Interview With Winnie Abramson
One Simple ChangeGrowing up in one of New York City’s most famous restaurants, The Quilted Giraffe, Winnie Abramson got a great head start in clean, healthy eating. Today, the naturopath, food writer, photographer and burgeoning homesteader helps others to simplify their diets and focus on seasonal, sustainable foods with her popular blog, Healthy Green Kitchen. Here, she shares her adventures in chicken rearing, beekeeping and gardening, as well as her holistic approach to health and food. Abramson has also authored the cookbook and sustainable lifestyle guide, One Simple Change.
You developed Healthy Green Kitchen back in 2009. What was your inspiration for doing so?“We had recently moved into a home with a big yard, and we were really excited about building a garden and keeping chickens. I thought a blog would be a good place to document our new adventures in green living. Since I had a background in holistic medicine and I’d always loved to cook, I decided to call my blog Healthy Green Kitchen.”
Growing up in a restaurant family you were exposed to high quality food at a very young age. When do you first remember making the connection between good food and good health?“My parents owned one of the best restaurants in New York City for many years when I was a child and I ate food from the restaurant frequently. As I got into my teens, however, I began to avoid eating in the restaurant because I decided the food was “too fattening” (my dad- the chef- was a HUGE fan of butter). These days, I love high quality butter and consider it a health food. I really regret not eating in the restaurant more before it closed; I guess you could say I didn’t really appreciate how good I had it!”
Taking it a step further, how did you begin to connect good food with environmental sustainability?“My parents sourced organic vegetables for the restaurant back in the 80’s: that’s how I learned that organic produce is delicious. I made the connection between local, organic food and environmental sustainability later, when I started my own family.”
What inspired you to pursue your doctorate in naturopathic medicine? How do you incorporate this training into your work as a green cook and sustainable food advocate?“I had a number of health issues in my late teens/early 20s that I healed via dietary changes. My personal experience inspired me to go to naturopathic medical school. My education, and the many years of studying nutrition on my own, informs the way I cook, eat, and write about food.”
You’re also a mother of two. How have you involved your kids in Healthy Green Kitchen?“I’ve never specifically involved my kids in the blog, but since it reflects our lifestyle and the foods I cook for our family, I guess you could say they are involved!”
Though you write often about consciously limiting your family’s sugar intake, what are some of your favorite sweet and healthy snacks?“I don’t buy soda, store-bought sweets or processed foods so we do avoid high fructose corn syrup and processed white sugar for the most part. I do bake a lot, though. I use organic sugar, pure maple syrup, and raw honey in my baking (my kids love brownies and cookies!). We don’t really snack on sweets, but we love fruits, nuts, cheese, and wholesome crackers and/or veggies with all sorts of dips for snacks.”
In addition to growing your own foods, you’re also an avid beekeeper and you maintain a flock of chickens. Have your homesteading activities given your work with Healthy Green Kitchen a different dimension?“I have a long way to go before I can really call myself a homesteader, but I do grow a lot of fruits and veggies in the warmer months, and I have my own chickens for eggs. I did have my own bees, but sadly, they died over the winter (I do hope to get more bees next year). I love being able to source ingredients for my blog so close to home, but I do rely on others for much of what we eat, as well. I live in a great area where I can get excellent raw milk and pastured animal foods from numerous local farms, and I supplement what I can’t grow or buy from a farm with items from my town’s excellent natural foods market. I encourage my readers to eat as much local food as possible, too.”
Many cities across the US have experienced heated debate over backyard livestock. As a chicken owner, what are your thoughts on bringing the barnyard to the backyard?“I love keeping chickens and find them extremely easy to care for, but I don’t think keeping chickens is for everyone. We have plenty of fenced space for our chickens, don’t have a rooster, and live far enough away from our neighbors that nobody could possibly be bothered. I think it would be hard to replicate this type of situation in a city.”
Tell us about your series One Simple Change?
“One Simple Change was a weekly series I wrote throughout 2012. It was a way to inspire my readers to transform their lives via easy lifestyle changes.”
photo credit: Winnie Abramson
The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America’s Farmers Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life