Imagine you’re soaking in a bath tub for an hour. What happens? Inevitably, your fingers and toes become all prune-y. That’s because you have a higher concentration of salt in your body and skin than what’s in the plain bath water. So the moisture is sucked out of your skin, and your skin becomes wrinkled.
That’s why you add bath salt–it keeps the salt levels in equilibrium (creates an “isotonic solution”), meaning the moisture stays inside you.
The same is true when cooking vegetables. It has nothing to do with flavor. Adding salt means that the moisture stays inside your potatoes and carrots, leaving them crunchier, crispier, and generally more palatable.
So next time you’re boilin’ the goods, splash some salt in for good measure.
Working together benefits our friends, our families, and our children.
MamaBake is a community of mothers who cook big batches together so that, at the end of the night, each mama goes home with a few ready meals to serve her family that week. At a most basic level, it saves a busy mom time and frees her from relentless kitchen duties for a bit. On another level, it’s about bringing women together and building a community, experiencing a strength in numbers, and bonding over food. What started as one small group on the east coast of Australia has exploded into pop up communities worldwide.
We found MamaBake via facebook during our 17-day campervan trip up the east coast, and messaged them asking if there were any MamaBake meetups going on. Within an hour, we had an invitation to dinner and a home to sleep in from MamaBake’s founder, Michelle Shearer.
“WHAT?!” thought Hannah and I in amazed unison. Overwhelmed, once again, by the kindness of strangers and the wonder of the power of the internet, we quickly closed our gaping mouths and worked out a time to meet.
After two cold and stormy nights sleeping in our campervan, walking into Michelle and Steve’s home was a true treat. It was also an entertaining circus! One of their parrots swiftly landed on top of my head and made itself at home, nestled in my hair and bit my ear. Their sweet baby boy ran around screaming, throwing puzzle pieces, and force-feeding us tortilla chips, and his older sister happily modeled my glasses while recreating a truly superb LA valley-girl accent.
We sat down to Michelle’s gorgeous Beef Stew dinner with them and a couple of friends, including the lovely and talented Australian surf artist Christie Rigby. We learned a bit about what it takes to be a mum, MamaBake’s history, and how to harness the power of “strength in numbers”. Read on.
What was the idea behind MamaBake?
It all started when I was given a lasagne and that made me think immediately of wanting to reciprocate the gesture. I thought about mothering and how we don’t really like to receive help. As mums we like to give the impression that we’re OK, so it’s more like a transaction than a ‘Thank you very much’. There’s not much of a community around motherhood, there’s no real connections. If you look at how the tribes are doing it, women are always working together. In today’s society the numbers of mothers with depression and mental issues after childbirth is surprising. MamaBake is bringing community home and back to where it needs to be. When mothers bring that home they actually find themselves liberated. It’s so simple, try it and see what happens! It’s group big batch baking and it’s gone bonkers across Australia.
How did you come up with the name ‘MamaBake’?
I guess it was fairly self-explanatory. It really was the first thing that came to mind.
Do you do it here in Lennox Head?
Yes. We do it here in this house. We’ve got groups all over.
When was the first one?
The first one was in February 2009.
What was the first strand and how did it spawn in to such a huge movement?
It started in real life with a group of 4 people. Those 4 people told their friends.
How did the idea of MamaBake spread?
It started here. I posted a group on Facebook and it grew from there. I guess people just thought it was a good idea and talked about it.
Did you intend to start such a big movement?
Not really. I’m just a small part of something that represents a much bigger picture. I think we’re all looking for a new way of doing things. We’re sick of striving for the wide screen TV.
Do you enjoy cooking?
It started in real life with a group of 4 people. Those 4 people told their friends.
I do enjoy it and I enjoy raising my kids but there are days when you just need a break.
I can imagine it’s isolating to be at home so much of the time taking care of children?
Yes it can be. Many mothers have moved away from family and friends and we tend to bunker down when we have small children. MamaBake brings much needed community and support where it’s needed most as well as lightening the woman’s domestic burden.
Do you make sure all of the food you’re making is natural?
We [MamaBake] get together groups of women and they work out between them what their food values are; it might be a group of women who are really passionate about organic produce, then there might be another group whose main goal is to cut costs.
Its hard to really know what a mum does until you are one. How do people know how to be before motherhood happens?
Exactly! We should be telling people now and forming communities. I believe that it’s my generation who is bringing mums together. The next generation will bring the previous generation in to it too. What MamaBake is doing is demonstrating how community can work together. Sometimes we have over 40 women come together plus all of their children, they are there seeing their mothers working as a group, that’s a really powerful legacy.
Sometimes we have over 40 women come together plus all of their children, they are there seeing their mothers working as a group, that’s a really powerful legacy.
So the idea of MamaBake is not about food but about the sense of community it brings? Working together to make something greater than the individual part?
It’s bringing the meaning back to mothering. It’s absolutely essential to every point in our society. It’s bringing it home. We’re focusing on the cooking as food is a chore that mothers have to think about all the time. You can’t quit just because you’re tired or sick, you have to keep going, you need community and other mothers to back you up. Working together benefits our friends, our families, and our children.
Yui got in touch with us about her new project, The Raw Sisters, after our friends at the Hungry Workshop letterpress told her about The Eat Team. We sat down to chat with her at Nothern Soul cafe in Thornbury, Melbourne. Yui and her partner in crime Missy started the Raw Sisters vegan and vegetarian pop-up and catering duo with a bang–they served over 100 folks at their first gig which only whet their appetite to serve the Melbourne community. They’re brand new and the future looks bright ahead. Check out their beautiful video (see below) from the event at St. Kilda Organic Food Co-op and read on for Yui’s insights on the Raw Sisters project, eating raw, and life as an occupational therapist.
How did the Raw Sisters start?
We did a raw food demo at a vegan festival that my friend and her partner organised. We did raw sushi and raw avocado juice. Some guy came up to us and asked if we wanted to do a catering event. We had no idea that we wanted to do catering but thought it would be fun, so we said yes. He didn’t get back to us for ages and then a few weeks ago he said that the event is happening soon and asked if we were still interested. We quickly made up a business card and menu for our meeting with him. We bought everything and cooked for a whole day. We’d love to do more catering, or even cooking classes. We love food and want to share our passion.
What was the event that you did the catering for?
St Kilda Organic Food Co-op. Unfortunately they were closing and wanted to have a big ‘Thank you’ event for all of the people who had been involved. Everyone was invited so we had to cater for kids and adults. We did raw salads, hummus and beetroot dip, garlic bread, ‘mac and cheese’, home made wedges, roast veg, sweet potato soup, Moroccan stew, carrot pilaf, and for dessert we did chocolate brownie and caramel apple cake with banana ice cream.
Do you, and your business partner Missy, both lead a raw lifestyle?
Missy is maybe 80% raw. In winter I’m 50% raw. We’re both vegan and we try to eat organic.
Have you ever eaten meat?
I used to when I was in High School. I stopped after I turned 17 or so. I went on this school trip for a month and every meal was meat! After that I said to my parents that I didn’t want any more. These days my reasons have changed to environmental issues and how eating meat consumes a lot of energy and uses water.
Are there any meals that you used to eat that you now miss?
No. There’s a lot of fake meat products on the market now. I went to Gasometer at the weekend and had a chicken parma. Some of the products you can buy are really processed though, so I would rather eat beans, quinoa or grains.
Is Missy your actual Sister?
No. I met her through a mutual friend. She went to New Zealand for High School and then came over here for Uni. She’s a photographer. We got really close and started talking about food. As you know, food connects people.
How did you think of the name ‘Raw Sisters’?
At work we call all the girls ‘Sisters’ and thought that ‘Raw Sisters’ would be fitting.
What’s your job?
I work as a Community Mental Health Worker, I’m an Occupational Therapist. It’s a totally separate thing.
It’s not just about chopping and eating a salad, it’s about dehydrating it or making it a smoothie or thinking up new combinations.
How did you get in to raw foods?
I’ve always been into health and healthy foods. I found out about raw food through blogs and I’ve been eating raw since spring of last year. This will be my first winter.
Have you noticed a difference in your health?
Definitely! I’ve got so much more energy and feel really good inside. The general idea of raw food is that because you don’t cook it, the enzymes aren’t broken down so it’s in it’s most natural form. You get the most benefits from all of the vitamins that way. There’s different views on it, some people find it easier to digest, and some harder because it’s so raw. It depends on how you prepare it. It’s not just about chopping and eating a salad, it’s about dehydrating it or making it a smoothie or thinking up new combinations. Personally I get a lot out of eating raw food. I find it works best for me if I eat a portion of raw food and then cooked food as well.
What would you eat on an average day?
This might sound weird but I don’t have breakfast. For lunch I’ll make a green smoothie to start my digestive system going. If I’m working I’ll have a sandwich of sourdough bread with lots of raw food on top, maybe sliced pumpkin, beetroot, kale, avocado, with a bit of hemp seed butter. For dinner would be a salad, lentil or bean soup, or quinoa patties or something.
Is it hard to find restaurants that cater for your diet?
Whenever I go out I do my research. I think Melbourne is quite good with vegan food and places seem happy to take the cheese out, or whatever you ask.
What’s your favourite food to prepare or eat raw?
I really like my kale salad with a nutty dressing and for dessert I love raw cheesecake.
Are you hoping one day to have a cafe or a shop?
Yeah, a cafe would be amazing. Missy and her partner are going to move house soon and hopefully open a cafe.
Will this become a full-time thing then?
I’m passionate about my work so this is good as a side project for now.
Would you like to continue to do events?
Yeah! They’re really fun. The event that we did last time, we got to meet a lot of people and they had so many compliments. To see them making that connection with food, and talking to them about it, was great.
Have you converted anyone to the raw lifestyle?
I have a massive influence at work. I’m really passionate about organic eating as well so I tell all of the girls. Organic farming is so much better for the environment too. Through the events we have a little blurb about how it’s so much better for us.
Where do you get your ingredients from?
I get a box delivered from Ceres. They do a fair food co-op. It’s not that they grow everything there but get it from local farmers. Also, Naturally on High on High Street . We got most of our catering ingredients from there, they’re really good.
Did you have a foodie upbringing?
Not really. My Mum is such a ordinary cook. That’s maybe why I’m about experimenting and making new things. I don’t like to cook two of the same things twice. I love baking as well.
If someone was wanting to get involved in the raw food diet, what’s an easy recipe to start them off?
I think the juices and smoothies are a really good place to start. You just throw everything in; vegetables and green leaves. Just give it a try!
What’s the one thing you want to do before you die?
Travel. Build my own house. I watch a lot of Grand Designs and England and France seem open to the ‘eco’ style of living. Somewhere in Europe would be nice.
To get in touch with Yui or book The Raw Sisters, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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On a bright and sunny Byron Bay day we sat down with Tusta, head chef of Heart & Halo, a hare-krishna inspired restaurant. His tangy home brewed chai awakened our senses (and tastebuds) and the beautiful curry really did remind us of family cookin’. It was hearty, wholesome, and downright delicious. We’ll let the photos, his description, and the interview speak for themselves.
It’s basic human nature to look after each other.
“Heart & Halo offers a wide variety of global vegetarian dishes with distinct Indian Ayurvedic influences. Tusta, the head chef brings over 20 years of experience and adds his own flavour and style to all meals he prepares. Tusta has travelled to many places of the world but it is his love of India that has influenced his cooking the most. All meals are vegetarian and will tempt even the most fussiest of eaters.
Heart & Halo sources only the freshest spices, beans and grains to ensure the fullest of flavour. Only healthy oils are used for cooking and Himalayan salt is used to help improve your wellbeing.
The best local & organic produce is used when and where ever possible to make our fabulous vegetarian meals.
Heart & Halo offers an amazing range of great value Curries, Vegetable Baked Dishes, Hearty Lentil and Vegie Soups, Rice, Bean and Grain Dishes, the freshest salads and a selection of mouth watering drinks, sweets and snacks.
All that we prepare and offer contains only the best ingredients including Himalayan Salt. With 84 trace minerals, your body will benefit even long after your meal is complete.
Heart & Halo only uses oils that are good for you, not the common oils that may leave carcinogenic residue in your body.
But above all, Heart & Halo food is prepared and served with LOVE to benefit you and our beautiful community.”
They are always wholesome foods that remind you of home.
Why did you decide to open a restaurant here in Byron Bay?
I realised that local people want down to earth, quality food. There are a lot of health shops offering organic produce but they tend to be very expensive. I opened Heart & Halo to offer the local people exactly that but at affordable prices.
Could you name some of the produce that you use here at Heart & Halo?
We use organic Himalayan salt and cold press oils to improve my customers well-being.
Why do you think it’s so important to use organic produce?
It’s basic human nature to look after each other, and by growing foods organically, it’s simply looking after something that looks after us. It’s really nurturing through food. Festivals and celebrations are based around feasts and sharing, food is so important to so many cultures so it’s only right that we respect it.
Are you vegetarian?
Yes, by the time I was 17 or 18 I was over meat. I had worked in cafes and restaurants in Sydney and was sick of the smell, oil, and fat. There’s a huge disconnection between people and meat these days. They only see it in cellophane.
What inspired you to open Heart & Halo?
The idea came together after I had travelled. I’m a believer in indigenous cooking and the way it’s made with love. They are always wholesome foods that remind you of home. Backpackers come here and say that ‘it tastes like home’, which is great. I loved how diverse the diets were in India. How they live is just amazing! Too many people live on land that’s half the size of Australia, and they manage it in harmony. I believe it’s because they are all working for the same reason, whether it be a group or family unit. I was looking for something real to do, so naturally I thought of feeding people.
So you teamed your beliefs and travel discoveries together to create Heart & Halo?
It’s not about me, it’s about the food. There’s no ego here, not like MasterChef! I didn’t create it, I’m just passing the message on through the love and appreciation of food. I’m so thankful of the opportunity I have been given to spread the love through the food I serve.
For more information on Heart & Halo, please see:
Heart & Halo Good Food Bar
Shop 4/14 Middleton Street
(Corner of Byron Street & Middleton Streets – underneath the Budget Motel)
Byron Bay NSW 2481
Ph: 02 6685 6685
Special thanks to Tusta & Christie for making this happen.
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Byron Bay Chilli Sauce on OzyMex Tacos, Nachos, & Burritos
ON THE GLOBE
Byron Bay, Australia
ON THE TEAM
John Boland, Co-Founder of Byron Bay Chilli Co. & OzyMex Restaurant
If you grow chillies you realize that the sunnier the season or the sunnier the place where you plant them, the hotter the chilli. It’s converting sunlight in to heat – like a little packet of sun.
John “The Chilli Dude” Boland moved from California to Australia many moons ago and, together with his wife Lynne, helped pioneer a movement in Australia for chilli sauce and Mexican food. He generously invited us to come to his OzyMex shop to sample his line of epic sauces (our favorites were Fiery Coconut and Smokin’ Mango) on fresh home-made tortilla chips, tacos, quesadillas and a big heapin’ burrito. These classic culinary “hole-in-the-wall” delights reminded me of the traditional Mexican food from my hometown of Los Angeles, with a twist of that California and Australian love for fresh, healthy ingredients.
His infectious energy and positive vibes spill over into everything he does–the sauces and food are scrumptious to say the least and the fact that he loves what he does after so many years makes us love his products that much more.
He range of sauces range from mild and sweet to tangy and burnin’ hot. He’s a strong believer in being able to taste the ingredients of the sauce and not just a feeling of “HOT HOT HOT!”
We loved hearing his story and we think you will too.
Do you have any advice for anybody wanting to get into the sauce business?
Don’t give up your day job. No, but seriously, there’s been an awful
lot of things done in the last ten years so you have to try! There’s a
great show in Albuquerque, New Mexico called The Fiery Foods Show and it’s a great place to meet people in the industry. Everyone is there. We’ve been a whole bunch of times.
It’s a good starting point. You could meet with a fellow called Dave
DeWitt, he’s the Pope of Peppers and runs the show. You just talk to
people. It depends whether you want it to be a niche product or a main
stream product. So long as you have a plan for your sauce.
Did you have a plan for your sauce?
We didn’t really know what we were doing, we just started making
sauce. Then all of a sudden we get a call from this supermarket, so we
were faced with the prospect of being in the shops. We had to make a
sauce that was fairly competitive price-wise, ours is premium but
we’re still in the mass market, not the niche market. I think in
Australia it’s harder to be in the niche market because there are not as
many delis – there just isn’t as much of anything. There’s fewer
people and the distances between them are greater.
What brought you from California to Byron Bay?
My Mother was Australian, I came down here to meet my Grandmother and
just loved it! All of my cousins suggested that I go to Byron Bay,
saying that it was the top spot. Twenty-five years ago there was a real estate
agent right across the street, I walked in there and she spent the
whole day looking around at places and ended up buying a little plot
in the hills. I grew up in California in the 50′s and 60′s and in many
ways saw the best times there. Byron Bay felt like that to me. It’s
getting busier all the time, but not too busy. The beach lifestyle was
too attractive, plus our kids were young enough to bring over and had
no choice! [Laughs]
How did it develop in to the business it is today?
We saw an opportunity at a local food market to open a Mexican food
stall. That’s how we got started.
Are there other Mexican restaurants in Byron Bay?
Byron Bay had the first Mexican restaurant in Australia, ‘Mexican
Mick’s’ it was called. It was started by an Englishman. So for a long
time that was here and then he moved away.
We’re hoping that a lot more
people get to try our chilli sauce.
Where do you make the sauces?
We have a contract bottler which is up near the Gold Coast, about an
hours drive away. We looked at having our own factory here but it was
impossible; Not only too expensive, but the council limitations
brought all sorts of issues to have a building like that here. You’ll
find that so many sauces have contract packers.
How much does the factory make over there, is there a certain number
of bottles per day?
They are made to order. We sell about 50 tons a year. Last time I looked
that’s what it was anyway. Still small but not real small. We get
about 2 tons made at a time.
Did you expect Byron Bay Chilli Company to get as big as it has done?
No, I call it an accidental business. We’re hoping that a lot more
people get to try our chilli sauce.
Us too, they’re delicious!
A few of them are so different that I reckon they should be in every
Whole Foods supermarket. There’s a place in Texas that would love to
have our sauces but we don’t have an importer.
For me there’s a few rules of food. Number one is that the first
bite is taken with your eyes.
What’s in store for the next few years for Byron Bay Chilli Company?
We’re working with people to start a series of these Ozy-Mex stores. The good
thing about this kind of thing [the hole in the wall shop] is that
it’s affordable. People can pop in and buy something tasty to eat.
What we like about this arrangement is that people get to see their
food made so you get to know exactly what’s going in to it. I was
inspired by one of my favorite places, I grew up very close to Tijuana on the Mexican border. We used to travel around, mainly
for the cheap beer. There was a little hole in the wall place and in
order to get in you had to lift the bench up and squeeze in, it was
big enough for one person. The owner would make tacos and things while
you waited on the side walk. I was inspired by that idea – literally a
hole in the wall. It wasn’t so much about going to sit down and
spending $50 to eat, it was just something for the people.
With a hole in the wall style place you’re still close to your vision
and closer to your customers. When restaurants get too big it becomes
very impersonal. Maybe they lose sight of the vision a little bit…
Well, for me there’s a few rules of food. Number one is that the first bite is taken with your eyes. There’s also a feeling that a person
gives off, you know, the very best food is always served by mom,
there’s love there. In some small way that’s what we try to convey
here, even when we’re busy we still try to make people feel like
they’re not a hassle to us – we’re here to feed them. Then, of course
once it’s in your mouth it’s got to be good too! It should be
reasonably healthy, and the ingredients should be ethical.
Are chillies good for your health?
Absolutely! I certainly reckon they are and there’s a lot of
literature about it. They’re a digestive aid, a circulatory aid, they
make your food taste good, and they make you happy. There’s a lot of
vitamins in chillies. Chilli is an interesting fruit. Most people
don’t realize this but it came to Asia after the explorers went to the
Americas. There were no chillies in Asia prior to that time, so in the
past 500 years these cultures have totally absorbed the chilli. To me
it’s packed with sunlight. If you grow chillies you realize that the
sunnier the season or the sunnier the place where you plant them, the
hotter the chilli. It’s converting sunlight in to heat – like a little
packet of sun.
You make your own corn chips too?
Yes. We make 10 products in total. We’re looking at a few other
things, for example combining some of our sauces with other things to
create new flavors. There’s a bunch of things we hope to do in the
future. I think we’ve captured a good range of chilli sauces and added
our own signature to them.
We love your bottle labels. What inspired them?
It’s a little bit of paradise. It’s fun and clean.
Which sauce is your favorite?
I probably reach for the hottest one these days. I really like it on
so many things, like poached eggs. I don’t have a favorite child, I
like them all. Sweet chilli, I reach for that a lot. It just depends
what I’m eating.
Do you have a sauce with every meal?
I’ve always got a basket with one of each sauce in it. We just leave it out.
Where can people living outside of Australia buy your sauces?
Come to Byron Bay! We do sell online but postage is very expensive.
Huge thanks to John for this interview and generosity. For more information and recipes to use his delicious sauces, check out: