We spoke with Terry Walters, best selling author, speaker and food educator. We found out about her inspiring relationship with food (and how she’s nurtured the same for her children), what she’s cooking up next, and which brilliance she wrote on toilet paper in the middle of the night.
What does work and life look like when you’re not writing books? Are you writing more books?!
Work and life are so intertwined for me that it’s almost impossible to separate them (unless it’s accounting which is ALWAYS work!). Almost every day starts outdoors – running, walking, hiking… I teach classes and workshops regularly, and truly love my health coaching and public speaking. I am often writing and testing recipes, visiting farms, doing my best to tend to my own garden in season, trying new things (like cultivating mushrooms, experimenting with fermentation, and exploring different healing modalities), and rarely do I make dinner – which surprises people, but is true. By the end of the day when most people want dinner, I’ve really had enough of food!
As for writing, the wisdom and creativity necessary to write a book comes from being open, and living and learning every day. It comes from sharing this life with family and friends, from teaching, from figuring out your own stuff, from being a mother and being a child no matter your age, from experiencing imbalance and dis-ease, from strength, from weakness… So yes, I am working on the next book – in life and on paper too. The writing comes through me more than it comes from me, so I often feel at its mercy and just hope it will be there when I need it. As a result, I tend to wake up with thoughts and write them down in the middle of the night on whatever is handy (I wrote the entire opening essay to Clean Food on toilet paper at 2:30 in the morning).
I am super-excited about the next book. It’s a series of small single-topic booklets – super accessible (you could call them small bites). As with all of my books and recipes, there is intention behind every step and every ingredient, and the recipes can stand on their own, so no need to figure out what else to serve them with. I’m at the point where I’d prefer to spend my time sharing the meal more than preparing the meal, so this next series delivers on that desire in spades.
Do you have any personal food “always” or “nevers”?
Kombu, added when cooking grains and legumes to alkalinize, tenderize and reduce gas.
Mirin, when cooking greens to add some sweetness to balance the bitter.
Hot Sauce, please.
Kimchi, whenever possible.
Avocado, same as kimchi.
Himalayan salt, for all the trace minerals and because I definitely crave salty over sweet.
Sourdough, cuz making it is truly like magic, and eating it fresh out of the oven is the same.
Pizza, my perfect food, especially when I make it on my sourdough crust. How better to get in all the colors of the rainbow?!
Maple syrup, or liquid gold as we call it in my home. My sweetener of choice.
Apple cider vinegar, most mornings.
Pumpkin seeds, roasted and salted, I just love them, but especially on greens. And a good source of immune-boosting zinc (in case you need a reason to indulge).
Watermelon radish and purple daikon. My current obsession, especially sautéed or roasted.
My Lodge cast iron skillet. My go-to for winter cooking.
We have plenty of opportunities for self-judgement and rigidity. We hardly benefit from adding them to our food. I “always” try to cut the “nevers” and “shoulds” out of my diet.
Things change, people change, is there anything you have written in print that you have a different opinion about today?
I’ve noticed that as soon as one of my books goes to print, I’m pretty much guaranteed to find fault with it! I use much less soy today than I did when my first book came out 12 years ago. I no longer use hijiki seaweed as the mercury content was just too high. Our oceans change, our soil changes, our entire food system changes. I don’t tend to find fault with things I’ve written in the past, even if I cook differently and make different choices today. I really haven’t changed my mind on my core beliefs since day one. For me, it has always been about empowering ourselves with knowledge and doing the best we can to make healthy choices. That looks different from year to year, sometimes from day to day, but the intention is always the same. That’s what feeds me, and what I hope resonates with those who share the journey, either through my books, my classes, my social media…or this interview.
What was the last thing you ate that wowed you?
I am wowed every day by the simplest of combinations like steel cut oats with California Gold Dust, or my morning sautéed greens with avocado, kimchi and pumpkin seeds. My last batch of kombucha with pear, vanilla, clove and star anise blew me away, and so does my Healing Mung Bean Stew from Clean Start. I could list several recipes from my books, but suffice to say, it’s the foods that warm my soul and make me feel balanced and whole that deliver wow. And then there’s my sourdough bread which amazes me every time I take it out of the oven, as it just feels like a miracle that something so beautiful and delicious can be made from just flour, water, salt and love.
Have you always had a healthy relationship with food?
What even IS a healthy relationship with food? I do my best to make healthy choices, sometimes I make choices that serve things other than my best nutrition, and I try hard not to judge myself as a result, but I’m not always successful. One thing that’s consistent in my relationship with food is gratitude. How luck am I not only to be able to do this work, but to be surrounded by farmers who are stewards of the land, healers who share their wisdom, and a community with whom I can share this clean food journey? I’m always learning and trying to meet the changing needs of my body, my family, my community, the land and so on. The most important relationship we have is with ourselves. Maybe the key here is to stop looking to food to fill us, provide balance, solve our problems and nourish our heart and soul. Not even super-foods are that powerful!
With two daughters, how do you help them nurture a healthy relationship with food?
I’ve always focused on teaching my kids how to make healthy choices, and then stepping away and letting them go it on their own. Granted, when they’re home, they eat what I prepare. But in the end, I just want them to know that what they put in their bodies directly influences how they think and feel. It’s about choices, and you can’t make a healthy choice if you don’t know that you have a choice in the first place! They impress me with how they negotiate their choices, in food and in life.
Where do you find inspiration?
So many places, but largely from my girls, from nature, from locally grown produce, from other artisans, on the tops of mountains, deep in the woods, from my changing body, and from my changing and growing community.
What is your favourite thing to give?
Anything made with love that makes the recipient melt with gratitude.
What is your favourite thing to receive?
Anything that someone cooks for me! Shared time in nature (especially on a mountain). My dog’s full-body-slam wake-up each morning. Healing from another. Love.
Connect with Terry at terrywalters.net, @TerryWaltersCooks on Instagram, and CLEAN FOOD on Facebook.