An interview with Jude Blereau, Queen of Wholefoods!

I have the great pleasure today of sharing some insights from the fabulous Jude Blereau.Jude is a natural foods chef, author, cooking teacher, food coach and real food activist. She runs a fabulous whole and natural chef training course in Perth, and holds a number of wonderful cooking classes throughout the year in different states of Australia. She is just about to release her 4th book, and I can’t wait to add it to my collection! Her first three books are absolute crackers, and the vegan fig and rhubarb layer cake with vanilla almond cream from last weeks post is based on a wonderful recipe of Jude’s from her first book ‘Wholefood’.

Jude is a huge inspiration to me. Her last book, Wholefood for Children is an absolute winner, and I am constantly recommending it for patients with small children. Chock full of amazing nutritional information for children, it takes you from first foods up to toddlers and beyond with thoughtful, nourishing recipes. There are also plenty of options if you are cooking for kids with allergies and intolerances. Check out Jude’s website for more information.

But for now, make yourself a cuppa and settle in to read some insights from an icon in the world of whole foods.

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to where you are now?

It’s been a long journey. I have a bit of thing with beauty – and how nature /intelligence expresses itself. I think this may be how I’ve translated my Catholic upbringing. Whilst not a catholic, I am deeply spiritual and find life a mystery and awe- inspiring. Thus things that express this beauty drive me. I started in Kindergarten Teaching (hated it), and ended up in Fashion – I was at a major cross roads in my life and went back to fabric and colour (I had always sewed and designed – mostly for my Barbie Dolls) and entered the WA Designers Awards and won. Thus I started my own business which was hugely successful and I loved but it didn’t feed my soul. My upbringing has been heavy coloured from my Mum who was a nurse, cooked delicious food and has a very heightened sense of design and colour. No surprise that all those things influenced me. I had started studying nutrition part time during the later years of Fashion, but I was incredibly disillusioned. I understand this now that I was unhappy with the fractionalized approach to food. At that time I went to the U.S – mid 80’s and came across Anne Marie Colbins book Food and Healing. This book changed my life and course at that minute. THIS was talking the language I was interested in and I came back and got out of fashion, moved to the US so I could learn more – at that time it was Macrobiotics.

Now, I feel I have come a full circle as a grown up adult. I LOVE where I am with my understandings of food. I find my approach to food is now what I would say incredibly wholistic and I see the influences of a life time.

What is your food philosophy?

Our food should be good enough to eat (consider the soil in which it grows, pesticide etc free – this encompasses the concept that our food is only as good as our soil, and pesticides are not body compatible.

That it should be real (if it’s strawberry flavoured, that flavor should come from a strawberry) and body compatible (closer to it’s natural state and prepared appropriately). It should be closer to it’s natural state (as little that is edible is removed and as little that is inedible is added back).

That it should be delicious. It should be in season (it has more nutrient value and deliciousness that way) and we can preserve to capture this seasonality.

That we consider the farmer and community from which it comes – the politics of food so to speak.

I know you need to do a bit of travelling, how do you eat well whilst on the road?

It’s very hard. I primarily try to stay in a place with it’s own kitchen, so I can get some simple foods and make a meal. Or stay with friends. But, there are many times I can get stuck between a rock and a hard place – I try and have a very good breakfast (eggs/vegetables) (which I can make at my place or at a café), and then another very good meal – lunch or dinner. That’s often fish – either out or at ‘my place’. With a salad. So the spare meal (lunch or dinner depending) I might have a sandwich, toasted Panini etc. I can also boil some eggs for emergency fuel. AND I TAKE SPIRULINA WITH ME. Nearly forgot that. I keep a look out for a good restaurant for 1 good main each day – eg fish for either a lunch or dinner.

PRIMARILY I work very hard on prevention: knowing where I am staying (either with friends or in a place with a kitchen) so I know what is around me.(so for example in Sydney I stay either with Holly Davis, or at a self contained in Rozelle, with a good wholefood store up the road within walking distance). I cannot get hungry – big disaster. And I pack food for the plane. What I find however is no matter how hard I try, I loose my energy as I am away from home without a good food routine. To be truthful, a lot of what is available (even ‘healthy’) stuff is appalling, all over Australia. I work hard to avoid being thrown upon it’s mercies. All else fails, I’ll go for an egg Panini – hard core protein.

If you wanted to convert someone to eating wholefoods, what would you cook for them / what advice would you give?

A lot would depend on season but basically:

Vegetarian option:
Mexican Beans (Wholefood), with salsa / guac
Stuffed Zucchini
Eggplant parmigiana
Vego lasagna
Pan Glazed Tempeh
Wholegrain and Roast Vegetables/Chickpeas with Morrocan Dressing
Wholegrain with Spanish Capsicum, Chickpea and Fennel
Quinoa and Vegetable Pilaff

Non – Vego:
Roast Chicken, roast and steam vegetables, proper gravy
Hunter Gatherer Lamb Shanks
Beef Brisket
Fish Fingers with proper mayonnaise turned into tartare

I would absolutely, positively serve dessert. Seasonal fruit crumble with cultured cream, or seasonal fruit pie with cultured cream, or just a big fat bowl of soup with a killer dessert – depends on the time of the year. Right now my neighbour has given me limes, so Lime Meringue Tart is on the menu this weekend, with a tray of mangos another option.

Advice I would give is TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME. IT’S A LONG JOURNEY – AT LEAST 2 years, if not 5. Get your head around the basics (my philosophy), and then after you’ve found out where to get things, take one area at a time – perhaps learn to make stock, then perhaps get your head around legumes, learn how to use silverbeet (prolific and cheap) etc, etc.

What foods make you happy?

Oh, man – I love lamb (but I mean hogget or mutton) – roast, bbq, stew etc. I love being met – a proper meal meats my nutritional needs and I work better. I LOVE it when someone else cooks for me. I’m not a big chocolate fan, prefer lime or lemon, adore vanilla. I like wet/ rich food (quite vata in that).

I’ve always thought if I were to cook for you Jude, I would love to cook you my breakfast bread served with buffalo ricotta. If you were to cook for anyone, who would it be and what would you cook?

Yummmmmmmmmm – I plan to hold you to this Meg when I’m there.

I am most often always cooking for someone else – primarily my daughter (she often comes over) or my mum so I take their likes into account. Always a winner is a cannelloni, lasagna. I don’t dare cook soup for them. I might do a meat braise or stew (Cacciatore etc). When I was at Rottnest with extended family just a couple of weeks ago it was Cashew Mango Chicken, and French Beignets (a once a year tradition from our time in New Orleans), which we adore.

But, perhaps dessert is what I cook to take to places – often really a pie. I love pies in all their formats. Right now that would be plum, late season peaches, late season blueberries – a delicious pie with real ice cream.

I am in love with your book ‘Wholefood for Children’. It is a masterpiece and I am constantly referring patients to it. Can you tell us a little about your basic philosophy when it comes to kids nutrition?

Thank you so much. I love the book and think a fair amount of it was channelled!!! I look at it and think ‘ did I write that? ‘ but I’m very proud of that book – I think I was able to frame what my thoughts are a lot better.

Basic Philosophy: We seriously need to remember that children are NOT ADULTS. They come into the world with an undeveloped digestive system. I am shocked at the foods we give that digestive system (child) before it’s ready and then call it an allergy when they have a reaction. We need to give them real foods – young mothers would be wise to take into account that cooking food for their child is profoundly, in every way more nourishing to their child rather than buying. Even though the label says organic, packaged foods are not the same thing – especially in the aspect of life force. We need to feed children real food and real meals – proper breakfast (not a piece of white toast), proper morning tea/snack (not a gluten free crispbread or cracker) a proper lunch (not another piece of white bread), a proper afternoon tea (not packaged yoghurt) and a proper dinner (not pasta).

Something I come across a lot is children who are fussy eaters – do you have any hot tips?

I am fascinated by the aspect of fussy eating. This did not exist up until about 20 years ago. As a kindergarten teacher, I see a strong link with how people parent. There are some fundamentals of raising children:

  • They need to feel secure (loved)
  • They need a routine
  • Day care is exhausting for many children
  • After school care is exhausting for many children
  • Early kindergarten is exhausting for many children
  • After school activities are exhausting for many children.

I see a lot of tired children. They need lots of quiet time. Into this we feed children often at times that is not conducive, that is, when they are tired, or with foods that set up poor cascading chemical reactions in the body (white toast for breakfast). Children need smaller meals, more often and a dinner before 4.30/5pm. And I think we feed children the kind of food that children don’t like – they just want simple food – without sounding too up myself, I get a lot of feedback that children love and eat the recipes in my book – that food is real, it’s simple and in a format children understand.

Finally – you are the parent. Love them, but give them boundaries, with honour and love.

My version of Jude’s Christmas Deer scene: Spelt, Almond and Maple Cookies with Mushroom Meringue

I love how a lot of your recipes don’t require you to get out the mix master, and you can make them simply in a mixing bowl, old school style! It’s such a pleasure to cook this way. What can we expect from your new book on baking coming out this year?

I’m so excited about this book. It’s incredibly in depth. Looking at flours, sweeteners, fats etc and all the components of baking – including instinct and technique. It looks at factors that effect crumb, gluten free and dairy free. It really is a lot about understanding how, so you can apply that to get the end results that you want and apply that in other recipes you do.

I do use more of the mix master, but many are just a bowl and spoon – yep, I’m not a fussy girl. Simple. Real. Everyday.

I think baking and sweetness in general has got a bad wrap – and I wanted to address that in this book. I think we’ve forgotten what a real cake is, and the smell of real flour, real butter and real sugar (or maple, or honey etc). It saddens me to see the world of wholesomeness and healthy food moving to a more fractionalized approach – eg raw, paleo etc. In this fractionalized approach, people are demonizing sugar, without asking what makes white sugar bad, and what we replace it with better – thus they use Agave (not mad about it) or Xylitol (shocking) and both, staggeringly refined. I wanted to give people more wholistic and in depth information so they can make better and more informed decisions.

So there you have it. Jude writes a great blog, and you can connect with her on facebook too.

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