You just have to measure it against yourself and see what works for you. It’s been really challenging with my mum. She had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass last year. The doctors prescribe cholesterol lowering drugs, but Natasha’s body of work says that cholesterol is not actually the cause. Because it’s at the site of the clogs, it’s deemed the cause, but it isn’t the cause. The cause is inflammation of the endothelium, which is the lining of the vessels. The body’s response to inflammation is to send cholesterol to the site of the issue and when the inflammation continues the cholesterol keeps going out and eventually clogs occur. Cholesterol itself is not the issue, our body needs cholesterol.
So the idea would be to reduce the inflammation?
Yes. It’s to look at why there is inflammation and what are the causes. The thing that predominantly causes inflammation is the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates and refined sugars. It’s also everything in our surroundings that is toxic and we have filled up our lives with: products, even the things that we put on our skin … Whatever you put on your skin, consider it food. It’s not a barrier, your skin; it’s a means of getting stuff in. They now put drugs in creams and they are absorbed quicker. All the other chemicals we use around the house and on our clothes and on our windows and cars, and then there’s all the plastics … You can get terribly depressed; I mean, I have. One of the things that attracts me to the idea of traditional foods and eating is that it’s tried and true. It was working for a very, very long time. There were things that didn’t work, but it wasn’t in the food sources and it wasn’t in the chemicals. Pre-Industrialisation, people didn’t have the same issues. They couldn’t have the same issues because they didn’t have the choices that we had. A major problem for us is that we’ve just got so much choice; it’s really hard. There’s so much information that we have to really go within and trust an innate knowing above a ‘you must’ or ‘this is what you should do’. We are so used to people saying, “You should do this” or, “You mustn’t do that.” It’s a shame.
So what keeps you busy these days?
Right now I’m running cooking classes from my home in Palm Beach and in Bondi Junction (Sydney). I also do some cooking for a few clients because I love to cook. I don’t want a restaurant, but I like to have a few people I can feed. I like the autonomy of deciding what they are eating. I go out and shop for what looks best and most beautiful. I buy really beautiful meats and then I make them up. I’ve got some beef cheeks I’m about to cook in red wine. I like winter cooking, it’s good for that. I also work with people who have been diagnosed with serious illness and either teach them, or their carers, ways of using the foods they’ve been told they need to be eating.
What if you disagree with what they’ve been told they should cut out?
Well, I had a job in Hong Kong at the beginning of the year for three weeks, cooking for someone who was incredibly ill. He was under a doctor from the States and eating a pretty much raw diet, which is not what I think is a good idea, but I respect that it’s the client’s choice to do what they feel is best for them, so I made raw food. Whole foods have incredible potential for being delicious and nutritious, if they are treated right; but if they are not treated right they’re ghastly. A badly cooked grain or bean is not digestible and it’s not nice to eat. There are things that traditional cultures did to food which have now been backed up by science, that really make a difference, not only to what’s available from the food but to overall digestion. Simple things like soaking them with a bit of lemon in the water. Soaking’s a really big thing for nuts, beans, seeds and grains. Nuts have a lot of tannins and they are termed ‘anti-nutrients’ which means they take nutrients from your body for your body to be able to digest them. Nuts, seeds and grains have acids on the outside so they will pass through the digestive tract intact and still sprout. Soaking removes that. It’s all about having a greater understanding of what’s going on; although I like it, as you can tell, from a non-scientific, more practical, more what makes it delectable perspective, rather than ‘it’s got this much vitamin C’, though those things are important too. When I wrote Nourish I …
How long ago was that?
It was published 10 years ago and it is currently out of print. There are a few on Amazon. I really wanted, and I still want to, make wholefoods a ‘sexy’ option. I thought if I had a book that was more Vogue it would entice people who probably would love the food, but wouldn’t go to a book that was more ‘whole meal’ looking. It was really important to me that it looked really beautiful. I’m about to look for a publisher for my second book which will really be looking more at traditional food and the what, why and how.
You mentioned to me last night that you feel like you’ve ‘come home’, in what you are doing.
I do. It’s interesting. I’m 51 and when I was younger, there was that view of driving yourself outwards … I was recently doing an amazing job setting up a retreat centre. It was an experience of working in a way that was, for me, a perfect expression of who I am, what’s important to me and what I have to offer. I had an experience of myself in a way that I’ve never had, where I really got myself. I got my value, and I got that I am knowledgeable, that I am great with people, that I love people and I love seeing people inspired by what they can do for themselves. Last night, when somebody said, “I can do this”, that’s music to my ears. I just love that. The job finished in a very strange and abrupt way and I thought, I can’t have had that experience for nothing. There must be something in it that I can draw from. I looked at all the things about it that made it fabulous and it was that I was in my space – well, in a space that I had created the way I like to have it, with everything that I need to just create and to be myself. I was the centre of attention for periods of time, which I clearly like, and I’m obviously a teacher. I can’t help myself. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the health food shop or at a bus stop, if the opportunity arises and I know something I think will make a difference, I want to pass that on. So I thought, I’m going to run classes and I’m going to run them from home. I’m also running them from Bondi Junction because I know there are a lot of people from that area that won’t make it to Palm Beach. I’d much rather be teaching them from Palm Beach because I know that here, it feels completely natural and unpretentious, which I really like. It’s authentic. What I would love is for people to be around the table more. There’s a lot to be said for returning to sitting around the table and talking. My bigger, longer term vision is to have a property where people would come and I’d feed them; it’d be a community of people. When we live in a community and we’re connected with other people, life is so much more enjoyable. I learnt that having a child, doing it on your own or doing it with one other person doesn’t work. I love the idea that it takes a whole village to raise a family. So that’s my bigger picture: to be on a property with a group of people. I don’t want to live cheek by jowl. I want to have a home, a dwelling, on a property where there are other like-minded people. At some point it will be the right thing to do and this feels like a very nice step towards that.