This week we asked our regular contributor and recipe wizard Gemma Taylor shares her passion for food and clears up some urban foodie myths
Interview by Anna Langer
Food is everything to me, I have a passion for and fascination with it.
On a personal level there's not many things in life that give me as much satisfaction as feeding good food to people I care about. It sounds cheesy but cooking is a lifelong journey of discovery, often challenging and very hard work but equally fun and rewarding. There's so much to learn it's never ending, perfect if you like a challenge as I do!
The bigger picture is that food is a fundamental human need like water and air, and yet it is so much more that even that. Food is life, love, family and friends. Food is nature, the environment and how we choose to live our lives. Yet also food is society, politics, history and economics! Its a reflection on who we are and how we live and it fascinates me.
I'd always loved cooking but never thought about it as a job, until I fell in love with snowboarding and headed straight out to work in the Alps once I'd finished university. A chalet girl job just seemed the obvious choice for me, who'd have thought I'd spend the next eight years working, snowboarding, cooking, travelling and eating my way around the world?! I loved every minute of it and had some of my most treasured experiences with my bestest of friends, and met my wonderful man.
I wanted to learn more about the produce that grows on my doorstep, buying local and seasonal is not only beneficial for the environment but often means great produce at a good price. My boyfriends parents were also always dropping by with bags of homegrown goodies and it was a challenge in itself learning what to do with a glut of courgettes and chard or how to use traditional British crops such as gooseberries and blackcurrants. I've just taken on my first allotment and can see my enthusiasm for growing my own is going to be quick to develop, it feels like another new adventure.
Buying local and seasonal is not only beneficial for the environment but often means great produce at a good price
I love the outdoors and nature so that inspires me to try and make the right choices when and where I can. Although I sadly no longer live in the mountains I still enjoy getting out into the countryside for big walks and recently I've been giving mountain biking a go too, there's some fabulous terrain for both in the South East where I now live. Also there's often foraged ingredients to collect which I'm always on the look out for and am learning more about all the time - what's not to love about free food!
I love how food has the power to evoke memories in an instant; a good Greek salad always takes me straight back to the beach in rural Greece where me and my best friend worked for a summer on a turtle conservation project, I was 18 and had my eyes opened the world for the first time; mussels to the first time I visited France aged 13 on a French exchange trip, eating them in a tomato ragu from a big communal bowl on the dinner table and dunking in chunks of crusty French bread; super noodles to New Zealand to a freezing cold house where I was staying whilst spending a season snowboarding in the south island and we lived on them as they were so cheap!
One common misunderstanding about food is that carbs are bad for you, a legacy from the faddish Atkins diet.
Morocco is one of my favourite countries to travel and I'd love to learn more about Moroccon cooking, maybe I'll take a cookery course next time I visit... And I still haven't been to India which has been top of my list for a while! Closer to home I love eating out when I have the chance especially in a new pop up restaurant or eatery London. The variety on offer is amazing and I've been loving the recent trends for tapas, middle eastern inspired dishes and Mexican street food.
To stay healthy follow your instinct! If you're not hungry don't eat and try not to keep unhealthy snacks around the house or at work. Lots of fruit and vegetables, a decent amount of whole grains and some protein is the key - if you are eating enough of the right stuff there isn't much room left for junk food! One common misunderstanding about food is that carbs are bad for you, a legacy from the faddish Atkins diet. It is better to avoid white refined carbohydrates if you can but whole grains should form an essential part of our diets as they decrease the risk of many diseases and are great for you in so many ways. Next time you're out shopping opt for the wholemeal bread, brown rice and brown pasta!