Is it still okay to be saying Happy New Year in the second week of January? Well, I think so, so here it is: Happy New Year Food At Heart-ers.
It’s a natural time to look back over 2016 and think about some of the things you’d like to do in the year ahead. Between Brexit and Trump, 2016 was definitely one of big change politically. Whichever side of the fence you sit on with these issues, I think one positive result is that people are paying attention and getting more involved in a way many haven’t been previously.
I’d therefore like 2017 to be one of even more awareness and consciousness, but doing this in a way that makes life joyful and fulfilling – particularly in the face of much current doom and gloom. It’s okay to agree or disagree with what’s happening, to care deeply or to sometimes feel despondent about wider changes, but I think it’s also important to remain optimistic.
In my own life, I want to try as much as possible in my daily life to feel happy and make other people feel happy. Even on a very small scale, paying more attention can make a difference to happiness. For example, I get immense pleasure looking out the windows on cold winter mornings and seeing the glistening ice freezing the grass and tops of the hedges. It’s so beautiful, and even Donald Trump becoming US President doesn’t this that away.
In 2017, I want to continue doing more of what I love, such as the pleasure of seeing other people create and enjoy good food. And I want to do less of the things that have the opposite effect, like staying up too late working on my laptop. I would like this year to be one filled with feelgood flavours and mindful moments.
To kick off the year, I’ve spent a little time thinking about some of what I learned last year and my aims for the coming year. I hope you will join me in creating many feelgood flavours of your own.
What I learned in 2016
Surrounding yourself with great people is important
A lot of last year for me was about trying to work out, deep down, what I wanted to create through Food At Heart. Sometimes it’s daunting running your own business and trying to find solutions on your own can be challenging. Fortunately I have a wonderfully perceptive and supportive husband, and some great friendships that have blossomed over the last 12 months. I was also lucky enough to have the chance to go to India on a business retreat with The Happy Startup School in early 2016 and that was a big turning point for me. Having good people around me has made a really big difference, especially ones that make me laugh and are happy to receive my cooking experiments.
Getting clear on what I care about: conscious eating
In 2016 I ran a number of cooking events, talked with many people and tasted a lot of chocolate. Coming out of the year I’ve realised that what I really care about is helping people foster a more conscious way of eating. And I still put myself in the group of people I want to help!
My view of conscious eating is that it is a very personal journey, but one that does have a wider impact. It involves learning which foods and flavours make you feel the best (and this is a little different for different people), but also thinking about where that food has come from.
- giving attention to food in the moment to truly enjoy the taste, as well as after that moment to listen to your body’s reactions; and
- considering the wider impact of food choices.
We do have a responsibility to look after our planet as well as our own bodies, and, in my opinion, the two are very much connected.
In our hyper-connected world it can be hard to give ourselves the time to completely focus on what we’re putting in our mouths. Ultimately poor eating habits can play havoc with our health. But actually, it also takes away some of the pure pleasure of eating. I’m still astonished by the pure delight of eating a small piece of in-season organic cherry tomato slowly and with care. And then trying another piece with sea salt or perhaps a squeeze of lemon. The change in taste is significant and it’s these little moments of pleasure or discovery that we miss when we’re rushing through our meals or eating mindlessly.
Taking things a step further: actual Food At Heart food
2016 was also the time I sold my first products to the public. This was a big leap as previously I’ve only given food as gifts or shared them in my classes. However I’ve always wanted to make food more professionally, and so it was very exciting to get the opportunity to make some cakes for a new vegan cafe in Pinner. I also had my very first market stall at Druid St Market in Bermondsey, selling chocolates.
It has made me want to learn more, get better, refine my product selection and to sell things more regularly – so keep your eyes out as I’m planning to have a few things available on my site and I will also have a monthly stall at Druid St (all with some fun Food At Heart flavour combinations of course!).
What I’m committing to in 2017
Eat at least one meal a week in quiet and with concentration
This is something I touch on in my cooking events; we always spend a few minutes eating some of the food we’ve prepared in complete silence, paying close attention to flavour, texture and taste. However I haven’t been carrying out this practice regularly enough at home.
I love reading, so will quite often read a book or magazine while eating my breakfast, or watch a bit of TV while eating lunch. Last week I sat at the table with a bowl of beautiful pea and mint soup, slowly sipping little mouthfuls while sitting in peace and looking out at the garden. It was very therapeutic and I knew when I’d had enough. It was also a little extra delicious noticing the different layers of flavour and a great remedy for a cold and drab day.
To eat when I’m hungry and drink when I’m thirsty
This sounds simple enough, but it’s very easy to eat at set meal times out of habit or eat too much because food just happens to be there. In the past I was normally very hungry when I woke up so would eat breakfast straight away. These days I’m not always particularly hungry first thing, so rather than just continuing with early morning eating I try and wait until my body feels it needs food (and to only have a light breakfast if that’s what I want). However I’m not always successful at listening to this, so I want to get better.
My first commitment is also kind of connected to this one. Growing up we were expected to finish what was on our plate. This is okay if there isn’t too much to start with, but, particularly when eating out, the portions can be too large for me. I hate to waste food, but it’s more important for me to get better at listening to my body and stop eating at the right time. There might be a little food left on the plate (though I often ask to take it away if there’s a lot), but my digestion thanks me the next day when I don’t overdo it.
Have lots of fun and joy cooking and eating
I love cooking, but didn’t always made enough time to cook for pure pleasure last year. This year I want to improve the situation and make sure I give myself times that I cook just for fun. As much as I love Instagram, cooking isn’t always about creating a perfect Instagram-ready meal.
I love experimenting with new recipes and ingredients, and want to keep playing around with them. Sometimes they will work their way into my classes or own recipes, but sometimes it will just be more me to enjoy privately at home.
Part of this joy of cooking includes continuing to build my own skills. I love learning and I get inspired by going to other people’s classes; it helps me improving my own cooking, gives me ideas and lets me see how other people teach. As I mentioned above, I particularly want to improve my chocolate making skills and get more consistent results when tempering so this is one area I’m going to be working on (and enjoying!) a lot.
What else you can expect from Food At Heart in 2017
Regular articles and recipes
I’ve decided to try and simplify my life a little and I also want to make a few more videos, so am going to streamline my posts and make sure they come out at regular times. I’ll share an article and a recipe a month, and these will always pop up on my site on a Monday. They will be interspersed with new Feelgood Flavour Friday videos, where I’ll share the latest news, conscious eating tips and my favourite seasonal food and flavour combinations that I’m experimenting with.
Opportunities to help you on your own eating journey
This year there will be more Food At Heart cooking events: I really enjoy cooking with people in small groups and will continue to offer these each month in central London. I’m also planning to run some larger events (which won’t involve making food, but there will still be something to taste!) and will start to share some of the elements of my events online for anyone interested, but can’t make it in person. I want to be as helpful as possible, so would love to hear about any areas or events you’re particularly interested in.
An honest reflection of what I’m up to
It’s important to me that I keep things real. I sometimes use my ‘posh’ camera for photos and at other times I just use my phone. I like to eat porridge for breakfast, but I also love great quality dark chocolate. Sometimes I make a dish and it looks great, other times it’s not picture perfect looking but tastes really good. I want to share all these moments, rather than presenting a fully polished, finessed view every time.
Social media and blog articles are always going to have a level of editing (I’m pretty sure you’re not interested in how many cups of tea a day I have), but I do want to paint an honest picture of my life and what I’m up to. As with all lives, mine ranges from the mundane to the momentous, with many happy moments and some down times. I think it’s important to share the highlights and challenging moments – and to keep some moments as private ones. If things ever start looking too glossy, please just tell me!
This only leaves me to wish you all the very best for the coming year. I’d love to hear from you if you have questions you’d like answering or thoughts about what you’d like me to cover in future articles or events. And here’s where you can see what’s coming in the next few months.
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