Welcome to episode #31 of the Reconnected.me podcast!
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My mum taught me to cook from a very young age, using basic ingredients, and cooking ‘from scratch’. We gathered food from the markets, our backyard garden, and local producers, and cooked mostly with what was in season and locally grown. We still used some refined ingredients and sugars in our homemade baking (and ate way too much of them!) but I learnt a lot about cooking with whole foods, and am thankful for all mum taught me in my early years.
When I grew up and started my own family, I worked hard to cook healthy, delicious meals – although I didn’t quite understand at first that healthy eating is more than just ‘homemade’. I ground my own grains, baked my own breads, cakes and biscuits, cooked with fresh veggies, and tried to avoid junk food – but my cooking still included plenty of sugar and refined oils and flours, and I didn’t realise this was damaging our health.
Despite my best efforts at healthy eating, I always seemed to be fighting exhaustion, headaches, food reactions, recurring colds, tummy upsets, skin issues and low weight problems. My kids had similar health issues, and my last two babies struggled with breastfeeding and cried constantly. I eventually decided it was food intolerances that were the problem.
My first attempt to ‘fix’ things was to cut out the foods that didn’t agree with us.
We got rid of dairy, wheat, sugar, and refined foods as much as possible. This seemed to help, and we saw improvements in our health. After eating this way for a couple of years I really wanted to share what I was learning, so I decided to start a blog. Quirky Cooking was born in December 2008, and quickly grew into a ‘go-to’ site for allergy friendly, healthy recipes, tips and meal plans.
In May 2014 I released my first cookbook, Quirky Cooking, which helped many people with cooking for allergies and intolerances, and taught how to substitute ingredients to suit their individual diets. It became a best seller, and is still a great favourite with Thermomix cooks!
However, in July that year we had a major setback with my son Isaac’s health.
He plunged almost overnight into depression, anxiety and severe OCD. (You can read his story here.) After much research we realised the importance of healing the gut as opposed to just avoiding problematic foods, so we began the GAPS diet. Within a couple of weeks we saw improvements. Within six months he was speaking to large crowds about how to heal from anxiety and OCD. Within less than a year he was off all medication.
I realised that all this time we had just been treading water, avoiding foods that made us feel bad, and eventually Isaac’s ‘bucket’ overflowed.
What we really should have been doing was dealing with the root cause of poor gut health!
We spent a couple of years working through the GAPS diet, and are now back to eating wholesome, traditional whole foods that have stood the test of time, and are perfectly suited to building up and nourishing the human body. How did our society stray so far away from these foods that have always been the mainstay of life and health? It seems crazy to me now, and I’m so glad we found our way back to eating the way our bodies were designed to eat.
Fouad is a wholefoods chef, writer, cookbook author and health educator from Quirky Cooking.
Fouad: My own health journey began in 2011. Back then I had reached a point where my health was deteriorating rapidly. Throughout my early life, I battled many issues, from obesity to allergies, recurring infections and inflammation. I saw many doctors and was told me that my conditions were incurable and would require constant medication throughout my life (for more about my story, listen to this podcast episode). As a new father, I experienced a lot of stress and anxiety, all stemming from my health issues.
How was I going to be the father and man I wanted to be when my physical being was so challenged?
It was a very difficult time and I didn’t really know how to turn my life around. What I did know however that the advice I was given was unacceptable to me. I could not believe that a state of disease and chronic illness was unavoidable. Though my mind was in a state of ever-growing despair, my heart knew that my body had the capacity to heal itself, but if only I knew how. At the lowest point in my health journey, amidst all the anxiety and stress, I knew to continue looking for a solution. It was then that I found whole foods.
Six years and more than 28 kilos lighter, I am a new man. I can tell you with absolute certainty: the doctors were wrong about me.
Following a whole food diet (a low carb Paleo-esque version) has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. It has allowed me to re-frame myself as a human being. No longer disconnected from my place in this world, I have a clear and self-evident framework with which I can live. Having been a professional food writer and restaurant reviewer for The Sydney Morning Herald, I decided to pursue a life in food. Over the years, I ran two whole-food pop-up restaurants, Chic Pea and Baraka that garnered a great following and helped me spread the word on healthy eating.
Jo – the original quirky – and I have been friends since 2009. We like to say that we came together over a shared hatred for margarine, but the real truth is that we both admired each other’s work. I had immense respect and admiration for what Jo had achieved with Quirky Cooking, having seen it develop from a small blog to becoming a safe haven for those looking for real answers about health. In 2016, we decided to join forces and write a cookbook together. The result was Life-Changing Food, a beautiful book that Jo and I laboured on for an entire year, and which became a best-seller even before it was released. It has reached tens of thousands of families and from the feedback we are constantly receiving, we know that the book has been instrumental in bringing health and cooking back into the family home. I couldn’t be happier with the result.
The Quirky Cooking crew, Jo Whitton and Fouad Kassab are back on the show, this time to talk all about their cookbook, “Life-Changing Food”.
In this episode, hear all about:
- How they decided to co-create and collaborate on this cookbook and how Foo became the other half of Quirky Cooking
- Why this is more than just a cookbook
- The Life-Changing food philosophy
- The importance of community
- Some key learnings from the creative process
- Their favourite recipes
- Lots more!
Find Jo and Fouad at:
Life Changing Food is available for order here.
Mentioned in the show:
- Reconnected.me Podcast – Fouad Kassab on Human Health and Knowing Thyself
- Reconnected.me Podcast – Fouad Kassab on Reconnecting with our True Nature
- Reconnected.me Podcast – Jo Whitton Takes a Deep Dive on the Quirky Side
- A Quirky Journey Podcast – Gluten – All You Need to Know with Dr Tom O’Bryan – plus Quirky Christmas Tips