Friday, July 29, 2011

When Home is... Eating Well. An Interview with Cookbook Author Kathleen Gandy

It’s Sunday morning, you’re about to face the weekly grocery shop but you are 10 weeks pregnant, feeling sick and tired. You love cooking and food but you can’t bear the thought of meat or standing over the stove for hours preparing meals. You barely have the energy to make it through a week of work, let alone a week of cooking dinner.

Or, it’s Sunday morning and you have to somehow squeeze in the grocery shop between kids soccer games, ballet classes and birthday parties. You remember the days when you spent weekends reading through cookbooks, preparing dinner parties and meandering through farmers markets with a coffee in one hand and a bunch of flowers in the other. Now you are struggling to think of meal ideas beyond spaghetti bolognaise. Anyway, who has the time?

It’s a dilemma everyone faces during the years of pregnancy and raising a young family; even cookbook editor and author Kathleen Gandy who has always loved cooking and turned her passion into a career.

‘I always loved reading as a child, applying for my first library card when I was five and I always loved food. My mother is Cantonese and I grew up surrounded by that food culture. Later when I went to boarding school the food was awful: boiled chicken, boiled potatoes, boiled cabbage. I’d look at it and cry. When I’d go home in the holidays, mum and I would plan our days around meals rather than activities.’

After working as a recipe developer and food writer, Kathleen joined Gourmet Traveller’s food team. Then she fell pregnant with her first child. While researching what she couldn’t eat she decided to focus instead on all the foods she could eat.

‘There were so many different cuisines. I had never been a “food is fuel” person and even though I suffered morning sickness I still looked for pleasure in my cooking. As Nigella Lawson once said “there is no excuse to eat a bad meal”. I kept a food diary of all the meals I ate and felt like during the different trimesters of pregnancy and realised, while looking for different recipe ideas, that I wanted a book that celebrated all you could eat during this joyful time. I was completely overwhelmed by the What to Eat When You’re Expecting-style regimen of calculating and combining units of food groups.’

So the idea for a foodlover’s guide to pregnancy developed. Kathleen’s first book, Eating for Two, was published last year in Australia and will be published later this year in Germany.

‘The recipes were developed from the perspective of flavour first. All are simple and quick to cook as I found cooking smells difficult to deal with during both my pregnancies. I wanted the book to speak from a shopping list point of view rather than units of food, so at the beginning there is a list of pregnancy superfoods that form the basis of the recipes. They are the superfoods I still buy weekly.’

While all the recipes and information were checked by an accredited practising dietitian and written within the Australian food safety authority pregnancy guidelines, Kathleen emphasises that this is not a ‘health’ book as such.

‘It’s more a celebration of that exciting time in your life by highlighting all the fabulous things you can still eat. I approached my dietary needs of pregnancy through the eyes of a guts. I love eating; why should pregnancy be any different?’

And why should mealtimes with a young family be any different as well?

‘The recipes are very "family friendly" and have come to form the basis of my ongoing weeknight repertoire, as they are healthy and generally fast to prepare. My kids have particular favourites (I guess they got a taste for some of the flavours during pregnancy).'

Pregnant or not, particularly helpful are pages such as ‘Ten things to do with a packet of pasta’ or ‘Ten things to do with a can of tuna.’ Who has ever stood in front of their pantry wondering what to do with a lone can of tuna or realised that the pantry is bare aside from a packet of penne?

But if you are pregnant, it’s hard not to go past the ‘Ten quick fixes for morning sickness’ page.

‘The book is authentic to my food experience of my two pregnancies – I kept notes of recipes I created to deal with the different phases such as morning sickness, carpal tunnel syndrome, heightened sense of smell; and cravings (citrus was big, hence the citrusy salads). I also went through a protein phase, where I just wanted to eat loads of meat.’

After the book was published, Kathleen began a blog titled Next Week’s Dinner which tackles the stresses of menu planning. Working fulltime as a senior cookbook editor with a six-year-old and four-year-old who need to eat by 6pm, Kathleen quickly realised how organised she would have to be to get dinner on the table every night.

‘The blog came about as an extension of my life now,’ says Kathleen. ‘I am lucky to have 45 minutes to prepare dinner. There are no shops on my way home, so I have to know what I’m cooking beforehand.’

As she writes on the blog’s ‘About’ page, ‘On the spontaneity–stress-relief continuum, meal planning literally saves my bacon every week.’ The blog acts as a food diary, recounting the family dinners eaten each day and also how sometimes the plan goes straight out the window.

‘Rules are made to be broken – if my train is cancelled it might just be that we eat pasta on Thursday night instead of Friday, or say there’s a school event in the middle of the week, I may just dish up the re-purposed Sunday night leftovers then instead of on Monday.’

The blog is a great read for anyone who is sick of worrying about what to cook for dinner or has stood in front of a full fridge or pantry and feels like there is nothing to eat...

‘What is most important to me about the book and now the blog is that they are authentic and capture my everyday experience; how the daily act of nourishment and a love of good food intersects with family life,’ says Kathleen. ‘The two are not mutually exclusive.’

For more information about Kathleen’s book, Eating for Two, click here.
To read Kathleen’s blog, Next Week’s Dinner, click

Author Image by Richard Birch
Cover image, Eating for Two by Kathleen Gandy, photography by Mark O'Meara, published by Viking, RRP $35


Anonymous said...

Good article, i can vouch for citrus for morning sickness too. Will have to look at her blog, I really need to get more organized with my menu planning at this point! Lara loves those edamame too, I forgot about them. Manda x

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Kathleen would write another book titled 'Eating for One'. I have the same problem looking at my pantry or fridge without the 'morning sickness'!


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