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Vegan Batch Cooking for a Healthier Menopause, Interview with Brigitte Gemme

Updated: May 4


AP: Hello and welcome back. I've decided that from time to time I will start inviting some guests who have helpful information to contribute to our topic of vegan menopause. On today's show, my guest is Brigitte Gemme of Vegan Family Kitchen. Preparing meals at home is vitally important when we are trying to improve or maintain health in perimenopause. It's the only real way that you can control the ingredients that are going into your body. This is especially important if you are trying to limit salt, certain types of oils, gluten or additives that you may have sensitivities to. Or on the flip side, you may want to be using high quality, locally grown ingredients that you select yourself from the farmers market. But cooking can seem like just another stressor to add to a never-ending list of tasks.

Luckily, Brigitte provided some easy strategies to make vegan batch cooking more organized and less intimidating. I hope you enjoy the interview.




Brigitte Gemme preparing vegan food
Photo: Jānis Hofmanis

Brigitte Gemme is passionate about helping more people eat more plants. She loves to empower others to take charge of their health and live in line with their values. She is the author of the Zen Inspired book Flow in the Kitchen, Practices for Healthy Stress-Free Vegan Cooking. On her website, veganfamilykitchen.com, she teaches workshops about all aspects of plant based cooking and nutrition. Her meal planning clients know her as a batch cooking wizard. Previously, she worked as a sociologist and research manager in academia. Aside from a PhD in education. Brigitte obtained a certificate in plant Based Nutrition from the University of Guelph. She lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two kids, all of whom are very active and always hungry.

Welcome, Brigitte.

BG: Thanks so much for having me. It's great to see you again.

AP: Yeah, you too. In my view, cooking at home is super important. Just to have that control over the ingredients in your food that will ultimately determine your health. BG: Absolutely bang on.


Why home cooked food is superior to convenience food

AP: So these days it's so easy to just hit a button on your phone and have food delivered. What are your thoughts on the impact that has?

BG: Oh, I'm so sad. I mean, I, I hate to be a nostalgic kind of person, but I really feel that we're on the edge of a transition where maybe like a hundred, 150 years ago, we went from a situation where most people were growing food, maybe not all of their own food, but a substantial part of their own food.

And we've definitely moved away from that for the vast majority of people unless they're doing like a lot of gardening or living on a farm. But, and I don't mourn that very much. I come from a farming background. I know it's a really, really hard life. There's a lot of uncertainty about what you're going to eat if you're depending on the food that you're growing. And from a planetary standpoint, it's a lot more efficient to have like more concentrated farms. I get that. But when it comes to cooking, we're currently going through, I am afraid, a similar situation where I don't even know how many people in their 20s have cooking skills anymore, have this idea that the default is to cook at home as opposed to getting food that's ready made either, you know, ready made, processed, packaged, you know, TV dinners they used to say in the 50s bought, you know, from the store or food that's ordered in from the restaurant.

And I see that in my audience where I find that many people who follow me now tend to be older because they have those cooking skills that if they've inherited from their from their parents often. So people in their 50s and 60s, but definitely the the younger people have a greater distance between them and and cooking. There's a lack of confidence or even just like, yeah, it's just taken for granted that food is something that other people do. And I'm quite concerned about that because when we outsource cooking, as you were saying, it's control, but control in a good way. You know, the food you eat is the control is what your body becomes like this. All the cells in our bodies are made from the nutrients that we've ingested.

And let's just say that the large corporations and even medium corporations that control that food that is made in restaurants that is sold in grocery stores as as pre packaged, processed or whatnot, their top interest is not to grow our health. And even sometimes if they speak that language and they may even have good intentions, but at the end of the day, they're companies and they have to make money. And so in terms of how they make their decisions about what's in the food. And one example that I find really vivid for me, like I'm, I'm not immune to this. I have to, I don't especially like cooking. OK, I come out like I cook every day for my family. But and, and I have a cooking website, but I don't really like, love cooking. You know, there's some people that get really excited about trying a new recipe. That is not me. I cook because I think it's really important.


Brigitte Gemme batch cooking
Photo: Jānis Hofmanis

AP: Oh, that used to be me. I would read cookbooks like a novel.

BG: I do enjoy reading cookbooks 'cause I learn techniques and things from them, but I don't like you don't get me excited. I hey, let's get together and make macarons on a Saturday. I'm like, no, that seems complicated. But so Friday night, like many people, I may not exactly feel like cooking. I feel like I've put a good effort, you know, Monday to Thursday and now can I get a break, please? And I think, oh, I would love noodles. I love, you know, those long kind of ramen noodles or udon style noodles with maybe a peanut kind of sauce and tofu and vegetables. And I have this vision. There's a a noodle place close to where I live. And then I think for a second about what it's going to be like and what it's going and what the dish would look like if I make it. And I know for fact that if I buy it from the store, there's going to be a lot of noodles. And yeah, they're great, but there's going to be like a few little pieces of tofu. And I love tofu, so I like a lot more tofu than that.

And there's going to be like maybe 2 slices of red pepper and like this tiny little floret of broccoli and, and that's it. And if I make the thing, it's going to be way heavier on the vegetables. I love my noodles, but there's going to be proportionally fewer noodles, you know, by weight relative to the rest and a lot more tofu and my version will be a lot more nutritious. And I'm going to, I'm not against oil completely, but I think we way too much oil and restaurant food and way too much salt just because it, it talks to our subconscious. You know, we, we love fat, we love sugar, we love sodium. Those used to be nutrients that were really hard to find for, you know, prehistoric humans. But here we are. We have plenty of access to that. And now we just drown our food in the stuff. And so I know that if I make it and it's not even going to take that long, you know, it takes maybe 30 minutes from top to finish to prepare that dish. It's going to be so much more nutritious.

But yeah, I could push a button and wait and scroll my phone or, you know, go through Netflix while I wait for the food to come. And I would be the loser in that situation at the end of the day. So I'm, I'm really hoping to instill in others this idea that we can do it. It's doesn't have to be difficult. It doesn't have to be complex. But we win so much more. We gain so much more when we make the food ourselves and not just in terms of nutrition, partly in in terms of taste that we need to sometimes re-adapt to food that doesn't taste like fireworks, right. Because, as I was saying, so much salt, so much fat, so much sugar, but also the satisfaction of, of the love we put into it and having having made something.

And you know, if I, I know a lot of people during the early days of COVID when we were all cooped up at home, that all of a sudden became DIY, you know, kings and Queens because you know, you need to replace a fixture in your house or you need to fix some plumbing. And then you go on YouTube and you learn the skill and you do it and you feel so empowered. It's like, whoa, I did this myself. And you can get that same satisfaction from cooking even simple meals. And you eat the food and you're like, I'm so happy. And if you're cooking for other people, you get the privilege of nourishing those other people and, and helping them build their bodies and show up the best they can in life in the world. And that is also something that the people that make the food in restaurants and the, you know, manufacture food, manufacturing, processing plants, they don't have that really at heart quite in the same way. And the love that we put in the food is also of tremendous value.

And we should keep that, keep that in mind and continue putting it in the food instead of just outsourcing it to people who frankly don't care. Let's just do it ourselves.

AP: True. Yeah. I feel that the younger generation is not exactly setting themselves up for good health with, you know, this convenience food and just having it delivered. It's also really expensive to do it that way. You can save so much money by preparing your meals at home.

BG: Absolutely. And I, I don't want to blame anybody for this, though, as a parent, my kids are still younger. But I realize how much pressure people people are under. We have so many obligations in this complex, weird, modern world. There's so much stuff coming at us. And I totally get the feeling of just wanting somebody to care for us.


Infusing Food with Love

And cooking, we know, is a way that someone can care for us. You know, our mothers and fathers have cooked food for us. We associate that with love. And so when we want to be taken care of, when we want to be pampered and we could even say, you know, we like somebody to cook for us, it feels really special. But really when it's food that comes from Uber foods or skip the dishes or whatever it is, it's doesn't have the same depth of care. And, and, and it cheapens that relationship, I find a lot. But unfortunately, that's kind of the point where we've gotten to with having all of those different obligations. And really, if we want to cook, we, and that's a big part of my my education work. We have to carve out the time to make that happen. And it has to be an intentional practice.

And it's not easy. There's a lot of conspiring forces that go against it and it, it, it takes a lot of work. And so I understand that. I know that it's a privilege that I have to be able to do that. I'm extremely grateful for it and I don't take it for granted. And so I, I don't want anybody to feel blamed or shamed if they're not cooking. I think we have to acknowledge all of these big forces that are working, working against it. But now that we know, how can we switch things around a bit and, and do better?

AP: Why do you feel so many people resent having to cook for themselves?

BG: Part of it is resentment, that's for sure. Part of it, as I was just mentioning, is just wanting someone to care for us through that really fundamental way of being nourished.


Food and Economy

But really we have to understand that the food that matters from the point of view of the big forces that drive the economy we live in is not food that's cooked at home, It's food that is outsourced. So what counts in the economy, what counts as part of the GDP, the gross domestic product, is whatever has a commercial transaction attached to it. And so when we buy groceries at the store and we cook at home, that chain is really short. If we buy food that we've outsourced from a restaurant, for example, there's a lot more opportunities for economic transactions and, and innovation and all of those things along the way that supposedly add value from an economic standpoint. And so from a, a global system.

And even unfortunately, if then you eat crap, oh, that's not loving you and you become sick, well, that's another set of economic opportunities for the Pharmaceutical industry and for all the caregiving that happens on a commercial scale, that is also part of the GDP. But the love that we put in the food is not part of the GDP. So I think there's that. And at the same time, another force that is conspiring against us cooking more at home, and that's the case especially for women, is that we've associated cooking the domestic sphere with largely motherhood, as I was saying. But the part of of feminity, femininity, yes. That is, that is not valued. You know, it's like in in French, there's a good example of this. The word cuisine in French, like the male chef is like a Michelin star, you know, restaurant that is, you know, a flamboyant artist, you know, creative power and everything. Cuisine. Yeah.

The feminine word is either the actual stove or the woman toiling at home, making somewhat mediocre food and feeding her people, but without any, you know, creative quality or anything like that. And I think globally we see and, and it's the same thing, by the way, for couturier is like Christians yard and Yves St. Laurent, right? And the couturier is somebody doing alterations. So we, we have that dynamic in French, but I think it's the same vision that many people have. If you think of a male cook and a female cook, you know, or in many relationships, we have the, the male partner in heterosexual relationships that will be cooking really cool, you know, food on the weekends and the female partner that will be doing the day-to-day kind of boring food. And that's undervalued. And so this idea that I'm going to be cooking at home, I'm going to be doing feminine work that is of lesser values. You know, women get paid $0.70 on the dollar compared to men doing the same work. We're really proud of a female astronaut.

And I love, you know, that women are going in space now and getting physics, PhDs and doing science. That's awesome. The work of feeding people food and growing humans is also very important. And we devalue that. So I think it's part of us sometimes feeling like, oh, cooking is below me. You know, I'd, I'd rather not get my hands dirty. I don't want to be the woman who cooks to some extent because that's undervalued. And unfortunately, we've incorporated those ideas and we're missing out on an opportunity to take control of our food in a positive way and and grow ourselves.


If you hate cooking

AP: Yeah, that's so interesting. What about for people who actually hate cooking? Do you have any advice for them?

BG: Yeah, once you understand why do I hate cooking? Well, it's because the economic system wants me to hate cooking. OK, So what am I going to do about it? Right.

Brigitte Gemme cutting chioggia beet
Photo: Jānis Hofmanis

To some extent, sometimes you got to fake it till you make it, you know? And you can pretend to be the kind of person who likes to cook, and I say that. But again, I'm not the person who likes to cook. I just know it's really important and I'm convinced of that and I've done enough research to know how important it is and to know how superior the home cooked food will be, even if it's less exotic sometimes. But I I know it's going to be better for me. So there's a rational aspect that we can attend, but sometimes we need to trick our less rational parts of us. And there's some, I mean silly things we can do to associate the cooking with a positive experience. As much as I like mindfulness as a practice in cooking and we can talk about that separately, sometimes it's good to dissociate ourselves from cooking.

And one of my favorite tricks is to have a power song for cooking when I walk in the kitchen. Because often, as I said, I don't feel like cooking, but I tell my smart assistant, I'm not going to name them because they're listening, but I, I say, Hey, so and so could you play this song? And it's my cooking power song. I even have a power cooking playlist that I can ask for and it will start shuffling and it gives me the energy, you know, you can even have, I don't know, Eye of the Tiger, you know, something that works for you to walk in the kitchen and feel empowered. I love putting on an apron because it's my superhero cape and it reminds me as I just wear it on the front instead of the back. But when I cook, I am a superhero. I am building myself. That's my superpower.

I'm creating the future in so many ways when I put on my cooking cape in the front and it makes me embrace the role of a person who cooks. And so it shifts my mindset a little bit. If podcasts about true crime, I know it's a very popular genre of podcasts or maybe even audiobooks on whatever rocks your boat, guilty pleasures, now's the time and you can put these things on and associate them with cooking. If you can even find something that you only do when you cook.


Connecting with Family while Cooking

BG: And here it's kind of silly, but for me, I call my mom when I start cooking dinner. Most times I call my mom at the same time. And that's the beauty of having wireless earphones these days. And it's a happy thought. I'm going to connect with my mom and cook at the same time. And it's like almost we're together in the kitchen, though we're not. And even if I'm in another country in the completely wrong time zone, sometimes I start cooking and I'm like, something's missing. Like, oh, I can't call my mom. And I don't take that for granted. I'm really happy my mom is around and she's in good health.

So I get to call her and connect with her at that time. And that makes it better. So I think if somebody feels like they really hate cooking, it's about tricking themselves. To associate it with another activity that they enjoy and eventually, you know, just keep on doing it. I have a bunch of other tips in in my book on that topic, but the power song for me is the one that always does it when I really like. Oh no, I don't feel like cooking and I'm sitting in a corner scrolling on my phone and like when I become aware of the pattern, the way to interrupt it is to ask for my power power song playlist for cooking. Then it works amazing.

AP: I love those ideas and I also love listening to music while I'm cooking. Sometimes I dance too or sing.

BG: I sing a lot too cooking totally just but but the joy in the kitchen make it a a happy fun place to be is really great.

Something else, by the way, also if you can cook with actually, you know, calling your mom is great, but if you can cook with other people and that might be more suited for like batch cooking on the weekend, for example. But I think it makes cooking into a more social activity. I do it on Zoom with some people. That's something that came out of the pandemic. That was a good aspect. We realized that connecting virtually for cooking was fun. But previously I did it in person as well. And I would call a couple friends or three friends. We would get together and cook up a storm and we'd each end up with a little bit of every dish to take home and, you know, put in the freezer or consume throughout the week. And it made the kitchen a happy place. It made the kitchen a warm place where we were sharing stories and deepening our friendships. And it was just, it was just really fun. And that's a way to make it happen.

AP: I'm feeling inspired to have a cooking session on Zoom with my mom.

BG: Yeah, yeah, Yeah. So it's a fantastic way to connect and you're together.


Satisfaction from Cooking

BG: You know, I think humans are wired somehow to get a lot of satisfaction from doing something not just fun or not even fun at all together. That takes them somewhere. You know, you think of a barn raising in the good old days when everybody gets together. And we're helping Uncle Joe because he had a disaster. His barn fell apart and we're going to build a new barn and this, this action. And it's just like, you know, climate disasters, natural disasters, floods, hurricanes, all those things are awful, but they bring the best out of people because we get together and we're doing something together and cooking can do that for us on a small scale. If we can get together for cooking, we've accomplished something. You know, the the satisfaction of building IKEA furniture if you do it with someone and you don't get at each other's throats in the process are are moving. You know when you're moving and you call a couple friends to help you and you've accomplished something.

And you can have that same feeling from from cooking a really big batch of spaghetti sauce, a double bean chili and I don't know, a really nice tabouleh kind of salad if you do it together.


Stress in Perimenopause

AP: That's beautiful. I love that. So one thing a lot of listeners might be going through is increased stress during perimenopause, maybe feeling there's not enough time in a day. So how can meal prep help with that?

BG: It's a tough time and definitely menopause can add to the stress there. And just as I was mentioning earlier, I think modern life being so jam packed, being in that sandwich generation that maybe caring for, you know, children that are tweens or early teens, non independent yet, and also dealing with parents that are in declining health sometimes and there are not enough hours in the day.

Like it's not just a perception, I think it's true. There's so much that pulls at us. And at the same time, I would be curious, and everybody can do that if they have an iPhone and I'm sure it's a feature on Android as well. Look at how much time you're spending on your phone every day. Oh, good point. Scrolling, doing scrolling. Sometimes we call it, how much time do we spend on Netflix? We spend a lot of time and it goes back to there's a bit of revenge, procrastination sometimes, or just that feeling of having, feeling the need to be, to be pampered, taken care of. I've, I've worked so hard. These are all crazy things that are happening to me from this constant pressure of modern life. I need to unwind, right? And I'm OK with that. There's the resistance aspect of those different things we often do.

But what if we channelled some of that resistance to another kind of revolution, which is resisting that wave of, you know, ready made food and processed food that's imposed upon us and taking charge and driving the revolution with home cooking. And so organize a protest in your kitchen every Sunday for an hour and a half and cook. And some people might find satisfaction in that like negative approach to it with like, I'm cooking because I'm resisting. This is my revolution, so go for it. So using that time when we're not exhausted, when our willpower hasn't been drained and purposing some of that time to be kind to our future self. And for me, it's Sunday afternoon. It's a time when I'm usually pretty relaxed. I've recovered from the week my kids are in different activities, not particularly busy at those times.

And I have that two hours that I can dedicate to cooking for myself and my family and just front loading some of the food. It does take a little bit of thinking ahead in terms of thinking, OK, what can I do on the weekend that will be good to eat on the weeknights? And that's where my building blocks approach comes in. We, we can talk about it later, but really having dissociating, decoupling the cooking from the eating because really, I don't know who thinks it's a good idea to use knives at 5:30 on a weeknight. But really it's, it's often not great in many households. It's a very tense time. Everybody is a bit tired, everybody's a bit stressed and also hungry, low blood sugar, not in the best mood. Like please, like if you need to do a lot of chopping, do that at a time when you're actually sane and in in better control of your emotions.

And so setting aside the hour, hour and a half on the weekend and preparing even the the bare minimum, in my opinion, a pot of soup, a really big pot of soup, a soup or a Stew, but just just a soup, like a vegetable and bean kind of minestrone soup with lots of different veggies and couple cans of beans in there. And even if it's just that, it will feed you healthy plant based lunches throughout the whole week. And even if it's just the lunches, it will bring so much more than having to eat food on the go all week. That's a reasonably achievable target to just do one pot of soup. Like it can take 10 minutes. You throw everything in the slow cooker, set it on, you know, low for six, 7-8 hours and walk away and and you're good. And just that will create the base for building the capacity to get better from there. And you can, of course, grow exponentially, but I don't want to grow too much.

Like, I don't want to have this idea that batch cooking on the weekend takes two hours or more because then next time it's time to do it, you're like, oh, no, every time I do this, it takes two hours. And then I need to do the dishes and the kitchen looks like a bomb went in and everything. So keeping it manageable but keeping it steady, making it happen every week, I think makes a world of difference. Just a little bit of batch cooking.

AP: Yeah, I think making soup is a great starting point. And it's so nice to have soup ready in the fridge when you need it.

BG: Yes, yes. No excuse. You know, you open the fridge and you're like, I can get soup now, or I can get pizza or a pad Thai with not very many vegetables that taste like sticky noodles with ketchup. I'll have the soup. That's my preference anyway.





Meal Prep versus Batch Cooking

AP: Same here. And for those who are, who are not familiar, is there a difference between meal prep and batch cooking?

BG: I say there's a difference.

Somebody might call it something different. It's not really important. But in my lingo, I see meal prep as having prepared every meal for the week or, you know, most meals and usually matching containers, perhaps even with little divisions within them. You know, dividers and having all of your meals ready to basically pop in the microwave in the same way somebody might pop a ready meal, ready made meal from from the store, right. And so you're just warming the whole thing up. And that works, I think reasonably so for lunches. But personally, I like to have something in my dinner that feels freshly made. It's maybe like, I don't know if you've heard this before. I thought it was really hilarious when they invented box cakes, the first versions of the box cakes that the scientists made. You know, it was just add water and nothing else.

And the housewives at the time that were part of the focus group were like, no, like, that feels like cheating. It feels wrong. It doesn't feel like cooking. And so they changed the box cake mix so that people had to add an egg to it, which is not necessary in a vegan cooking anyway. But it wasn't necessary either in the chemical version of the thing. But it made people feel like they had made a cake as opposed to just add water. And in the same way, when I have my dinner every night, I do get a little bit of satisfaction from not just warming up something all ready to go, but having done just something that's fresh and new to that dinner. And I know a lot of people also don't like eating leftovers. They have a thing like a hang up with leftovers. So it's not about eating leftovers. So what I prefer to do is the batch cooking where I create building blocks for the week. So for example, I will create, I will cook a big batch of brown rice or quinoa or some other whole grains, maybe a pot of soup in the Instant Pot.


Brigitte Gemme batch cooking
Photo: Jānis Hofmanis

And at the same time, on the stove top, I will make a big batch of spaghetti sauce and maybe mix up a dressing and something like that. So what I do on the weeknight where let's say I eat spaghetti, is that I cook fresh pasta. And that makes me tick the box. I've cooked dinner, right? But really I've cooked pasta and I've added the sauce that I've already cooked on the weekend. And so that's my more like building block oriented thing. And that's what I call batch cooking. So I've done those different components and then I mix and match them throughout the week. And there's like a 5 minutes or 10 minutes of assembly that's involved. But I'm not going to be chopping a bunch of veggies. Most of the time if I make a stir fry, I like to chop the veggies at the last minute. But I will have already prepared my sauce. I will have already prepared maybe the more like protein food that I'm going to put in there, whether it's seitan or maybe baked tofu or something like that, keeping it simple.

But that's what I see as the difference and I really enjoy the batch cooking approach more. But also just to simplify it. If you are going to cook on a weeknight and you know that you like spaghetti sauce, my favorite thing, make a double or triple batch and freeze the rest. Because the beauty of most plant based foods that they freeze really well, you don't have that same transformation of the texture as you would in a meat or dairy based dish. So you can double up on weeknights and that also counts to me as badge cooking, but still have the feeling when it's time to actually eat the food to have done a little bit of a something to it so you feel accomplished even though it just took 5 minutes.

AP: Yeah. And I guess that way you can make it slightly different each each time throughout the week so you're not eating the exact same meal.

BG: Totally. You can mix and match. Like going back to my favorite thing, the spaghetti sauce that that was. That's a family recipe that I've veganized.

But it's not a recipe really because I just do what I do with the ingredients I have at a given time. But on a night it can be served on pasta and another night maybe you serve it on gnocchi, you know, those potato little pillow things. And then maybe another night you have stuffed red peppers that you put in the oven, the roasted peppers, or I like to do it also on Portobello mushroom caps. And it takes less than 5 minutes to put the Portobello mushrooms on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven with the sauce on. And then you have a different dinner. And so you don't always eat the exact same thing, but also you've frozen some of it for two weeks down the road. And then when it comes out in two or three weeks, you don't really care that you had it two weeks ago. I find that often people say, oh, I want diversity. It's really important to me.

And then if you ask them what they eat instead, they order food from a restaurant or some kitchen somewhere, and they always order the same thing. Like if you, my family, if we order in, there is like one place that we get pizza, you know, vegan pizza from. There's one place that we get really good vegan sushi from, and that's it. You know, it's not like we enjoy the diversity of all that the Vancouver restaurant scene has to offer every time. No, we, we're creatures of habits. We like eating the same things more than I think we we think.

AP: Yeah, you know what you like. So you order it again.

BG: Exactly. You know, we're maybe sometimes aiming for the safe, comforting, you know, familiar choices. And that's OK. So don't overestimate how much diversity you need, I think is my message there. There's definitely room for simplifying. But yeah, you don't want to be eating the same spaghetti sauce with the same past that five nights in a row. Yeah. Nobody likes that. Yeah.


Mindfulness and Vegan Batch Cooking

AP: So great to be able to repurpose your food totally. So how do you incorporate mindfulness into your cooking?

BG: I was saying talking earlier about dissociation, right? That's dissociating from the action of cooking and connecting with another activity. But on the flip side, there is a lot of value in in having being present. And the number one thing to do is to keep your phone out of the kitchen for the love of everything that's holy. First of all, the thing is guilty, disgusting, dirty, whether you like it or not, unless you're a cleaning freak, it's pretty certain that your phone has a lot of yucky bacteria on it. But above all, and I know some people say, oh, but my recipe is on my phone. I'm like, well, look at the recipe, read it, really, you know, pretty much memorized it. But most recipes are more or less the same.

Like if it's a soup recipe, you need to know what's in it. Maybe you use your phone at the time of pulling out ingredients and leaving them on the counter, but then put your phone away. Because every time there's downtime in cooking and frankly in life these days, people reach for their phone and then you look at a notification and then you get, you know, distracted, taken away. You're out of the process and the food will be less than it could have been often. Or you end up maybe in those five minutes of lull, while you're waiting for the water to boil, you could have done some dishes that were sitting there and you could have ended your time in the kitchen sooner. And just having the phone there is a constant threat to our capacity to focus on the activity at hand. And definitely you can have the wireless earphones to call your mom using your phone. But really most of the time I think it's more beneficial not to have the device in the kitchen.

And that's number one thing, being present to learn about what we're doing. There's so much that's going on. It's a multi sensorial experience. You can smell the food, you can taste the food, you see what it looks like. You pay attention to the sounds of the food as well. When when things are cooking, there's a lot of signals that come from the sounds. And if you're present to those five senses as you're cooking, you learn a lot and you learn really fast. And if you're doing this every day or let's say five or six days a week for a year, at the end of the year, it's amazing how much you've learned. If you were paying attention, if you're just following a recipe with your nose on the recipe like this, you're not learning a whole lot. And I think that's where really going through the five senses in your mind as you cook can make a big difference. And I've talked about tasting that, doing the dishes. Oh yes, the other thing it's related to to the mindfulness practice.

I think it's having a practice of gratitude. And going back to your question about the beginning, for people who really hate cooking, frankly, we need to give our heads a shake and appreciate and realize how much we've come to take for granted that we have food to begin with. And how this food came to us is a miracle. There's a spiritual miracle there in terms of, you know, life on earth with you. You zoom out all the way. But even just realizing how much effort went at every step of the way and all of these different people that were involved in getting the food to us so that we can enjoy it tonight. Having the capacity to cook, which a lot of people don't have, whether for physical or socio economic reasons, they don't have access to a kitchen. Having running water. I keep thinking about that quite often because I'm fully aware that there's a lot of people on earth that don't have running water in the kitchen like that and it's a lot more of a hassle for them to cook.

So it put things into perspective to have a little bit more of a, of a gratitude practice realizing that we're lucky to have people to cook for my kids, I have an 8 year old who's quite selective right now in his food choices. And sometimes I feel a tinge of resentment, but really I'm so lucky that I get to make food for him, that I have the capacity that I have him to make food for. And I, I just appreciate that. So I think shifting our mindset to being present and to be fully aware of the miracle that's involved and every meal we cook can can be a life changing perspective.

AP: That's beautiful. I love what you said about feeling gratitude for your son as you're cooking a food for him. And maybe I might try that as a practice, just sort of trying to infuse the food with love for the person who I'm preparing it for.

BG: Yeah. And it's it's actually a tradition and a number of spiritual legacies to have this idea of intentionally pouring your love into the food. And I know in, I hope I get this right, but in some area, some Buddhist traditions, you can't taste the food because the first portion, the first taste of the food has to be for your, your altar, you know, for, for the Buddha or for the ancestors. And so you can't taste the food as you go. So this goes a little bit against using the taste aspect to it, but really having this idea that the food we're making as a gift. And again, there is no more powerful gift that we can give and it is not appreciated. No doubt there's most people do not feel the true appreciation for the the depth of that gift, but maybe one day they will. And we can't be attached. We can't feel attachment to that gratitude that we wish they did have.

But the reality is that that food will become who they are. And that's also a really big power that we have as people who cook. We make other people. That's that's pretty amazing when you think about it.

AP: Yeah, that's true. Yeah. I also like the idea of the multi sensorial aspect and kind of making the cooking into a bit of a meditation. When I lived in Vancouver, that was kind of cooking was kind of my connection with nature. And I also just love taking as many colors as I can and putting it into a salad.

BG: It's just, yeah, it's, it's creativity as well. We are literally eating the rainbow. You know, we see, we say eat the rainbow as a mnemonic to help people know to put different color foods in their food. But like we are eating the rainbow. Like we are eating the conjunction of the sun and the rain. It's pretty cool.


Simplicity in the Kitchen

AP: Yeah. So true. Can you share some tools and practices to help us embrace simplicity in the kitchen?

BG: The first thing I think is a mindset shift, remembering that simple is beautiful. Not every meal has to be all the fireworks. As the cook, we can feel sometimes pressure to replicate things. We've seen on the Internet beautiful images, recipes that look like they should work for us. And it's not always necessary. It helps, of course, when we're in the learning stages to follow recipes to a point. But I think we can learn to follow our instincts by starting really, really small and learning the basic forms.

If anybody has a connection to jazz music, I'm not much of a musician, but there's a few, what they call standards that come back. If you listen to jazz music, there's even Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as a standard. And you're going to hear that set of chords and notes in different, different pieces of music over and over again. And once you know it, it surfaces in different ways. And in the same way in cooking, there's some standards, there's some generic ideas. So instead of focusing on recipes, taking it back to the principles, how is a soup made? Well, a soup pretty much always starts with an onion. But then you add a few vegetables and you add maybe some beans, and you add a lot of liquid. If you add less liquid, you have a stew, right? A simmer dish that's a lot thicker and somewhere in between is a stew, right?

But going back to that grammar of how are the things built and keeping it simple and seeing the principles, not so much just the specific assembly that a specific recipe has made, but really just understanding the really basic, the most basic ingredients, the vegetables, the grains and the beans with some nuts and seeds and some spices. And once you think just about those, I think it and accepting the simplicity of it. And next week, if you want something more complex, that's fine. Take it one more step further if you want. But you may find actually quite that you're quite satisfied with the simple food as long as you vary your simple food from one week to the next. And that's easy to do if you cook by the seasons and if you're aware of what's abundant and usually less expensive at the store or the grocery store or the farmers market, wherever you get to shop. But based on that, build your simple meals and go from there.

Don't always feel like you have to follow some fancy pants recipe that you found on the Internet.

AP: Awesome. You've shared so many useful tips and helpful information. How can listeners get in touch with you?

BG: The best place to connect with me is veganfamilykitchen.com. I exist on social media, but I'm not very good at keeping in touch with it. But if people subscribe to my newsletter, they will hear from me every week. I'm There's even a little chat box on my website. And it's not AI that responds, it's me in person that will respond to messages. So sometimes it takes a few minutes, but I just love connecting with people. And on that homepage of mine, there's something your listeners can download that's called Planned and Plant Based.

And it's a one week meal plan that involves a batch cooking session of the style that I, I recommend doing that's not very complex, but that sets you up for a week where you don't have to do a whole lot of life cooking. And if people are just curious, they can download it if they want to go further and actually do the thing during that week, there was a mini course that's attached to it. And then they get to get a little bit of a kick in the pants or a pat on the back, depending on what kind of motivation you like. But I'm I'm there to encourage, encourage people who want to take it on and to actually challenge themselves to try putting the energy into cooking one week following that batch cooking approach. But there's also a bazillions if you go to the templates section of my website, there's a lot of resources that people can download for free to help them plan simple meals to get better at improvising.

And there's even a little meal plan there that's a sample plan for one or two people because that's definitely an area of cooking where it can be challenging when you cook just for yourself and you think, oh, it's just me. So I don't really need to do anything complex. And we're cutting ourselves short because we don't get all the nutrients that we we should be getting that we deserve to be getting if we're not taking care of our cooking. So there's a little special meal plan for people who are cooking for one or two people in there as well. Oh, that's wonderful. I will definitely leave a link in the show notes so that people can check that out. Yeah, thank you. Oh, and of course, there's my book, The Flow in the Kitchen practices for healthy stress free vegan cooking. And there's a version of this over 100 days that's called 100 Days of Flow in the Kitchen that's available from my website.

And that's currently my favorite project that I've done is just a little nudge every day to teach a fact or technique or practice or a skill about healthy vegan cooking that people can subscribe for.

AP: Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this information and thanks for being here.

BG: It was awesome. Thank you for having me.


In my free guide, Five Action Steps to Elevate Your Vegan Menopause Experience, I share five simple steps you can implement immediately, to feel more calm, more positive, and less affected by menopausal symptoms.


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DISCLAIMER: This information on this website is general in nature and for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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