One of the first cookbooks that I purchased as a new mother was Simply Natural Baby Food, by Cathe Olson, which I learned about through Mothering Magazine. I ordered it directly from Cathe and absolutely treasured my signed copy, which is now dog-eared and splattered from years of faithful companionship in the kitchen.
Cathe’s second cookbook, The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook, was released the year I became pregnant with our second child, and although it was during this pregnancy that I reintroduced meat into my diet (after 17 years as a vegetarian), I still continue to enjoy the cookbook’s nutrient-dense vegetarian meals and healthy snacks.
When I recently discovered via Cathe’s Web site, that she had a new cookbook out, I was excited. When I learned that it was all about healthy, non-dairy ice creams, I was thrilled.
We certainly love our homemade ice cream around here – Papa is the expert ice cream maker – and we are just getting into fresh, pastured cream season, but since the beginning of this year we have also been consciously eating a bit lighter, and while we don’t intend to give up dairy completely anytime soon, we are certainly consuming a bit less of it.
I am delighted to have another of Cathe’s inspiring cookbooks on our shelves, and to share this space with her today.
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EBG: How did you come to do the work you are doing?
CO: It’s been kind of a strange journey. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and wrote short stories in my spare time but was mostly busy working as a computer systems analyst. In my thirties, however, I got very interested in nutrition and natural foods cooking. After the birth of my first daughter, I became a stay at home mom. When it was time to feed my daughter solid foods, I didn’t want to feed her food from boxes and jars. The only baby food cookbooks I could find used white flour, sugar, jello and stuff like that so I started developing my own recipes. When others kept asking for them, I decided to put them into a book. It was exciting to me to combine writing with my love for healthful, natural foods
Please tell us about your family.
I met my husband Gary about 12 years ago and it was literally love at first sight. We were both older and had sort of decided we were meant to be single but we just sparked. We got married and a year later had our first daughter Aimie. Emily was born 2 years after that. Now, Gary and I have been married over 11 years and Aimie is 10 and Emily is 8.
What was your transition into motherhood like?
The transition into motherhood was hard in some ways and easy in others. I loved my children and felt really lucky that I was able to leave my job and stay home with them. But it was hard too—I missed the independence of my own income. I also felt really isolated at times being home with my children. We lived way out in the woods about 40 minutes from the nearest town. My books were really important to me – I felt like writing was the one thing I was doing just for me. Now that my daughters are older, we have so much fun together. We enjoy cooking, reading, theater, hiking – so many things. I feel really lucky to have such a great family. We love to spend time together but my husband and daughters also realize that I’m a person, as well as a wife and mother, with ambitions and needs and they respect that.
How old were your children when you created your first cookbook? What forms did child-minding take during those years?
My first book was actually a booklet called Beyond Rice Cereal that I wrote when Aimie was one and I was pregnant with Emily. I actually typed it up and had it copied and stapled at a local copy shop. I printed 500 copies and sold them at local health food stores. They sold out so fast that I decided to do a full book, which I wrote after my daughter Emily was born. Finding time to write was often difficult. I made a rule for myself that naptime was my time – no housework – and that was when I wrote. When I was writing The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook – which is a about four times as big as Simply Natural Baby Food — I was lucky to find a friend that watched my daughters a couple of mornings a week so I could write uninterrupted. I’d also write in the evening after dinner when my husband would have time with the kids. It was definitely an exhausting schedule but it was worth it to me.
What forms does education take in your family?
Education has been an adventure as well. We never did preschool—in large part because of where we lived; it just wasn’t practical. I would have spent more time driving then they’d actually be in preschool. I read a lot about homeschooling and felt because of where we lived and things I’d heard about public school that it would be the best option for our family. I enjoyed it but as my daughters got older I felt really stretched between homeschooling and my writing career. We moved closer to town and had several friends who attended our local public school and had great things to say about it. We enrolled the girls and it really worked out great for our family. While public school isn’t perfect, it’s not nearly as dismal as I’d envisioned. The teachers and administrators are great. My daughters love school, are learning a lot, and are thriving there. I get my writing done in the morning and when they get home from school, I’m totally ready to be with them and I teach them the things I want to supplement their education with – cooking, sewing, music, nature, writing, etc. I’m also involved in the school district wellness committee and have done a lot of nutrition presentations for both parents and students.
Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process (in the kitchen or in your writing studio)?
A lot of my creative process takes place before I get to the kitchen or my desk. At the farmers’ market, natural foods store, or in my garden – I’ll start thinking of what I can make for dinner or what foods might be good combined. I do a lot of experimenting when I cook – the hardest part is remembering to write down what I’m doing or how much of each ingredient I’m using because I never know when an experiment will be a ‘keeper’. I write at a desk in the living room, which is fine when the kids are at school and my husband’s at work, but in the evenings or during school vacations, it’s hard to get much done – which is maybe a good thing so I’ll take a break but tough when I’m on a deadline. My family is pretty good though. When I tell them that I need uninterrupted time to write, they’ll listen pretty well. And luckily they’re always happy to taste my recipes.
With a successful freelance writing career, three published cookbooks (and another in the works), and an active family life, how and when do you nurture yourself and return to Center?
Nurturing myself is definitely an area I sometimes neglect – I want to set more time for yoga or walks but am not that good about it. One thing I do almost every night is at 9:00 or 9:30 when the kids are in bed, I stop work (well, most of the time). My husband and I spend some time catching up and then I read for an hour or two before bed. I love to read so that time is really precious to me.
What “baby steps” do you suggest for people (parents and others) who would like to shift to more healthful eating?
Baby steps are a great way to transition into more healthful eating. I usually suggest starting by cutting out (or cutting down) on sweetened drinks. Those add a lot of sugar and calories into your diet and for some reason your brain doesn’t seem to register that it has taken in those calories and doesn’t signal you to feel full. Cutting down on processed foods in general is another great area to address. They’re full of refined flours and sweeteners, artificial flavors and colors, as well as usually high in sodium, fat, and/or sugar. Try to transition to eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans and legumes.
What’s next for you? And what is the best way for people to follow along with your work?
My next project is going to be a healthy cookbook for kids. I want kids to have success in the kitchen so I’ll make the instructions very clear for an inexperienced cook, and give them healthy yet tasty foods to make. I’m also working on a chapter book series featuring homeschooled characters–something I wished was around when I was homeschooling.
The best way to keep up with what’s happening with me is through my blog or my Facebook page. View my Web site for more information about my books.
Thank you Cathe, for sharing your time with us and for sharing your Light with the world!
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Cathe has generously offered a signed copy of Lick it! for one lucky exhale. return to center. reader. To enter leave a coment below by Sunday at 5 p.m. EST, when I will choose one commenter at random.
Good luck! And happy weekend!
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Comments closed. And the winner is…
Carrie, who said: Oooh dairy free ice cream, a rare treat round here as it is so expensive to buy would love to learn to make some. Great interview, thanks Cathe & Erin x
Congrats Carrie!! Thanks Cathe!! And thanks to everyone for the supportive comments!!