Oh my cooking soul – here we are!

Welcome back to our food (r) evolution for 2017.

It feels so good to be sitting here with energy and words building up to share with you.

There is ever so, so much to talk about and when I get the time to sit with you and just bring conversation to everything that is going on in this crazy beautiful and difficult space we commune around – I’m connected and I’m happy.

There is always so much to consider when it comes to this very vital food (r )evolution you, I and the farmers shape . It’s never ordinary content because this is no ordinary endeavour. Our farmers are no average contributors and you are no ordinary people and to serve you is for the most – only a sacred honour.

These newsletters will never be places where we focus on products. We are putting much effort to making sure that all the news about produce in store is given to you in regular Facebook and Instagram posts.

This is rather the place where we bring the conversation about our context and why we do what we do, to you. The food (r)evolution issues, challenges and joys that shape this journey.

I think it’s mightily appropriate for this first chat of the year to focus on a theme that has become most topical – what I think of you, how I relate to you and what attitude towards you, you can expect from me.

Heaven knows this work – where I sort of function as a connection conductor – trying to bring together the needs of the farmers into concert with yours, as well as the needs of the store and my team – is a road less travelled. We are having to make up our own rules all the way as this is not how normal retail is done and we have nobody to follow but we know it all has to be done differently because the world is in trouble.

It is true that this kind of work means that by its very revolutionary nature, I have to accept that by standing for what we believe in – it very often means too – standing against things that harm the whole and the spirit of collaboration and co-operation that this food ( r) evolution is utterly dependent on. It means I have to accept making enemies along the way at times – and I do.

I accept this as a necessary consequence of needing to stand for and protect the interests of all of us connected here. It is equally unavoidable that I won’t win any popularity contest speaking out against the ills in our broken food system. I have no need to be popular or pleasing to the mainstream – it is more important that I’m effective in living out my life purpose which is to stand for our right to access good food and good nutrition from farmers who act as custodians of nature’s process. Farmers who do no harm and leave the land they work with, in a better state for the next generation – respecting everything that is involved in producing good food – people, soil, water, animals, air – farmers who respect the interconnectedness of it all.

I’m here to fight for a world I believe in and to provide a space where like minds and hearts can join in to a community that cares about the same things they do. I’m not here to be pleasing.

I have often been outspoken about demanding consumer behaviour that harms the sustainability of farmers and have a reputation for standing firm on the changes we need to make to our immediate consumerist culture where it harms the sustainability of good farmers. I make no apologies for this.

I had to wonder recently though – after hearing a few customers describe themselves as demanding brats in different words – whether I have communicated perhaps in an unbalanced way. Because it is as much true that I protect your interests just as much as I do our farmers.

I do not believe Organic Emporium customers to be demanding unconscious brats – far from it – what I have come to learn about you – is that you are a formidable group of educated, knowledgeable and conscious people that are ever ready to work with us to make compromises when it comes to how we support small farmers.

I have loved remembering this about you lately.

There have been 3 instances where I have had to protect your interests just as much as I do our farmers and where I was in touch with just how much I care about your needs. That I demand that anybody who comes into our space respects you. I get mad if you get belittled, short changed or misunderstood.

I want to reflect on that in this newsletter because that deep sense of protection I felt for you had me considering who you are.

I love who you are – for the most. Of course – I don’t take well to everybody who walks into this shop – and there are people I most certainly don’t enjoy. I don’t care to hide it when I encounter them – but they are few and far between. I love that they are the exception and I smile deep inside acknowledging that.

You are mostly a collective of very conscious, very connected people of light and heart. You influence and shape me every day. I never stop learning from you and you inspire me in so many different ways to hang on in here when I’m tired or disillusioned. It’s you – as much as the farmers – that make me get up – over and over again – when I have felt knocked down by the enormity of our challenges sometimes.

It is becoming more true – that the unconscious demanding cliché called ‘consumer’ – does not best describe the people most supportive of Organic Emporium. Those who know me – know that I most certainly have no compunction putting customers who bring negativity and unrealistic demands – firmly back in their place and I have no problem letting customers that aren’t good either for us or our farmers – go. I have no need to be ‘nice’ or ‘popular’, I’m just hell bent on doing what I think is right and working from a place of purpose. I’ll make the enemies I need to along the way if need be but for the most I end up being surrounded by what I believe to be some of the most wide-awake, heart centered real people in Johannesburg.

When I think that the very incredible nature of you is not being honoured – please know that I protect your interests with as much ferocity – as I do our farmers. You don’t always see that but I feel just as outraged if I encounter people that I don’t believe care to understand or value you.

I want you to trust that in me. Not that I won’t make mistakes. In a journey as much a vital fire walk as this, I make plenty of mistakes and I will continue to. I have to if I am to accept treading a path where we have nobody to follow and we make this up as we go along. For every success to celebrate, we only got there by stumbling and falling down many times in our learning before we got it right.

What I do ask you to trust is that when I make those mistakes – I will do all the soul searching required to work out what I need to do to learn to grow and get the insight out of it. As always, I’m likely to share the story and learning with you. This is the dance of evolvement and growth.

It’s often chaotic, it’s often messy – it’s not all moonshine and roses – and it’s beautifully real.

When things get crazy busy and I feel pulled in 48 different directions, my worst mistakes happen when I ignore that little nagging gut feel in the center of my belly that doesn’t feel quite right. It still amazes me sometimes the lengths we can go to – to ‘talk over’ a little whisper in our gut that informs – ‘something is amiss here’.

When I leave a good farmer with a true and whole philosophy of sustainable farming, I feel like I’m leaving a holy space and it feels so right deep in my belly. I leave knowing that it’s my life’s work to serve them by doing what I can to connect people to their sacred work through their produce.

When I don’t get that feeling – it never works out well.

There were two instances towards the end of last year when I ignored that feeling and where it didn’t work out well. I had experimented with two new farms that I didn’t feel good about. All the right words and answers were there but there was a something missing and because I was so stretched thin, I ignored the feeling. I had very little personality left in the last quarter of last year to be honest, there had been so much to deal with, my wits weren’t sharp.

Both times I didn’t pay attention to that little nagging doubt and it was a mistake.

In both circumstances – the reaction from the supplier both in different ways – contained a comment to the effect of – Organic Emporium customers are ‘health fanatics’ and ‘extremists’. This was the excuse given as a reply to reactions to their produce. Both defended by saying that our customers are particularly fussy, fanatical and extreme. In another unrelated scenario, I felt like the nature of who you are was attacked and that you were misunderstood as a group and I defended you.

I can’t even begin to describe the fury that rises up in me when I encounter anybody who doesn’t take you as seriously as I do or treat you with as much care as I ask that farmers are treated.

I have good reason to defend you which brings me to the thank you I need to give you as we get into this new year.
It is not extreme or fanatical or fussy – to be on such an empowered journey with food that you have a position on how industrial food makes you feel. It does not make you a ‘health fanatic’ as some industry sponsored ‘dietician’ suggested to me in a mail – when you know well what it feels like to eat dairy or meat from farms where there is no GM input and know well how different you feel – when you do.

People with any form of auto immune disease – know well – what creates inflammation flare ups and know well – how differently their bodies feel when they eat good food as opposed to when they eat from farms that do have GM input.

If there is one thing I have learnt over the years – not only with my own journey but also with yours – is to trust myself – and you.

I am also long enough in the tooth here to be able to discern the true ‘extremists’ who are masking potent eating disorders through a focus on ‘healthy eating’ and I have been vocal about this too.

Orthorexia is a very real eating disorder – it is not a connection to empowerment and the joy of good food connected to farming that looks after nature. The difference is an obsessive focus based more on fear and neurosis – that has people ever looking for the next ‘toxic food’ and the list of the latest toxins to avoid – never ends.

Yes, I know that this exists – and I do encounter them in this space but rarely nowadays. They are ever fuelled with neurosis and ‘fear’ and the focus of their energy is very different to most of you who are on this journey to connect to the joy of nourishment and an investment in the planet and the health of the whole – not an endless list of new toxins to avoid.

Many of you are on journeys too to heal disease through nourishment. You know much about the relationship between how food effects how you feel.

Having to defend you recently – made me realise just how much I have come to trust you, as much as I have asked that you trust me to have your back.

I loved remembering when I stood up for you when I encountered suppliers who I felt criticised you and didn’t care to know who you are and what motivates you to eat the way you do – that I have come to trust your judgement as much as my own.

Anybody who doesn’t value you isn’t right for this space just as much as customers who don’t value farmers don’t work well with us either. This community has to be an interconnected space of give, take and mutual respect where we acknowledge that we are all as important as each other.

I’m quite awake. I know how to discern the difference between fanaticism and healthy consciousness and knowledge. For the most you don’t much behave like the cliché of good farmers’ enemy – the overly demanding and clueless customer and this why I believe in you.

That is not who you are – for the most you make all the compromises you need to when I ask them of you – to support sustainable farmers.

Far from being neurotic – you know how different you feel when you eat food that is not a part of the industrial and conventional chemical dependent food system.

You know well the absence of inflammatory and energy issues you have when you eat from farms that don’t have GM input. We know because – we know – and the paid for big food mouth piece dietician who just insulted you is about to get an almighty bollocking from me. How dare she presume to speak on your behalf?

All of my relationships in food that I bring to you in this space – will only happen with people who I trust with your interests – because I know damn well how much you care about theirs, value and support theirs.

I find you for the most, the most remarkable community of people – the type of people who will be responsible for helping us all create an alternative food space. Just know that I treasure you and have your back just as much as I do the farmers.

So carry on being ‘fanatics’ if you must – I will have your back and most certainly pull any product where those of you I trust react badly to it despite ‘dieticians’ saying that your inflammatory reaction is because you’re an extreme health fanatic. I’m still so mad about this, I need to let my fury rest for 3 days before I respond to this ignorant lady.

As much as I only want to put good farmers in your space – equally I want farmers and suppliers who care to value you in return – and who want to take the time to understand you.

We all need to meet each other where we’re at and you are a group of people worthy of the utmost respect because you are backing farmers who are making a difference – they need you as much as you need them.

I feel good to be serving your needs and to understand more about who you are – and to back your right to the best food this year.

I am happy and proud to be able to say that the farmers we stand for here – value you as much as I ask that you value them. They rejoice at your support of them and I trust you. Far from being fanatics or extremists – you are the people leading the food change and I treasure you.

Thank You!

That out the way, the other thing I need to quickly tell you before I run off is that our mission to make the best justice out of James Moffett’s organic and heritage wheat – continues. The best way to honour James’ work is to get you the very best sourdough loaf we can and setbacks aside – we’re back on track with that journey.

To anybody buying the sourdough country loafs, you will be getting a call from the baker making them for you, please don’t think we’re stalking you, we just want to get you and him into a relationship as he’s as passionate about understanding who you are as he is perfecting sourdough.

The bread will evolve as we go along, the starter is still a bit young, it’ll get better as it matures week by week. I apologise to anybody who was disappointed at the lapse in bread at the end of last year and the year’s opening.

I felt dreadful for building you up to like something that wasn’t consistently available, why most of my holiday was about being consumed with fixing that for you and connecting you to bread available daily. I really am sorry to those who had driven back to get it to be disappointed, if you were one of them – please be assured that I’m taking steps to make sure it never happens again.

I do need to give you a recipe today as it’s been mightily topical this week.

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I had cooked up one of Babur’s giant marrows and put up a picture on Facebook of it – and it turns out that two of our customers had made the exact same recipe! I did promise to give it out – it’s barely a recipe really as it’s so simple, it’s more just an idea of how to treat adult marrows.

There is no limit to what you can fill them with if you bake them like this, the recipe features them filled with beef bolognaise slow roasted and cooked with organic tomatoes and then topped with Barry’s goats chevre. You can make the bolognaise any which way you like – or mince however you do it.

There are so many exciting things starting to come into the store, please stay in touch with our Instagram and Facebook page for quick snap shots of what we have coming in and out.

For those of you asking about when the new eatery will be open, wow, we have a way to go. It is involving into a very exciting space. We’re still in drawing and planning phase and the aim is to have it open by 1 July. We have much to do to get ready for this and I wish I could show you the drawings and tell you how it is evolving – it’s so exciting it’s absurd really – but we’ll get there and when we do, we’ll give you a beautiful space to eat in where you can relax and trust just like you do in the store.

Much love and never forget – that I have your beautiful extreme, fanatical – backs ☺ Stay demanding, stay conscious and know that I will pull any product that you have a reaction to – because I trust your judgement and I thank you for all the places you have trusted mine. I’ll deal with the most ignorant big food dietician who defends GM food, shortly.

Debbie Logan

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