortify your body while exciting your palette. Somewhere along the way I have fallen in love with clean eating and I hope you’ll join me!
Today I have a diagnosis of ME/CFS, a multi-system disease that impairs metabolic function, and am unfortunately, mostly housebound. I have the support of my wonderful husband and the same obsession with food I’ve always had – now expressed through my new love of clean eating. I also have the incredible honor of volunteering for a renowned scientist who is dedicated to cracking the code on ME/CFS, so the millions of us worldwide who suffer can get back to leading full lives.
What's with the anti-hippie sentiment?
It’s a rebelliousness against stereotypes – hippie being an umbrella term for whatever label someone might give me. Going clean was a big departure for me and I knew my friends would think I’d lost my mind, and would label me as high maintenance, a faddist or… a hippie. I don’t accept that. And whatever picture one might conjure up of twigs and bark as what clean food looks like, I hope this space will debunk that stereotype.
Which foods do you avoid?
My diet (and this site) is free of gluten, dairy, sugar (including coconut sugar), corn, soy, peanuts, pork, processed or cured meats, additives, artificial sweeteners and caffeine. I also eschew all gluten replacements which are high glycemic or devoid of nutrition, and I eat only limited amounts of tomatoes and potatoes.
For the sake of brevity, I don’t specify organic in my recipes, but I do stick to mostly organic produce and eat strictly organic poultry, wild-caught fish and grass-fed beef.
Do you make exceptions in your "clean" rules?
Yes, you may notice that I bend the rules a bit when it comes to dark chocolate, mayo, sriracha and cream sherry.
What's your stance on "cheating"?
The unexpected lesson learned in my transition to clean eating is how drastically the lines between nourishment and indulgence have become blurred. They’ve become virtually one and the same. With the typical American breakfast consisting of simple carbs and boatloads of sugar, lunches of greasy burgers on white bread smothered in catsup, and energy bars comprised of the same ingredients as a cookie – it’s a troubling and insidious culture in which we live.
I now make the distinction, mostly choosing to nourish my body with nutrient-dense foods and occasionally opting to ‘go rouge’. And when I do… I totally go for it! (We’re talkin’ In-N-Out Burger or warm gooey salted chocolate chip cookies). I don’t allow any treats that are masquerading as healthy food into the mix. I’ve learned that our bodies know the difference and try as we may we cannot outwit our bodies.
You don't REALLY consider yourself morally superior, do you?
No, don’t be ridiculous!! Okay, maybe just a little.
Let’s be honest, it takes dedication and determination to adhere to a clean diet, especially when your energy is as compromised as mine. There are zero trips to the drive-thru in a pinch, and everything must be well planned in advance so I don’t find myself in a pickle, without suitable food on a particularly challenging day. So, do I occasionally feel a bit virtuous, bordering on self-congratulatory — just a titch. (And so should you!) But mostly it’s just something my husband and I joke about. Because we think we are funny. You should always marry that (one) person who thinks you’re hilarious!