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  • Michelle

Of Food and Farms

So the first thing you should know about me is that I am all about food. I have two food manufacturing businesses, cooking is my hobby and growing my own food is something that makes me so happy.

We are not farmers, here on our farm, we are what the Americans call Homesteaders, in the words of Tom Good from that wonderful old English sitcom The Good Life, we work at the job of life, and I think, that at the core of it, that is what homesteading is all about.

I consider myself the farm’s wife. I am not a farmer. I am not a farmer’s wife. I am the farm’s wife. I look after its budget, work on its fences, plant its plants, tend its animals, protect its trees, clean its house, yes, it is very much like a second marriage.

On this farm I run two food manufacturing businesses, Convalita Farmhouse Foods, born in my farmhouse kitchen before the Cookie House was built, and Convalita Gourmet. Convalita Farmhouse Foods is mostly preserves, and I will show you later in the year how to jam and bottle and sauce, Convalita Gourmet is baked goods, gorgeous pies and cakes and puddings.

One of the things I specialise in with Convalita Gourmet is gluten free, dairy free, nut free baked goods. My interest in cooking for food intolerances came about a couple of years ago when my own health became a problem. I suffer from asthma, hypertension and arthritis (legacy of a mis-spent youth). At one point I became so ill that my doctor began to talk about the renting of an oxygen tank to drag around with me! I was horrified! How could I ride Big Gwyn (motorbike), or Sandy Cleverly (horse), with an oxygen tank strapped behind me? Something had to be done, so, being a food person, naturally I turned to diet.

I have always followed a whole food diet, you tend to when you live the lifestyle that we do, so I began with an elimination diet, following the Whole30 framework. Well, you could have blown me down with a feather when within 48 hours I was starting to breathe more easily and move about more freely and the wash of tiredness I carried morning, noon and night began to ebb away. Okay, so, by the end of the 30 days I felt so healthy I was bouncing around like a twenty year old and boring everyone within earshot about my amazing discovery, but then came the hard part, figuring out what triggers my asthma and my arthritis and not only eliminating those things from my diet but, much more difficult, swapping them out for things that I can eat THAT WILL REPLACE THE NUTRIENTS I HAVE ELIMINATED!

So it turns out that I can not have dairy, not any dairy, a lot of people who are lactose intolerant can eat hard cheeses, or yogurt or lactose free milk, or butter, I can’t even eat ghee, clarified butter, without triggering my asthma first and then paying the residue of the bill with my arthritis later. I can’t tolerate grains, not even rice, in fact rice will make me sick faster than anything else, can’t eat oats or wheat or barley. I can tolerate a small amount of quinoa and a small amount of baking powder (which usually contains rice), but even that can make my ribs ache for days. I can’t eat soy unless it is fermented, or vegetable oils apart from olive, avocado or coconut (is coconut a vegetable? Or a giant nut?), I often think I am like that old joke by P.G Wodehouse, glass of water and a dog biscuit, except I couldn’t eat the dog biscuit.

So this set my feet on a whole new path. A very classically trained chef learning to cook in a whole new way. Of course there are so many things out there for people like me these days, whole aisles at the supermarket full of foods catering to various allergies and intolerances, but they are often full of ingredients I, even after thirty years in food, do not recognise, cannot eat, are expensive and all too often, yukky.

Why should we not have delicious, amazing food that is affordable and incredible and looks great and is good for us? We can. It is all about getting back to basics, back to our kitchens, and our gardens (if you are that way inclined and have the space).

Welcome to the Cookie House, come join me on my hobby horse and we shall explore food and the game of life.

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