Just how I can't really do yoga because I simply don't have the temperament for it (I tried it for a whole term and I just could not get past thinking how stupid it was or other things I would be better of doing - I'm actually quite jealous of people who can enjoy yoga and get something out of it), several people looked at me askance when I said I was going to an evening about food and 'mindfulness'. Having any interest whatsoever in anything associated with the 'mindfulness' movement is so contrary to my personality, I'm surprised I even accepted the invitation to join The Mindful Kitchen for an Easter dinner last week. But do you know what? I came away from that dinner feeling truly happy and calm, but still intellectually stimulated for the first time in a long time.
Let us re-wind for a moment to talk about The Mindful Kitchen. The idea is to talk about sustainability and how you can connect with nature, through food. One of the co-founders, Heather, has a similar origin story to me: growing up around good food, learning from a very young age where your food is grown, and being in the habit of cooking everything from scratch. Then, arriving at university in a big city and realising that many of the people around you have never even seen a cow, and has absolutely no connection with their food, we both felt like we wanted to do something to help people learn about the food on their plate.
The Mindful Kitchen have teamed up with The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch to put together a series of events at the hotel, and the evening I was invited to was a mini preview of their longer 'Spring Fling' Easter workshop and lunch they're running this weekend as an Easter alternative. You can find out more about the event here.
For the workshop taster portion we did a few different exercises (I tried to think of a different word for 'exercise', because I know that does not make them sound as fun as they actually were!) to get us thinking about eating seasonally, sustainable farming and where our food comes from. I won't give them all away as they're part of this weekends event, but by way of a little taster in pairs we did an exercise that made us think a bit more about our wine.
Now, I know most people when it comes to wine are not like me (cheekily learning about wine production and visiting vineyards around the UK and Europe when I can), you know what you like, buy what is on offer from the supermarket and you're done with it. And that's okay. But something really simple you can do is think more about the words you use when discussing your wine. We were given some (delicious) bio-dynamic Italian wine to taste/ drink while we worked, and two piles of cards. one with wine words on, and the other with 'mindfulness' words on. Then, we had to match them up. There were no right or wrong answers, but deciding why you wanted to match the words 'house' with 'human knowledge' or 'toast' with 'gratitude' really did, for me at least, help me feel more connected to what I was drinking. When I entered a winery for the first time in Spain a few years ago, I was knocked backwards by how much skill, love and care goes into each bottle of what we consider cheap supermarket wine here in the UK, and it has made me appreciate every wine I drink more as a result. This exercise had the same effect, but on a much more attainable level.
After the exercises we talked a bit more about future food security over delicious fermented beetroot juice and local gin cocktails, before supper. Did you know, if food waste were a country, it would be third to the USA and China in greenhouse gas emissions? Or that the average Brit tosses £60 worth of food every month? Or that if all Americans ate only locally sourced food once a week, for one year, it would be the equivalent of taking 72 million cars off the road? One of their workshops will certainly give you food for thought.
Our light supper was delicious. I was more than slightly addicted to our hyper seasonal savory course of a smoked carrot tartar, topped with a lovely raw egg yolk, locally made feta and Jersey Royal game chips. The idea was to use up the scraps of the carrots that are usually thrown away, but now it has me wanting to go down the route of a veggie tartar at home. Perhaps some sort of heirloom grain bowl, topped with the roasted carrots (still finely chopped) with the yolk on top to break into a sauce? Regardless, they guys at Hoi Polloi (the hotel restaurant who partnered for the event) really know their stuff.
Dessert was equally delicious, roasted forced rhubarb (it is literally at the end of its season), topped with a lovely stout ice cream (and this is coming from someone who is not a Guinness - or any other type of stout for that matter - drinker) and sourdough crumbs. A great balance of flavours and textures, and while a bit more familiar as an English dessert, it still had enough interest for it to come across as a curiosity.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Mindful Kitchen. Hygge, mindfulness, yoga, none of those things are for me, usually. I'm a slightly obsessive political researcher who spends most of her free time building a food business and writing cookbooks, but I loved the workshop and felt calm and happy at the end of it. Even if this sort of thing is not for you, give The Mindful Kitchen a chance.