KEEP it simple... that’s Cathy Fitzgibbon’s food ethos.
Cathy speaks to us in the latest of our WoW! Bites series.
In this internet age, where too much information is available at our fingertips, somewhere along the line we have lost sight of what’s important about the food we eat, when we eat, how we eat, and who we eat it with.
But all is not lost. In her new book, Eat With The Seasons – Self-Guidance Mindful Eating And Gratitude Journal, Cathy says we can uncomplicate our relationship with food by considering it and enjoying it better.
Originally from Castlekevin, Cathy Fitzgibbon, 44, has had a 20-year career in media marketing, but her passion lies in food, and she is known by her online pseudonym: The Culinary Celt.
Developed as a platform to showcase food as a positive force for good, The Culinary Celt came out of research completed for her Masters’ thesis in Marketing called Destination Cork – A New Frontier for the Culinary Curious Tourist. Her research was published in 2017 and Cathy was invited to present her findings at the World Tourism Conference in Copenhagen, on behalf of Munster Technological University.
It launched her on a path of academic writing that has seen her become a contributing author on the topic of food for three books published by Galway-based Book Hub Publishing on ‘Mental Health 4 Millennials’ and a fifth book, ‘Exploring #Connectedness Millennials and Gen Z’.
But, says Cathy, she’s still happy to don the wellies and walk the family farm in the Golden Vale.
“My dad is 80 now, he was milking cows up until last year. I like the published academic work, but I still have my wellies and I like to go out and about, so I have the two ends of spectrum.
“I started The Culinary Celt in 2018 and my ethos is about simplicity: I don’t like dieting culture; I think food is personal and everybody is different.
“Keep food simple. You can have potatoes and butter - that’s basic good food and its fantastic when its produced well, and we’re lucky we have that here. Ireland is one of the most food secure countries in the world, but when something is under your nose you think: how can the solution be so simple?”
Millennial is a term often misapplied to a younger generation, but refers to those born between 1982 and 2002, meaning the millennial age range is between 19-39. Millennials are the first generation of people to grow up without knowing life before the internet, and this, says Cathy, has had a noticeable impact on how they engage with all aspects of life, particularly food.
Millennials are the first generation to sit and take real notice of food and document it in a way never done before. They share, are curious and inform others about what they have learned about food, and there is a real link with the engagement of food and mental health.
“The internet is the main driver of that,” says Cathy. “Millennials have never known a time before the internet; they have access to too much information at times and it’s not really allowing people space to make their own judgments. That’s where I step in and say, keep it simple, be your own person, you don’t have to fall into a particular box; eat what you like, be conscious of what is being eaten, but the main thing is to enjoy it guilt-free.
“Everyone is constantly looking at everyone else, but everybody is different and someone who looks perfectly fine might still have some health issues. People don’t know that, but equally they shouldn’t know that because that feeds the problem of over-sharing and self-diagnosing, which over-complicates everything.
“When I write for the ‘Mental Health 4 Millennials’ series, there’s no blame; we all need to learn to look in and be aware of our own self. Food is to be shared and enjoyed; someone’s worked hard to produce the food we eat and that often gets missed. It’s easy to pick food up and it’s so disposable. That’s why I wrote my own book.”
Eating with the Seasons, published in March, is a mindfulness journal aiming to reconnect us with the act of eating.
“It’s a journal; it’s about having your own space and is not something to be shared. It’s something to keep. It’s personal because eating is personal.”
The journal incorporates a framework devised by Cathy and based on four pillars she observes in all her interactions with food.
Cathy says it’s called ‘The CELT Mindful Eating Model’ and helps people filter back interactions with food to four trains of thought:
· C - Consider the food source,
· E – Enjoy and be present,
· L – Love your food,
· T – Take notice of your feelings.
“The journal follows the four seasons of the year, and each season has a theme. Spring is self-reflection. Summer is discovery and finding what you enjoy. Autumn is understanding and acceptance – recognising eating behaviours, habits, or triggers. Winter is self-love – when it’s cold we want to cosy up and that’s the time to mind ourselves, look inward, and attend to our self-love.
“Each season has a culinary compass: north is mind, south is gut, west is social, and east is environment and nature. I delve into each of the points and provide suggestions for what to take notice of and any actions.
“As readers move through the seasons, I provide helpful seasonal mindful eating habits. For example, in autumn I suggest a food swap of apple juice in the morning instead of orange juice. Why do we drink OJ in the mornings? Because it’s been marketed that way. We can’t grow oranges in Ireland, but we can grow apples and they taste delicious!”
All the foods suggested in the journal are grown or produced in Ireland. Honey, mushrooms, dairy, and the huge variety of seasonal vegetables from potatoes to pak choi.
“I want the journal to help, inform and educate but people do the work themselves, I’m just placing anchor points along the way. Everyone will read the journal differently, engage with their own perspective, empower them in their own daily experiences, and it will help them to mindfully map out their own personal relationship with food.
“Create a sacred eating space - consider where are you eating your food, what are you doing when you’re eating? Do you have your phone on the table? If you’ve never thought about that, talk about it as a family. Would you dress the table, or pick fresh flowers? What can you do so when you go to that space to eat, you’re not thinking about anything else other than the food, and being grateful to the person who has produced this for you.
“We have to reclaim our space back to enjoy and consider our food.”
Eating with the Seasons – Self-Guidance Mindful Eating and Gratitude Journal, published by Book Hub Publishing, runs to 160 pages. Illustrations by Laura Phillips, food photography by Monika Coghlan. Priced at €18, available from www.theculinarycelt.com and independent outlets.
Next month in WoW! Bites, on April 6, Kate Ryan interviews Suzanne Burns of Kinsale Food Tours.