Interview with Anna Brones on Her New Slow Food and Slow Living Cookbook ‘The Culinary Cyclist’

 the culinary cyclist

“The rules for living well, if you can call them that, are simple and a pleasure to follow. Eat local and mostly plants. Ride your bike, even on rainy days. Say yes to dinner invitations. Always bring your signature dessert. Invite people on picnics. Bike in the sunshine. Follow a morning ride with a strong French press.” – “The Culinary Cyclist” by Anna Brones

EcoSalon’s own Foodie Underground, Anna Brones, has penned a cookbook for bike-loving foodies that’s full of creative, delicious and healthy slow food recipes alongside tips for successfully stocking your kitchen and transporting culinary masterpieces on two wheels. As founder of the taste bud tantalizing blog Foodie Underground, Anna has incorporated her Swedish heritage, time in the Pacific Northwest and current life in Paris into this guide for hedonistic, healthy and bike-heavy living. You’ll find gluten-free recipes like sea salt chocolate cake and baked eggs in avocado halves alongside instructions for shopping in bulk with a bike, gracefully hosting a dinner party and picnics by bike.

the culinary cyclist

The pages are riddled with Anna’s anecdotes on the development of her recipes as well as Johanna Kindvall’s charming illustrations, which are a treat in themselves. Following an amazingly successful Kickstarter campaign, pre-orders of the book can be placed via Foodie Underground, with delivery estimated for August 2013. We caught up with Anna to hear more about the inspiration behind the book and to give you a taste test of her thoughts on slow food, cycling and good living.

Leena Oijala: What was the inspiration behind “The Culinary Cyclist”?

Anna Brones: My publisher-to-be and I met up last fall to discuss various projects we were both working on and in the course of the conversation we started talking about food (I am known to talk about food quite regularly!). I told her she should think about publishing a book about food and bikes, she responded with, “why don’t you write it?” It was impossible to say no.

LO: This book will be quite the resource for the modern-day city cycler. Why do you think it hasn’t been written already?

AB: I am sure there is a book somewhere out there that has touched on the same topics. Most people know how to ride a bike, most people know how to make something edible to put on the table, I’m just hoping that this book inspires people to step it up a notch, not because they have to, but because they want to.

LO: Which country’s culinary culture most influenced the recipes you chose to include in the book?

AB: I would have to say that most of the book’s recipes come from my mother. She was born in Sweden, so she certainly has had a more European approach to cooking, but she also likes to experiment. She taught me to not be afraid in the kitchen, rarely use exact measurements and to change recipes whenever possible. So most of the recipes in the book don’t have a regional influence, just an influence of an attitude towards eating and cooking. There’s also no doubt that I have been influenced by living in locavore-centric Portland where it’s easy to shop locally and seasonally, and where no one will ever raise their eyebrows at you for brewing your own kombucha.

the culinary cyclist

LO: What is your favorite recipe in the book?

AB: Ack! That is a touchy question. If I had to choose I would say the Quinoa Apple Spice Cake recipe. It’s a personal favorite because when you tell people you can make a cake with quinoa they look at you like you’re crazy. But I happen to have a thing for putting odd ingredients in recipes, so I guess that’s normal.

LO: Your book includes mostly vegan and gluten-free recipes. Why do you think so many people have begun to gravitate toward these types of diets?

AB: I think it’s because people have started paying attention to what makes them feel good. For some people that’s a meat-heavy diet, but I think a lot of us have found that a diet of lean proteins and low dairy intake does us quite a bit of good. I am not vegan, vegetarian or even 100 percent gluten-free, I just cook the kind of food that I know is healthy for me and makes me feel good. At the end of the day, everyone has to choose their own eating habits, and most of the time it’s a matter of trial and error to finally end up at the type of eating that works right for you. It’s not necessarily about what we eat but being conscious about what we eat; where it comes from, how it makes us feel, etc.

LO: Why do you think food brings people together?

AB: No matter who you are or where you are from, you have to eat. Food brings us together because it’s a unifier; it’s something that we all do no matter our race or gender. If you look at various cultures around the world you will find that food is quite often the cornerstone of celebrations and traditions. Our ancestors sat around a fire and ate what they had hunted or harvested. Today we sit around the table. It’s a way of connecting not only with other people, but also with the place that our food comes from.

the culinary cyclist

LO: Why do you think our relationship to food has changed so much in the last five decades?

AB: We have opted for larger economic profits instead of health, and because of it we’re in a system where we’ve externalized all the costs so that unhealthy food is the cheapest option out there. I love the term that Michael Pollan used in “Omnivore’s Dilemma,”– “irresponsibly priced food”– meaning that you can look at a certain product and think that it’s cheap, but the price you pay at the checkout isn’t the real cost of the food to the environment and society. We live in fast, modern times, and many of us don’t make the time to eat well because, unfortunately, we don’t see it as a priority. But if you force yourself to remember that the only thing that’s keeping you going every day is what you eat, you can’t help but want to do better.

LO: If you could choose anyone in the world, who would you invite to dinner?

AB: Ah, the ideal dinner guest, good question. In terms of an interesting conversation about food, I would love to sit down with Marion Nestle, PhD. She has been such an influence in the world of food politics, and I think the dinner conversation would be more than enlightening. It’s one thing to talk about wanting to change the food system, and it’s another to actually do it. She’s one of the people that’s doing it, and that’s inspiring to me. Although, I would be super nervous about what to cook!

Images: Johanna Kindvall