As I listen to Wendy Cook, a chef of 40 years and author of the new book “The Biodynamic Food & Cookbook,” passionately contemplate nutritious eating and sustainable living, I can almost capture the aroma of warm fennel, beetroot and Arborio rice bubbling in white wine—for which she shares a recipe. From her home in Dartington, England, Cook takes me through her garden, her kitchen and the world.
we: What makes this cookbook unique?
WC: One reviewer said it is really ‘two books in one.’ You get the whole history and culture of food and how it has affected us. It is also about agriculture and biodynamics®, which is really a link between the soil and human health. As we heal our soil we help achieve human health. Most recipes [in the cookbook] also reflect the importance of balancing animal protein (if you choose to eat it) with plants and grains.
How did you discover biodynamics® and why?
Our second daughter [Daisy] suffered from severe eczema and experienced several life-threatening bouts of asthma. Through this search for a different treatment for Daisy’s condition and a different way of life, I first practiced macrobiotics. I then discovered Anthroposophy, which introduced me to the Waldorf education and with it biodynamic® produce.
How has biodynamics® influenced the way you cook and eat?
I look at what we know about plants and how they affect our bodies. The roots nourish the nervous system. The leafy part of the plant, where the chlorophyll process takes place, relates to the human lungs and respiration. If we put together meals using these methods, we will be much more nutritious. Nature gives us what we need based upon the seasons. It is terribly important to me that we look at this.
I understand that you lived in Mallorca, Spain, for some time. Did this change the way you approach cooking?
The traditional way of life in the Mediterranean demonstrates a real “art of living,” showing a true appreciation of food and eating and the rhythm of the seasons—making a two-hour pause in the middle of the day to enjoy food, conversation and siesta.
What is your primary concern regarding the modern Western diet?
Many children these days seem to be living from a diet made up of French fries and tomato ketchup—both from the nightshade family and both very acid forming. Sure, everyone likes potatoes in some form, but if you have an imbalance and consume too many, they will begin to weigh a person down. Everything is fine; it just has to be in moderation.
What makes you so passionate about cooking biodynamically?
It is a hard battle to encourage people to take responsibility for what we are doing to the planet. We need to change. Of course, the kitchen and garden are where this primal type of activity can happen.