If you haven’t heard of the lovely Gena Hamshaw you’ve no doubt come across her work if you’re a reader of Food52, where she shares delicious and nutritious vegan recipes along with tips and tricks for those new to a vegan diet.
Like many, I first came across Gena’s work via Food52, and started following her beautiful blog, The Full Helping soon after. Her fantastic recipes are delicious, eye-opening (such as her banana cashew yoghurt), yet, at the same time, down to earth and achievable.
Gena is one busy woman, because, in addition to her work on Food52 and The Full Helping, she’s also a certified nutritionist and working toward her Masters in Nutrition and Education and RDN (Registered Dietary Nutritionist) certification. She also works as a nutritionist and food coach and is the author of two cookbooks, Choosing Raw and Food52 Vegan!
So please join me in welcoming and thanking the lovely Gena for carving out a few minutes from her schedule to talk with us today!
When did your love of food begin and what led you to start The Full Helping?
I guess you could say that it began in my mid-twenties when I went vegan. I came to food after a very extended struggle with eating disorders, and I also had absolutely no culinary experience to speak of, so cooking was really a brave new world for me. Going vegan was really the best decision I’ve ever made, and it gave me a tremendous kind of excitement for cooking. My blog grew directly out of this excitement a few years later.
Many readers will know you from your fantastic vegan work on Food52. How did your relationship with Food52 begin?
I reached out to them in 2012; I had a contact who worked there and had been a longtime fan. I felt that there was room for more vegan content on the site, and they agreed.
You’ve written 2 cookbooks, Choosing Raw and Food52 Vegan. How did each book come about?
Your blog was originally named Choosing Raw, and your food philosophy focused more on raw food. Tell us about the transition away from a strictly raw food approach and what brought this about?
As I said, I come from a long history of disordered eating and eating disorders. In some ways, raw food really helped me to overcome that, by showing my how beautiful and healthful and simple food could be. On the other hand, I think it was a transitional step, one that wasn’t destined to last forever, and indeed over time I started to feel that trying to abide by “raw” was feeding some of my orthorexic tendencies. I also felt that a more rounded diet, with raw and cooked foods and a ton of variety, was both the more healthful choice for me, and also more inspiring from a culinary point of view.
What food can’t you live without and why?
Oh gosh, I guess I’d say whole grains. I could live off of grain bowls, porridge, that kind of thing. Kale is also very high on the list.
What inspires your cooking?
Describe your kitchen to readers. What do you especially love about it?
Ha, well, it’s a very small kitchen in a small NYC apartment. But it amazingly has a huge amount of cabinet space, which is really key for storage and for having an ample pantry, so I guess that’s my favorite feature. I do dream about having a little more space to move around at some point.
What is your favourite kitchen appliance or utensil that you just couldn’t live without?
My food processor. If only because I really can’t live without hummus. Or I don’t want to.
Describe your cooking routine? Do you plan your meals in advance or improvise?
I plan intensely! I have to, as I juggle graduate school with full-time work, and I often have night class (which means I need food ready-to-go when I get home). I share my planning process in my menu plan Monday posts.
Do you listen to music or watch TV when you cook?
Neither, but I was just commenting to my boyfriend that I should really play music while I cook more often. I can’t listen to music while I write or do other work, so it could become a precious time in which I can listen to new albums, or revisit favorite pieces of music.
What is your best time-saving kitchen trick?
You obviously love to cook. What is the best thing you make?
Oh gosh, I’m not sure! I guess I’d have to say either soups or salads. I think–I hope!–that I make both really well, and I’m adept at making them without a recipe to guide me, which isn’t true of other cooking I do.
What are your favourite magazines or cookbooks, apart from your own, of course, and why?