As many of you know, I got back from the Oprah Cruise about a week ago, where the O Magazine team invited Impatient Foodie to do a talk! I had SUCH an incredible time on the cruise and I wanted to share my talk with you all. Please note that this is not the original version, so the Q & A section is not included. HOWEVER, if any of you have any questions, you can use the contact form on my site and it comes straight to me! I am always happy to help, find solutions, and offer advice/feedback however I can. Hope you all enjoy and OMG OPRAHHHHHHHH!!! (still can’t believe this all happened!)
And here is the transcript of the talk too, in case some of you want to read it, rather than listen!
Impatient Foodie started out of a place of desperation and confusion. I was a fashion model who had fallen into food studies accidentally (more on that later), and was trying to live by a certain set of ideals with regard to food that people call “Slow Food” or “The Slow Food Movement.” Basically, what that comes down to means eating locally grown, seasonal, organic food. But, frankly, living the Slow Food life in a fast paced, urban environment, like NYC, totally sucked. I found it to be confusing, overly-complicated, expensive, and time consuming. So, Impatient Foodie was born out of a tension within me: wanting to be good, but also being hugely annoyed by it. But let’s back up a little bit, so I can give you all some context around who I am and my larger story. I never set out to work in food or be a foodie. If you had told me just three years ago that I’d have a cookbook and be giving a food talk on Oprah’s cruise, I literally would have called you nuts.
My relationship with food started in the last place you would ever imagine: Working as a fashion model. But that was not a given for me and required a lot of adjustment because, as Oprah has said, “I LOVE BREAD.” When I was a kid, all I ate was bread and pasta. That’s all I wanted. My biggest food love was tortellini with pesto (which is my weakness still to this day).But when I turned 19, while I was attending college, I was recruited to be a model, so I had to stop eating bread and pasta at every meal because the financial upside of being unnaturally thin and almost 6 feet tall was too good to pass up.
It took several years of trial and error and a lot of cooking fails, but eventually I nailed a culinary style that put delicious food on the table that was also healthy and enabled me fit into sample sizes. I focused more on integrating vegetables and lean proteins into my diet, but I absolutely did not ban my beloved bread and pasta. My cookbook and my brand, Impatient Foodie, is all about eating food that makes you feel happy AND healthy. I quickly learned while I was modeling that if I tried to deprive myself, it would always, inevitably backfire. So, my cooking and eating style became all about modest diet swaps. For example, rather cooking up a full serving of pasta for myself, I take out about a third, sub in steamed spinach, add some lentils into my tomato sauce — Voila! A delicious meal where I got to have my cake and eat it too! I have a lot more tips and tricks to share with you at the end of my talk.
Modeling and teaching myself a new cooking and eating style was the first unwitting step in my foodie journey. The 2nd step in my foodie journey was maybe more unexpected than modeling: It took place at an Elephant Research camp in Kenya. While I was modeling, I had an “itch.” I had always been concerned about the state of the environment and health of the planet since I was a small child, and I also always loved animals. Part of me always played with the idea of becoming a vet, or maybe a zoologist, or an animal behaviorist…but fashion was taking me in the exact opposite direction, obviously. One summer, I decided to take a modeling hiatus and volunteer at an Elephant Research Camp in a region of Kenya, known as Samburu. The purpose of this summer was to see if/how I could fit into the conservation world. I was put in charge of running the camp’s “fridge” which was really just a thick, mud hut with a solar powered, incredibly loud and clank-y generator. I was also invited out with the animal researchers to observe and study the animals living in the Samburu Reserve. After several weeks of living in the bush among the wonderful Samburu Tribe, I realized two things:
- Watching animals all day is super boring.
- Humans go through an INSANE amount of food.
Running the camp fridge and coordinating shipments of food and supplies to our very isolated camp was the first time I had the thought, “Wow, if this is what 15 people are going through in a week, what does 15,000 look like? What about 150 million? What about 1.5 billion?”That thought was a seed that was planted deep in my brain and would not get water or sun for another year.
Fast forward about six months, I am still modeling when the itch returns. I don’t know what to do about this itch, but I decide that going back to school will probably provide some answers, so I start to look into graduate programs. On a whim, I applied to a 2 year, Master of Science program out of the London School of Economics, thinking I would never get in. I got in. And honestly, I went into the LSE with a lot of big ideas about the world and my place in it. I wanted to learn about human health and sustainability, I wanted to go into climate conferences and give speeches that would rouse everyone to their feet and bring nations of the world together in friendship, compromise, and agreement. I was going to save the planet! Looking back now, I realize this is obviously totally narcissistic, naive, and millennial of me. And I think there’s a saying that goes something like, “for however high you rise, you’ll have to fall” or something like that? That was certainly true of my time at LSE. Week by week, my courses and professors chipped away at every single one of my ideals and beliefs. I ended up feeling depressed, ambivalent about everything, and out of control.
I had to build myself and my morale back up by focusing on and asking myself what I could control. The answer is: not much. BUT, I realized that I do have an incredible amount of autonomy in my food decisions every day. Furthermore, I came to realize that my meal choices had a tiny little impact, every day, at least 3 times per day on larger issues I really cared about, but that also felt completely beyond me and out of my control: Things like water scarcity, the health of our planet, biodiversity, human health, human rights, animal rights, the health of our oceans, etc. I ended up writing my Masters dissertation on the subject of food, which means I got to do a deep research dive into food systems, food politics, and all things food for more for 6+ months.
I left the LSE and came home to NYC vowing to be “the perfect foodie”: I shall always eat local, I shall always eat seasonal, I shall always eat organic. But how long do you think that lasted? I had an unpredictable schedule, lived far away from a good farmers market, and lived in a very small one bedroom apartment with a tiny fridge and freezer that could fit one high heel in it. One day, while I was fighting my way through the crowds at NYC’s biggest farmers market, I started to tear up. WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO BE SO HARD? For a long time, I went to the farmers market and grocery store with ZERO joy. I hated the experience of it, yet I also hated myself for hating it. I wanted to be better, more patient, but the reality is that’s just not who I am. I was totally ashamed of myself and felt like a foodie fraud: How can someone want to participate in something they know is important, but also feel like it’s a total drag and resent it? There was nothing I could find on the internet at the time (2011- Spring 2014), that spoke to me so one day, out of desperation, I built it myself.
- My goal with Impatient Foodie is this:
- To serve up Bon Appétit Meals in Buzz Feed time. Recipes that are delicious and healthy and easy, fast, and require minimal dishes. I am always grounded in reality, never idealism or aspiration.
- Impatient Foodie also aims to give people information about food and food products to help them make informed decisions that align with their concerns and values.
In my view, much of the food world and conversation has become very precious. Impatient Foodie understands the value of a delicious, healthy meal without the fuss about it. Here are some of my favorite Impatient tips (none of this is sponsored and I am not paid by any companies I mention, they are just things I really like:
- Banza pasta is the bomb (high in protein and fiber, great texture and taste, takes to sauces well).
- Concerned about the environment? Eat less meat. BUT you won’t feel deprived with new food companies coming online like Beyond Burger.
- Make tomato sauces creamier by adding in pureed cashews (raw cashews blended with some water). It’s absolutely luscious and delicious. One of my favorite hacks.
- Use vegetables in everything, even your desserts! My cookbook has recipes for things like Beet Velvet Cake and Upside-Down Blood Orange Parsnip Cake.
- Snacks are definitely your friend, as long as they are the right kind of snacks. I always have multigrain toast, hummus, carrot sticks, celery sticks, almond butter, and trail mix in my fridge and pantry. This means any time I have an urge to have a bite between meals I can have carrots or celery with hummus, or hummus on toast, or toast with almond butter, or a handful of trail mix.
- Make use of your prepared food section at your grocery store. My food basket is often a combination of fresh vegetables, grains, and prepared foods like roasted chicken and pre-made lentil salad. I have actually created a week-long shopping list and week-long meal plan to get you through 21 meals in the week quickly, deliciously, and healthily – Impatient Foodie style! (Stay tuned readers, this is coming your way too! Working on it now.)
- When it comes to desserts, try mochi. Mochi are tiny Japanese ice cream balls and I am seeing them in more and more stores these days. It’s the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth, but also keep quantities modest.
- Kimchi – easy dinner with rice and an egg on top with some strips of seaweed nori! Very lazy fast meal/dinner.
- Grated cauliflower makes an EXCELLENT risotto – check out the recipe on p. 41 of my cookbook. It’s a winner and crowd pleaser.
- Protein is really important. Too many of us, women in particular, are skimping on protein. We’re upping our salads and decreasing our intake of meats, fish, and dairy. That is no good. Protein is essential to our health AND to building lean muscle AND to helping our bodies not feel starving. I try to eat vegetarian as much as I can, so I get my extra protein by having a vegetarian protein shake, or putting lentils on my salad. There are lots of easy and delicious ways to get protein from sources other than animals, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan.