Sunday, December 13, 2015

Muddy Hands-- Celebrating Real Food...

I am so excited to reintroduce you to my lovely dear friend and fellow Food Revolution Ambassador Singapore Way Ling Wiesser. She has graced my blog in the past with her gorgeous recipe for popular Singapore hawker dish Hainanese Chicken part of my Southeast Asia Street Food Series. I've been admiring Way's unwavering passion on creating a healthier food scene in Singapore-- the tremendous work she's done educating and cooking with her community and family. I remember her excitedly telling me she was embarking on a food project; and with tireless energy and effort her dream Muddy Hands was born. Food awareness, education and a discussion forum are at the core of what she has built on this recently launched web-site. Hear Co Founder Way speak about the inspiration behind starting up her new company with a focus on where food comes from, cooking fresh and eating behaviours. 

What was the main inspiration behind Muddy Hands?

I’ve always been really interested in food.

I grew up in the UK where our family owned a Chinese restaurant and my father is a chef. I think it would be fair to say that my father is the inspiration behind my love of real food. Our best family time was spent around a noisy dinner table laden with numerous delicious dishes. Whilst eating one meal, we would discuss what to have at the next… we really loved our food.

My palate was trained from a very young age - I have happy memories of guessing the missing ingredient if my dad was too rushed and the dish was missing a certain taste. As I grew older and became a mother to two children, I carried on the tradition of home cooking and eating fresh well-balanced meals. When my children were babies, I would spend my weekends filling ice cube trays full of fresh organic purées and they have, thankfully grown up to be really great eaters with a very open attitude to food.

Through various happenings in our family life, I have become increasingly convinced about the need for everyone to eat better. The food in our current food system can often do more harm than good. I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan and in particular, two of his phrases have really stuck with me. That is that processed food is not real food, it is “edible food like substances” – although actually quite inedible in some cases ;-). And secondly, “The best marker of a healthy diet was whether the food was cooked by a human being. Even poor people who still cook have healthier diets than rich people who don’t.” I truly believe that one of the best ways to improve our diets is to cook for ourselves and that is one of the key reasons why I signed up to become a Food Ambassador for the Food Revolution (Jamie Oliver Food Foundation).

As I have become more actively involved in the real food scene, I have discovered that there really is a genuine lack of awareness of what is going on in our food industry. There is no lack of information out there but sadly, it is not always reaching everyone who needs it. This is a very real gap that needs to be addressed.

Way hosting cooking classes with her kids and their friends.

You are already an avid real food advocate in your "adopted" home Singapore along with being an Ambassador for Food Revolution. What are some of the positive changes you are seeing in your community over the years in respects to eating fresh and healthy. And the biggest challenges?

I feel that home cooking is a tough sell in Singapore. It is often cheaper and easier to eat out rather than eat in. Also, there’s a whole generation who seem to have lost the ability to cook as they have been brought up eating take-out food or at the hawker markets.

Singapore offers huge options in terms of dining out and there are very cheap hawker stalls which sell cheap and tasty meals. Whilst there is an element of fresh preparation to the hawker meals, they are often laden with thick sauces, oil and a lot of processed ingredients. That said, if people no longer know how to cook, then this really is their only option.

There has been a little progress in this field with the odd stall, offering a healthier option such as brown rice, but this is not common practise and the changes are very slow in coming.

What are some of the things you hope to achieve through Muddy Hands?

Muddy Hands’ aim is to spread awareness and education to help people make better food choices. My aim is to encourage people to ask questions and to effect behaviour change, both big and small. I truly believe that no positive change is too small and am realistic enough to acknowledge that it often takes lots of small changes in order to achieve real change. Through my recently launched website where I have developed a very user-friendly discussion forum, users can browse and post questions and answers to a huge range of topic, ranging from recipe tips to specialty diets, through to food politics. There’s something for everyone.

As you can see fresh and home cooking can`t be beat!

What is the one food issue Muddy Hands is passionate about right now?

I really feel very strong about food waste, especially at the production level where perfectly good food is being produced but never makes it to the consumer. I really admire the work being done by Tristram Stuart’s group at Feedback, an environmental charity that raises the awareness of food waste.

I see an ever widening gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” and sadly, the latter group are the ones without the education nor the financial means to better their lives. I feel a very real need to rectify this inequality.

My dream would to be open up a store which channels unsellables (the “Uglies”) to those in need. It seems criminal to waste so much food when there are so many people in need. A store to sell the produce at accessible prices, with an area that teaches people how to prepare and cook the food. Rental of physical space is a huge challenge in Singapore where land is amongst the most expensive in the World.

Muddy Hand's philosophy is deeply grounded on accessing fresh food, eating organically, and growing your own food. Are there plans to collaborate with local farmers and food justice organizations to further your cause? 

Muddy Hands is currently working on collaborations with other companies and organizations with shared values. Inspiring change is not a job that we can do alone, it requires teamwork, persistence and not ever taking “no” for an answer.

Way invites each and every person to join her in this exciting journey of discovery as Muddy Hands talks, eats and cooks its way to an all-round tastier way of eating. If you are hungry for change, please join her and engage with like-minded individuals on Muddy Hands' discussion forum

Thank you Way for the opportunity to speak to you about your wonderful endeavours with Muddy Hands. Congratulations and I look forward to seeing some of the wonderful things come to fruition! Plant the seed, nurture it and it will grow....

All photos provided by Way Ling Wiesser.

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