We’d like to introduce you to Josephine, our Danish blogger, who has returned to Aarhus, her home town, to study holistic health and food at university after three years travelling, working and volunteering throughout the world. She also works in the farmers’ cooperative creating recipes. After all that, she’s still got time to write on her blog, Tasty Love Story, about healthy Nordic cooking.
She’s full of life, friendly, happy, very open minded and loves writing about all aspects of food on her blog. She thinks it’s essential to feel the love of being with people and sharing good food around a table, and in order to know how to feed ourselves, we have to know a lot about our bodies: know how to understand it, listen to it, feel it…
She welcomes us with a big hug to break the ice, and makes us feel at home from the very first moment. We don’t stop for a break during the couple of days we spend with her. She took us to the farmers’ market to discover the best spots and the people and stories behind them; she invited us to cook and eat at her place, we took a walk around one of her favourite nature spots and she gave us lots of surprising recommendations about the city. Would you like to find out more?
– Favourite savoury recipe: Hearty salad with goat’s cheese, dried fruit and nuts.
– Favourite sweet recipe: Apple pie with fresh cheese.
– Star recipe: Chocolate cake.
– Film: Food inc.
– Activity: Saint John’s Eve in Denmark, bonfires by the coast with friends.
– Event: Roskilde Festival, a big music festival near Copenhagen.
– For buying: Aarhus farmers’ market, every Wednesday and Saturday in the morning.
– Walking spot: Risskov park.
– Blog: Sproudedkitchen.
Tell us about the three gap years you took before starting university.
In Scandinavia it’s normal to take some time out to decide exactly what you like and what you want to do before starting a degree. So I travelled a long time through South America, Costa Rica and Venezuela, then I spent several months in South-East Asia and Australia with a group of people from all over the world. We travelled together and did yoga. When I got back, I worked in a school for children with special needs and I still work with them today. Of course, after all this time, you are really clear about what you want to do and you go right for it.
And why did you decide to get into the world of food?
I have always been interested a lot in health; I think that if you have a healthy body, you feel good. I have always done a lot of sport and when I left home at 18, I really started cooking and taking care of what I ate. But it wasn’t until I was in Asia that I realised that food plays a vital role in health. That was when I realised I wanted to work with food professionally. Then I started experimenting to create healthy, creative food. Making recipes is just what happens when you’re hooked. What I didn’t imagine was that it could be so inspiring for me and for others.
What is your food background?
We’ve always eaten quite healthily at home, but when I got back from Vietnam and South-East Asia in general and seeing how respectful they were towards animals, I was vegetarian for a long time. After I started studying I relaxed a bit and started to see things differently.
What do you mean?
My education has been very comprehensive thanks to my own experiences and as I study with people all over the world now; we learn about different cultures, traditions and food options. But we also study the differences that are needed from person to person, and alternatives to big conventional food problems nowadays like sugar, gluten, etc., which gives us a much wider, fuller vision. I like this style as we don’t end up being cookie-cutter health professionals; they teach us to be critical and have our own opinion about all aspects of health, although there are scientific findings to keep in mind too. Each person is an entire world, and our intuition is the most important thing.
How would you define your cooking?
Organic, seasonal, made with love and passion. Inspired by my travels but always with a personal Nordic touch.
We have seen that you always tell a small story or anecdote along with each recipe.
Yeah, that’s a personal touch, and it’s where the name of the blog comes from. I’ve always got a story to tell: how I felt during the day, a funny story, a memory from my childhood… I think it’s important to see the person behind the blog, make it personal, intimate and fun so that everyone who follows you is excited, and somehow feels linked to you and the recipe, inspiring them as a result.
What’s the message of your blog?
The sheer pleasure of eating a healthy diet. You can really eat what you want: whole foods, vegetables, meat, soy or dairy products. You should know what makes you feel good and eat in a way you like, in a way you love. I stand for food that gives the body what it needs depending on the activity you have done, the time of year and how you feel. Also, I think you should have a sweet treat now and again, which makes us feel good.
So, we shouldn't be fanatic.
Yes, exactly. No kind of food should scare you off, especially if it’s good for you. Only food intolerances should be taken very seriously. I don’t think we have to limit ourselves in relation to the rest, unless choosing it helps us feel better. That’s why my recipes, which are vegetarian for the most part, sometimes have meat or fish, so that everyone can find their space. Personally, I think the most important thing is to feel good, and to feel this way I have to feel good about what I eat and my body.
And if we started now, what are the basics?
To start off it should be organic and whole, that is no chemicals, no refining or processing. But they should also be local, which is equally important. If I find organic apples from France or apples from my town that aren’t organic, but I know who produces them, I prefer the local ones; there is much more to food than organic labels. The origin of the product and the person behind it are of course essential if we want to be consistent with what we eat.
And what about food?
Lots of vegetables with different colours; this will ensure you’re getting everything you need and you have a balanced diet. Whole cereals and good fats from vegetables and dairy produce. This will maintain your body, satisfy you and release energy slowly throughout the day. Then you should add protein from a source you think is best for you from a health perspective, but also from a social and humane point of view. In my case, I think it is OK to eat meat and fish, but the animals must have had a good life. I only eat organic meat and eggs, and wild fish caught in the proper, legal conditions.
This makes us see that it’s not just about food, but it’s also about you, the relationship you have with food and the decisions you make. That’s why there are so many extremists, as there is a psychological and ethical component in food that we can’t forget. And we have to respect the decisions of others entirely, as we’re all different.
And what do we have to do to personalise our food?
Feel our bodies, listen to our physical, mental and emotional feelings every time we make a change. If I have a glass of milk and I don’t feel well or I eat cake and I feel a bit bloated, that means it’s not good for me. Just listen to your body’s sensations. But I must insist that the most important thing is a good foundation of knowledge as if you have a diet based on processed foods (from the supermarket), fast food, etc., you’ll obviously not notice how a glass of milk or a cake makes you feel.
Could you give us an exercise to get started?
I, for example, give my patients several alternatives or possibilities when we start to make a basic, healthy diet. So that’s five different breakfasts and then they analyse how they felt after. You could all try this, but don’t be in a rush; think of it like an unending battle from which we can learn throughout our whole lives, so take it slow.
It’s a lifelong battle?
Evidently. We can’t forget that we’re human: if someone places a cake in front of us, most of us would eat it even though we know it would make us feel bad; it’s completely normal. Or if we’re at a party and there’s a lot of food, we would probably eat more than we should, and that’s also normal. We have to learn how to live with these little challenges; probably everyone has to fight them. The most important thing is to recognise it and not feel guilty, but then be consistent with yourself day after day.
What do you think about diets?
I’m radically against them. We are constantly bombarded with all kinds of different diets and new scientific studies; it’s just unbelievable. I think we need to stop, close our eyes and ears and be loyal to what we actually think. If we are lost and we aren’t clear where we are going, we start to set new rules that don’t make sense for our diet and we forget what we truly believe and what makes us feel good. It’s a prevalent problem: everyone worries a lot and is even obsessed with having a healthy lifestyle, but they are lost without having their own opinions.
What ingredients do you always have in the kitchen?
Lemons, always! I use them for savoury and sweet dishes, you can get organic ones year round and they’re even inexpensive. I always have vanilla for desserts, I just love it! And I always have some kind of dairy, especially goat’s cheese because with just a little you get a lot of flavour.
We saw that you also use a lot of food from nature. Can you tell us about them?
Nordic foods are superb! I use mushrooms, fruits from the forest, flowers, different kinds of wild onion, rhubarb… You can’t find them everywhere but there are farms you can go to and pay for what you’ve collected. You can do it with pears and apples too. Now the woods are full of wild ramp flowers, which smell a bit like onions. They’re great for cooking; I use them for pesto and all kinds of sauces. And now, between June and July [the interview was held in July], there are just so many of them.
What do you think is a healthy lifestyle?
Listening to your body and doing your favourite exercise regularly. Also, having a good mental state because being happy with who you are and what you do will give you good health.
So psychological and emotional aspects are very important.
Oh yes! My degree includes a lot of psychology and sociology to deal with these essential aspects. We are all different, with completely different emotions, sensations and feelings that change throughout our lives, and they’re all totally connected with our bodies. Health always has to be considered from a holistic point of view. I think that if everyone was happier, we’d have far fewer health problems. Just think about it: when we are happy and fulfilled, we make good decisions, leading to good health. If we are unhappy, we don’t want to go for a run or eat vegetables, just sweet things. That’s when we know something’s not right…
Tell us about the food clubs you take part in.
They are regular meetings about food with friends and family; we chat, have a laugh and fun, thinking about food all the time.
And how do they work?
I go to a few; some are held once per month, and others are held once a week. The good thing is that it’s different from meeting in a bar or restaurant in town. It’s much more intimate. And the best thing is that everyone cooks something different every time and we go to their house, so that the location and the food changes every time. And, of course, we try to create delicious dishes to impress! We don’t like things to be too complicated however as we all study or work, but as it’s only once every so often, it’s not that much work.
What a lovely tradition!
Yeah it is. It’s a very intimate way to be social, and it’s all about food! So we can share viewpoints and interests. We eat, have a drink, chat, share experiences and, in short, we enjoy learning as a group.
And what ones do you go to?
There’s one with my parents and their friends, who have children around my age. We get together once a month and prepare really delicious dishes. We have a really good laugh. Then there’s another one with my friends from secondary school; it keeps us in touch and it works really well. We get together once a week. And then there’s one just about desserts with girls from work every month. We have tea and cake and have a marvellous time.
What is your daily food schedule like?
I get up around 7 and have a smoothie, I go for a run and then I start working; around 11 I have breakfast, a really important meal for me. It has to be very nutritious and full of energy, but without any extravagant dishes. Wholegrain cereals, fruit and something else to fill me up. There should be something different each day, depending on how you feel. It’s really great: creating connections with what I eat and the attitude I start each day with is essential for me. I avoid everything that contains refined sugar, especially as it’s a really bad source of energy. Then I go out to the shops and around 1 I make a light lunch. A very typical meal for me would be a dish of varied vegetables with a handful of wholegrain cereals and a poached egg on top. I love fruit and vegetables, I eat a lot of them every day. It’s the same with dairy produce too as in Scandinavia they’re really top quality. At 4 I have a snack, like a piece of fruit and then I have dinner around 7. I also have something around 10 like a yoghurt or a piece of cake I’ve made. I think it’s good to always have something that makes you feel good. The day ends a lot better if I can have a cup of tea and a slice of one of my healthy cakes; it’s a nice happy ending to the day.
Do you do sport?
Just to keep in shape, not to get muscular or compete. In my case that means going for a run three or four times a week, between 8 and 10 kilometres, and then I go to the gym a couple of days a week to warm up and do an hour of hard exercise. In addition to this, I go everywhere by bike; I can easily do around 20 kilometres every day. It’s mainly because at my age, nobody can afford a car and everyone uses a bike to get everywhere, even to neighbouring towns. It’s really very easy and natural here; I think it’s great.
That's quite common in Denmark, right?
Well, it’s starting to get like that. I can see it especially among my friends. I’m one of the sportiest among them because I have the time, but also because I make it a priority. Now I’ve been doing it for 4 or 5 years. We also inspire each other; if you are walking and you see lots of people running, you think to yourself “I want to go for a run too!”
Tell us about Danish food culture.
It’s usually always lots of meat, potatoes and thick sauces; generally it’s very heavy. However, in the past few years things have changed due to the country opening up to the rest of the world, being inspired as a result. New Danish and Scandinavian cuisine in general is only based on ingredients you can find here, such as rugbrød, all kinds of Nordic fish, local herbs, fruits from the forest, vegetables, apples and pears from here, and the ciders and vinegars from them. We also have strong flavours from pickles made from cucumbers, beetroot or any other vegetable for eating in winter; and cured meat and fish to preserve them. We also like to make the most of sweetness from fruit with natural syrups instead of using honey or sugar. It’s all about getting the most from our local produce, recovering this rustic heritage. Nordic food is very rustic in the best sense of the word.
What is rugbrød?
It’s an essential element here. It’s the really dark bread we eat here, made with a lot of seeds and nuts, but it’s also the name of a typical dish. When we say rugbrød we often mean a dish of very thin slices of the bread with salad, eggs, fine slices of smoked ham and other ingredients depending on what you like. It’s as common as a sandwich in other places; lots of Danish people make it for their lunch. It’s really great, you have to try it!
And what about organic culture in Denmark?
It’s growing continuously. A little while ago I saw that it is the country with the highest percentage of organic products bought per inhabitant. We’re a small, rich country which probably helps. Even though it’s very expensive, people can afford it, but it’s still too expensive. All the big companies, restaurants, everyone is making an effort. Now you can find everything organic; just 10 years ago you could only find carrots and rolled oats. For instance, there’s so much organic milk that many supermarkets’ own-brand milk is organic. The movement has become huge.
We have seen that all the restaurants have stickers with smiley faces. Could you tell us about them?
They are from the government and there are two kinds. The first ones are organic labels for products, a red royal crown with two semicircles around it. Then there are the stickers you mentioned, a small green face, which is about the quality of the restaurant. They’re stuck on all the doors of restaurants with a sheet about the restaurant so that customers can check it out from outside. The face can go from angry to very happy, with no expression or half-happy in between. This intuitive code lets us know if the restaurant uses 10-30%, 30-60%, 60-90% or more than 90% of organic, local products, so it’s really worthwhile to check them out before going in anywhere.
Are there any other measures concerning food in Denmark?
A little while ago a tax on fat and sugars was approved, just like the tax on alcohol and tobacco, which we have had for a while. Even though I disagree with a few things, I think that in general it makes people much more conscious about what they eat, but there’s still a long way to go.
What would you change?
Firstly I would make organic and conventional food the same price, making them all the same. Sometimes it’s just ridiculous what you spend on organic vegetables. People can pay it, but the price is disproportionate in comparison with conventional food. If it was up to me, I would also slow down production levels to prevent waste and make better quality products.