Elenore Bendel Zahn: “Never let food choices identify who you are”
We've asked some of our favorite foodies to answer 10 questions about clean, green and healthy eating. This time we picked the brain of whole foods chef, stylist, photographer and organic gardener Elenore Bendel Zahn of Earthsprout.com.
What’s your food philosophy?
– Four things! 1: Make informed choices. Read up on agri-business, factory farming and basic nutrition. 2: Go with your gut, meaning: listen to your intuition while making food choices, and feed your gut with good bacteria. 3: Plant-passionate meals for the win. Who wins? The planet, you, future generations and all living creatures. 4: Have fun and enjoy the heck out of the things you choose to eat!
– I think an important point to make is that your personal food philosophy is always changing because you are always changing. I urge people to never let food philosophies or food choices identify who they are. That sure has been a journey for me, but in the end I am me, not the food I eat.
How much effort do you put into making greener choices in your everyday life?
– On a scale from 1 to 10? Probably 100, from a status-quo point of view. Sounds like a joke, but there’s a lot of truth in it. People are generally either super inspired by this passion or they just don’t get it, which is totally fine. My green choices are evolving as I learn more and more, but since the age of like 12, I’ve been an Earth champion.
– I’m not perfect by any means, and I do recognize that I sometimes have to loosen my own standards to stay sane. I like to say I’m taking the “green-ish” route. Raising two little ones, running a business and building a house—all these things while acting sustainably—can be nuts, but there are so many easy changes that makes life a little more “green-ish”. My world is eco-conscious and fits a modern lifestyle.
What would you say are the benefits of skipping meat and going plant based?
– Way too many to cover here. Skipping meat and dairy altogether, or cutting down majorly and only sourcing produce from animals that have lived or lives a truly good life is—to generalize—better for your body, for Earth and all the eco-systems, and for the future of our children.
What’s your current “food obsession”?
– Going into winter, I embrace the colder season by boosting my body with warm and nourishing foods. I’m super into starting my day with a savory breakfast bowl using my Veggie Stock Powder, miso paste, hot water and this and that from the fridge; like sprouts, roasted veggies, thinly sliced celery and cabbage, herbs, legumes, grains, greens and basically whatever I feel like. I top it with a drizzle of local virgin hemp or olive oil and some spoons of a dukkah or za’atar spice mix. It makes me feel so good!
What would you define as sustainable food consumption?
– I would say it’s many different things. Sustainable for your body means eating and drinking with the goal to keep you balanced and thriving. Sustainable for the planet could involve going plant based—at least for the most part if 100% isn’t in your cards right now; choosing organic and local as much as possible; buying groceries in bulk and at farmers markets to decrease the use of single-use plastic; be creative with your food and leftovers to make sure you don’t waste perfectly good produce; compost scraps… And the list goes on!
What are the biggest food/health myths that you’d like to bust once and for all?
– That “if one way of eating works for one specific person, it must miraculously work super great for me too”. While there are of course similarities, our bodies are so incredibly different and so incredibly wise. Be your own guru, while still making informed choices. I’m not saying: go live off coke and pasta if that’s what your emotional body craves, but rather: lean in deeper. What do you really need to feel, be and live in your truest essence?
What was your most recent “aha moment” when it comes to sustainability?
– It has actually been a big year for “ahas”. I’ve been a champion of “wasting less” in terms of not throwing away food for a long, long time, and we barely have any plastic in our house, but it was just this summer that the combination of the two really hit me. Buying organic, but not in bulk, means that the load of plastic coming into our home as packaged or wrapped food is insane. Even though Sweden has a great recycling system, it’s not enough to simply take that plastic to the recycling station. We must decrease the use of plastic altogether.
– So, we now get a weekly box of organic, un-wrapped veggies from Mossagården, and I buy our dry goods, oils and such from Gram, which is a fantastic bulk store in Malmö. Also, I always bring my own paper or cloth bags for any produce I get at the supermarket or at the farmers market.
Do you have any advise on how to avoid throwing away food?
– Buy less food at a time and do it more times a week, or subscribe to a weekly box of organic produce. This will push you to use what you have before buying more food. Also, store leftovers and batch cooked food properly in airtight glass containers to make sure they last as long as possible. Freeze fruits that are getting mushy for smoothies and give your food a longer life cycle. Let the roasted veggies from yesterday become a creamy soup or frittata, use them in your morning miso broth or throw them in a semi-warm salad.
How do you relate to the concept of cooking with in-season produce?
– I relate to it as the truth. To me it’s a very important part of sustainable consumption and eating. There are obvious upsides—like shorter transports and the support of small, local farmers—and it puts less strain on your budget, as in-season produce is cheaper. Your body’s needs also change with the seasons. In summer we crave lighter, cooler foods that hold a lot of water, and in the winter we want it warm, grounding and energy-packed. And that is exactly what Earth produces at that exact time!
What’s your recipe for a healthy, happy life?
– Have fun, go deep, be passionate, live your own truth, make informed choices, love a lot—and eat something delicious!
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We’ll post the recipe for the yummy soup (right pic) later this week!
Images courtesy of Elenore Bendel Zahn.
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