Lauren helps individuals and families grow healthier and happier through learning to cook. Often working in conjunction with clients’ health care providers, she offers customized culinary instruction and meal planning services. In addition to running her own small business, Lauren is the Culinary Wellness Expert at Barre3 and develops and teaches culinary classes to future nutritionists and naturopathic physicians at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in a suburb west of Boston, then lived in New Orleans and New York, but I didn’t feel at home until moving to Oregon in 2002. I was fortunate to have a Watson Fellowship after college, and during that year of international travel I became passionate about cooking. Wherever I went, no matter what language was spoken, I found food was a way to communicate and connect.
One of my favorite food related books is Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace. She states, “We seem, too, to fear that we are failures at being tender and springy if we need to be seasoned. It is not so: it doesn’t reflect badly on pea or person that either needs help to be most itself.” I share this with my students at the beginning of each term.
To rejuvenate and relax, I rock climb. It keeps me in the moment and brings me to beautiful, sometimes off the grid places. And karaoke! Though I have a terrible voice and can’t dance, I always feel refreshed after being ridiculously goofy. I also love a good massage, and have persuaded many friends to hop on the foot massage trading bandwagon.
What’s inside your pantry right now?
Amaranth from the bulk bins.
What’s the healthiest item that you keep in stock?
This begs the question – What is the health hierarchy of foods? Is there a “healthiest item” and if so, how is it determined? When I consider what I keep on hand, there’s not one item that rises to the top. Seaweeds, nuts, lentils, flax seeds, prunes…
What about your guilty pleasure that you always have on hand?
I don’t have a “guilty pleasure” that I keep on hand. Shame, guilt, and embarrassment around eating certain foods is culturally prescribed and inflicted, and I do my best not to subscribe to that type of thinking personally. And there really is nothing in my pantry that makes me feel bad or guilty!
What’s your process for organizing your food pantry?
I have 4 different pantry-type areas. Open shelves above the counter for dried goods in jars, an area by the stove holds spices and shelf-stable liquids, cabinets for ingredients that need not to be exposed to light and the random assortment that’s less soft on the eyes, and a tall stack of shelves in the eating area for less frequently used ingredients. My freezer serves as a pantry for nuts, seeds and grains.
How do you typically feel, emotionally, when you open your kitchen pantry?
I feel at home. And grateful that I know what to have on hand and how to throw it together.
Compared to your mother, how is your pantry the same or different than what you grew up with?
So different! My mom’s pantry was mostly stocked with processed foods. We’re talking Fruit Loops and Spaghettios, both of which I loved.
If you could change anything about how your pantry is now, what would it be?
Some ingredients get forgotten in the depths of the cabinets – way in the back. Deep drawers rather than cabinets would be a bonus, but I’m pretty content with my pantry, and most of all, that it’s well stocked. When it’s all said and done, I don’t believe food should be taken so seriously unless there’s not enough of it.
Thank you Lauren for sharing your pantry with us. I appreciate your closing comment….
Your turn: What is your highlight from Lauren’s pantry interview?