{Real} Life in Balance

This year i’m keen to explore the concept of BALANCE a little more in-depth, particularly how it relates to food, exercise and health in general, and how we can use it to bring back a little more sanity in an overcomplicated world.

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to interview a few local women I admire and feel have achieved some level of balance in their lives. Each manages it in a different way, using a unique approach and style of their own, often while juggling many different hats. I also happen to know that they are all passionate food lovers and keen cooks!

I’m curious to know more though. What inspires them? What do they love to cook? How do they stay fit and healthy? Do they really think balance is the key?… I’m looking to uncover some really open, honest and enlightening answers, and hope you will enjoy learning from them along with me. If you know someone you think deserves to be interviewed, let me know!

To get things started, I think it’s only fair that I go first! So, here are my responses to the questions i’m going to pose to my interviewees, plus a few snapshots from my everyday life…

1. Favourite flavours? lemon, fennel, blood orange, real vanilla bean, cinnamon, anise, raspberry, fresh mint, chilli.

2. Your approach to food and eating well? I don’t like following rules and definitely don’t do diets. I’ve pretty much eliminated all processed foods from our kitchen and anything with additives or ingredients I don’t understand. I refuse to buy ‘low fat’, ‘reduced fat’ or ‘diet’. Organic, local, seasonal and ethical are all factors I carefully consider and i’m willing to pay more for my food to support it. For the most part, I eat in a health-focused manner, but when I do fancy something like a beautifully made, buttery croissant there is no guilt or regret involved. I think pleasure in eating has become an overlooked, but essential element to a healthy diet. We’re so caught up in nutrient values and what we think we ‘should’ be eating that we forget to stop and take the time to just enjoy our food, the company we’re with, as well as how it actually makes us feel.

3. Cooking style? Lots of variety, one pot meals wherever possible (fragrantly spiced tagines and pilafs are favourites, but I give most things a go!) I try to incorporate many different fruits, veges, legumes, alternative grains and small quantities of meat and fish in our weekly menu plans. As much as I hate to admit it though, with a 1 year old and nearly 4 year old, my kids have a big influence on what I cook, so you’ll often find healthful and home-made versions of pies, sausage rolls, vege/fish patties, fritters, pancakes, quiches, pasta bakes and bolognese. I also adore baking and involve my daughter whenever possible.

4. Pantry essentials? Good vinegars and oils; coconut oil/milk/cream; tinned chickpeas, beans and tomatoes; puy lentils, spelt pasta, rice (brown, basmati & arborio) plenty of oats and other grains (polenta, couscous, quinoa, amaranth, farro); wild caught tinned salmon and dark chocolate.

5. What’s in your fridge at the moment? Organic milk and eggs, Meredith sheep’s milk yoghurt, a big pot of stewed rhubarb, plum & apple. Gin-Gin grass-fed beef mince with plenty of veges waiting to be turned into a super-sized ragu (for the freezer – see question 10!)

6. Favourite cookbooks? Donna Hay’s Marie Claire series and Bill Granger’s books have all helped to shape my approach to cooking. Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion has always been my go-to reference book and more recently Jude Blereau’s whole food books have been an inspiration. I love cookbooks and can never get enough!

7. Magazines and blogs that inspire you? Donna Hay, Gourmet Traveller, Inside Out, Real Living, Kinfolk, Fete Press, Maeve, 101 Cookbooks, Orangette, Sprouted Kitchen, The Yellow House, The Kitchn, What Katie Ate, The Mindful Foodie, Foodie Underground, Beautiful You.

8. Coffee or tea? Coffee – but it has to be good coffee, and rarely more than 1 or 2 cups per day. I do love a cup of tea, though – rooibos, green tea, dandelion infusion or a lovely english breakfast made in a pot.

9. Signature dish? Risotto. Even if I was lucky enough to own a Thermomix I would still use the traditional stove top method. Stirring risotto is like ‘cooking zen’ to me, and a perfect excuse to have a glass of wine in my hand!

Left: Nic’s mood board full of autumn inspiration; Right: Mother-daughter baking (photo by Jessica Shaver)

10. Your ‘saviour’ meal when there’s no time to cook? If there’s nothing to fall back on in the freezer, or we haven’t resorted to our local gourmet pizzeria, my go-to options are:

  • Spelt spaghetti with olive oil, chilli, garlic, lemon zest and herbs, topped with pecorino & rocket
  • Turkish Eggs (with persian feta & spinach)
  • Pitango organic chicken noodle or minestrone soup for the kids

11. What nourishes you (other than food)? Lots of hugs, handwritten letters, beautiful cards, feeling organised, comfy PJ’s and slippers, giggles and smiles from my kids, sitting in a favourite café with my husband and a good magazine, catching up with my girlfriends, rare morning walks along the coast, celebrations big and small, lovely little details.

12. Exercise plan (if you have one?) Exercise has been a challenge for me since the arrival of baby no 2 and often ‘plan B’ has to come in to play! The hand-me down cross trainer that lives in our garage has proven useful for getting my regular (early morning) cardio-fix. I’m also a big believer in strength training and rely on the little hand written programs Pascal devises for me so I don’t get bored. I’d love to start running again too, but for the moment i’m happy with anything I can get.

13. Your thoughts on body image and how you feel about yours... I’m finally at peace with my body, but it’s taken a while. I’m a big believer in self improvement and creating the best version of yourself, but since genetics have given me a petite frame, I know i’ll never have long, model thin legs… and i’m ok with that! My body is strong and has carried me through 2 natural childbirths, so I think it’s pretty amazing. The desire to achieve a magic number on the scales before we can accept our body just doesn’t make sense to me now. My mantra is the french term bien dans sa peau… learn to feel comfortable in your own skin and live life with grace, elegance and acceptance of who you are at this point in time (flaws and all). Not always easy, but worth striving for!

14. I’m craving… the peace, solitude and order that seem to have disappeared since i’ve had kids! I’d settle for an uninterrupted soak in the bath with some candles and the company of a good book.

15. I’m looking forward to... celebrating my daughter’s 4th birthday the old fashioned way. Lots of delicious homemade treats, pretty handmade decorations and fun games!

16. Balance. Secret to success? Or myth? For me, it’s about getting back to basics, living life in rhythm with nature and the seasons and listening to your body instead of denying it. Balance means having the confidence to know when that extra scoop of ice cream will make your heart sing or when the small bowl of nourishing soup will satisfy completely, but the big dish of creamy pasta will weigh you down. Feelings of guilt or deprivation no longer control you. Thankfully, a sense of balance also allows you to experience indulgence and slothfulness for short periods, but before long you’ll be craving a bowl of beautifully dressed greens or wanting to get out and pound the pavement in order to re-establish your equilibrium (and you don’t even have to wait until Monday to start!) Balance may not be a quick fix, but it certainly is a secret weapon!

17. Favourite Quote “It’s never too late to be what you might have been” George Eliot

(or similarly, this one from one of my favourite writers F.Scott Fitzgerald.)

2 Responses to “{Real} Life in Balance”

  • eatmeetswest:

    Love love love this! Can’t wait to see more! 🙂

    • Nicole:

      Thanks for reading Bri! I’m excited to bring you some more points of view from interesting local folk (all who love food, of course!)