My passion has always been cooking and gardening, particularly growing my own vegetables. I started on this path at an early age. I had a small garden plot from the age of four and I jealously guarded my produce, I cooked my first solo dinner with vegetables I had grown myself for my family when I was six years old in a small bench top electric oven that I had been given as a present; it was roast stuffed chicken with baked vegetables and blackberry and apple crumble with proper egg custard, certainly not a gourmet meal but one I was very proud of.
My family background is multi- cultural and I grew up with food, food and more food, all lovingly prepared by the whole family. Even though we lived on the outskirts of London we had a large garden full of food, including many vegetables, herbs and spices that most British people had never heard of let alone tried. Many different cuisines were married together and we rarely used recipe books. I was encouraged to smell and taste all kinds of herbs and spices as one would a good wine. Food was shared and presented with care and meals were always a communal celebration.
As a student and young adult I travelled widely, lived with people from other cultures and learned more kitchen arts from many wonderful old women whose passion for food and nurturing their families still inspires me today. I have cooked for vegetarian and vegan food outlets, owned two highly successful cafes and produce a range of gourmet delicacies that I sell to speciality food outlets.
My cooking and my life had to take a new direction when I discovered that not only am I a diabetic but I have severe food intolerances which would force me to surrender not only lactose and gluten but also fructose oligos and polyols, all of which are in my beloved onions and garlic that were the start of every great recipe. At first I was horrified, depressed, how could I cook another delicious meal?
But I soon discovered that food need never be boring, even on a restricted diet. The many challenges that came with being a diabetic and having food intolerances inspired me to create gourmet meals for all those people – some who may not even be aware of their condition – with gluten, lactose and fructose oligos and polyols intolerance, who would benefit from following what is known as ‘The Fodmap Diet’.
I live in an amazing part of the world, Bruny Island, a small island off the southern coast of Tasmania where I keep chickens and ducks and produce almost all of my own food. Even now, in winter, my garden is still producing carrots, beets, leeks, oca; a tuberous vegetable originating from the Andean mountains, radish, kale, silver-beet and many other leafy green vegetables and herbs. As I write this from my cottage at Simpson’s Bay, I sit at my table and look out over the the wetlands, across the bay and the isthmus connecting the two islands that make up Bruny and another 60 or so kilometers across the Southern Ocean to Tasman Island that marks the entrance to Port Arthur.
Mhrylyn Hanson-Wallis van Dooren
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