You may not have noticed this but last week I celebrated 1 whole year of posting on this blog. Woo! I marked it by updating and reposting the recipe that first led me to this blog when it was being looked after by Alicia and Arifa – Coconut Fruit and Nut Bars. If you struggle with elevenses or the 3 o’clock blues then I urge you to make these bars. They’re very satisfying, have no added sugar (not even honey! Just dried fruit, the amount of which is entirely up to you), and don’t pretend to be anything else – they are entirely they’re own thing, so you’re not disappointed to find that your Paleo-ified muffin is NOTHING LIKE an original muffin.
But back to the blog post at hand. What have I really been up to over the past year? I don’t think it would be exaggerating to say that taking over this blog has changed my life. I was already starting to go down a new trajectory anyway as I had started the Naturopathic Nutrition course at CNM, but when I started to write for a wider audience I started to realise that there was a lot more that I wanted to do, and my full time job was getting in the way. I’ve written here and here about leaving my job so I won’t bore you again, but I thought this would be a good chance for me to let you know how I’ve been spending my last year.
Natural Chef Course
In order to make sure I had no choice but to leave my job, I signed up and paid for the (quite expensive!) brand new Natural Chef course at CNM. I’ve always loved cooking (obviously) but had never really thought about making it into a career. But I knew that if I left my full time job, I would need an alternative way of earning money in a freelance or self-employed capacity. So when this course was advertised I thought it was a good chance to get another qualification and give me a source of income the following year while completing my second year of nutrition. In actual fact it’s opened up quite a new world of opportunities to me. The course itself had a bit of a bumpy ride for the first few months – not surprising for a brand new course that is the only one of its kind in the UK. However, most of the chinks have been ironed out and the latter part of the course is going really well. I’ve certainly learnt a lot of new things; in fact, interestingly enough, when I took over this blog I decided that I probably wouldn’t post too many recipes because I never really come up with my own. I thought I’d use this as a platform to talk about things I read or listen to, and although I have done that, I’ve realised that with a bit of guidance I actually am able to develop half decent recipes! I realised that being a Natural Chef will set me apart a bit from all the other Nutritional Therapists that will qualify alongside me. There are a lot of NTs in London (someone told me the other day that she had ten NTs offering their services on her small high street alone!), so having an edge will be great. I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with it but I’ve got a better idea than I did at the start of the course. To complete the course I have to undertake 100 internship; I’ve already done some of those hours with Kate Waters, private chef, and with Ceri Jones at a yoga retreat, both of whom have inspired me to explore those avenues over the next year or so. I’m planning to do some more hours in a restaurant over summer, to get a real feel for what working in a restaurant is like, just in case I love it (I doubt it, but worth trying!).
Obviously my nutrition course is still going on and I’m enjoying it more than ever. I had a bit of a rocky start in the first term, in which I left two assignments and studying for an exam to the last minute. It was stressful – exactly what I was trying to address when leaving my job! – but I got through it, scored high marks for all, and realised that I’m not very good at managing stress. The second semester has gone better – the materials is really interesting, observing clinics is fascinating, I don’t feel completely lost all the time, and I’m marginally more organised for the third assignment. I’m not doing everything brilliantly well, but I’m managing.
I answered an advert towards the end of last year looking for editors for the the Primal Eye, the UK’s only Paleo magazine. Contributors are mostly British, and the articles are really good, especially when they’re directed at the British audience. I’ve said it before, and I’ll said it again…we’ve come a long way since I started Paleo in 2011! Anyway, I was hired, and have been editing articles since. I had a bit of a rocky start, in which I didn’t really manage my time particularly well and rushed some articles (yes, it really showed!), so I gave myself a good talking to, bucked up and set aside an hour or two a day, four days a week, where I look at Primal Eye articles. It’s very rewarding, because I’m reading some really fascinating articles which I would otherwise not give myself the time to read. I’m also meeting some new people with similar interests, and I’m becoming interested in things I didn’t know I was even remotely interested in. I got a bit of a kick when I saw an article on Robb Wolf’s website written by Diana Rogers of Sustainable Dish, in which she referenced an article by Caroline Watson, which I had edited. The Primal Eye is hoping to go to print later this year, so look out for that – it’ll be awesome to have a UK counterpart to the US’s Paleo Magazine.
I’ve started getting opportunities through the blog which is very exciting. If you’ve been wondering why I’ve suddenly become very prolific in my recipe posting, it’s because I was commissioned to write some recipes for a nutrition website, and allowed to repost them on my blog. It was a fantastic chance to develop some new recipes and hone my recipe writing skills. I’ve had to think a lot more carefully about flavours and whether or not a dish is something worth replication. Again, it’s been very rewarding!
Becoming Less Paleo
It’s been an interesting year to write a Paleo blog because…well, I’ve become a little less Paleo than ever before. Perhaps it’s a direct result of writing the blog or perhaps it’s the influence of differing perspectives on my two courses, but I’m starting to realise that a lot of food that is not allowed on Paleo actually agrees with me…and some food that IS allowed on Paleo doesn’t. Besides, I was getting a bit tired of the fact that a lot of Paleo-ified foods (i.e. the sweet stuff) end up being made up of pure white starch; almost as refined as the original versions. There are some gluten-free flours that are technically not Paleo (buckwheat, gram flour) but are highly nutritious, and make damn better pancakes or samosas than pure white tapioca and potato starch! I’m still not really brave enough to experiment much with those flours although I’ve learnt some interesting techniques with them at the chef course, but they’re there for me in the future, and I don’t freak out if I choose buckwheat pancakes from the menu for brunch! Don’t get me wrong, I have a packet of both potato and tapioca starch in my cupboard, and they do have a place in some cooking but it’s the vast quantity that is used in some baking recipes that bothers me slightly. I find some corners of the Paleo world to be a little bit hypocritical. That’s not to say I want to divorce myself from the world – there are a lot of awesome people doing awesome work there – but I want to be realistic about what eating well really is about. I’ve gone into my evolving perspectives on Paleo here and here so I won’t do it again in this blog post. Suffice to say that there are plenty of foods in my diet now are not Paleo, but way healthier than when I was purely Paleo. I guess you might say that I am 80/20 Paleo, in which my 20% is made up of non-Paleo, but very nutritious food (rather than five years ago when the 20% was made up of Mars Bars and packets of crisps!).
I’m still feeling my way around what I want to do now I am no longer in full-time employment but it’s been an exciting year, and if I look back on what I’ve done and what I’ve got ahead of me, I can only feel that the decision I made a year ago was the right one!