Hi friends! As promised, we’ve got a little something special for you on the blog today – an up-close-and-personal interview with food-lovin’ blogger, Taji Mortazavi of We’re Talking about Food. It was Taji’s exploration of multi-cultural cuisine, fearless spice combinations, and creative variety that first caught my attention on the blogosphere, but what hooked me was the fact that nearly all her recipes were not only healthy but mindful of certain dietary restrictions as well. If you’re not following her already, you should be – and be prepared to seriously spice up your boring weeknight menu!
Taji was awesome enough to answer a few questions about her background and philosophy on food for me, and I’ve got to say, her responses made me love her even more (and secretly want to be her real life bff). :) Hope you enjoy today’s guest blogger interview!
1. In our conversation you mentioned your background in English and writing (like me!), but I’d love to hear more about your background in food/nutrition/wellness and how you became interested in it.
I guess you could say that I’ve always been a foodie at heart. Growing up with an Iranian father and a French mother, food was always the door to both cultures. Towards the end of high school, I became more interested in the nutritional components of food, and began meeting with a dietitian to answer my inquiries.
Today, food is truly an art for me. My kitchen is my studio, my foods are my paints, my knife is my brush, and my plate is my canvas. I’ve noticed that if I focus on the color, texture, and overall composition of a dish, the healthy nutrients, vitamins, and all the good stuff I need to be healthy are there without having to think so much about it. The more I cook, the more I realize that artistically I’m not in total control of the dishes I’m making—the food is. This isn’t to say that food controls me by any means, but rather I get really inspired by a lot of the ingredients I use and my creativity comes from within.
2. You’ve posted recipes across the board in terms of diet… vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten free… is there any particular diet to which you adhere?
I think it’s good to experiment with a lot of different diets and healthy eating plans. I’ve noticed over the years that vegan and vegetarian cuisine has some very innovative ways of preparing vegetables. By contrast, paleo and gluten-free diets are really good at finding alternatives to refined carbohydrates and starches. I play around with all these plans because I think they ALL can contribute to a healthy diet and lifestyle. You can easily take Italian-seasoned chicken with spaghetti squash (typically a paleo or GF dish) and smother it with a dollop of vegan pesto for a meal that’s the best of both worlds. Part of my blog is about pairing these diets together so people can see they’re not all that drastically different. In my eyes, these healthy diets operate on a continuum rather than a set of extremes.
I have struggled with Crohn’s and Celiac Disease for quite some time now. Going gluten-free is definitely important to me and an essential part of my diet. I did some digging and found out dairy allergies also run in my family so I try to steer clear of that as well. Ultimately, I think a healthy diet is balanced and REAL! I avoid processed and fast food like it’s the plague, go organic when I can, and make sure I eat lots of raw vegetables and fruits.
3. I read in one of your posts a few months ago about another blogger’s philosophy on “eating to live” versus “living to eat”. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I’ll admit it’s hard for me to completely align with the “eat to live” philosophy, too, but as a nutritional therapist, I understand it and often have to adopt that mindset when counseling clients. Where do you stand, what are your thoughts on the two sides, and what advice do you have for someone on either side in terms of crossing over from time to time?
I agree with you completely that these two philosophies are often at odds with one another. I think it ultimately comes down to how so many people (myself included) struggle with intuitive eating. When your intuitive eating is in line, usually you don’t need to worry about whether you’re ‘eating to live’ or ‘living to eat.’ Those choices will happen naturally and healthfully for you. Look at people who are good intuitive eaters. They usually don’t align themselves with either camp and simply eat what they’re body is telling them to eat. And more often than not, they’re at a healthy weight. With that said, it’s hard to tell someone whose over/underweight to eat intuitively, because doing so is probably what has gotten them in trouble in the first place.
I really think it depends on your relationship with food. People who overeat might benefit from a more structured approach that focuses on set meal times and plans. At the same time, if you’re underweight because you forget to eat you could also benefit from a structured plan. It’s too easy to say if you’re overweight you should watch what you eat and if you’re underweight you should eat whatever you want. Both attitudes depend on your health and your natural eating habits.
4. I always love seeing your creativity come through in your recipes. You’ve posted dishes from a variety of different cuisines including Korean, Mediterranean, Italian, French, and a variety of Persian dishes, all of them involving lots of unique fresh herbs and spices. Is there a certain culture that particularly inspires you in the kitchen?
You’re right in that I love to experiment! I want the site to have a little something for everyone and I try to incorporate lots of different cuisines. I named the blog “We’re Talking About Food” because I wanted to initiate a dialogue about food and food-related topics. Branching out to different cuisines is one of the many ways I try to initiate conversation and get people involved!
Maybe I’m biased, but I always seem to come back to Persian culture and dishes. Lately in the food world, the trends all lead towards fusion foods and cuisines. I like to think of Persian food as one of the original fusion cuisines out there. For centuries we’ve taken many Mediterranean flavors and paired them with East Asian and Indian ingredients. Most people who eat Persian food say it’s not the ingredients that surprise them, but the unique and innovative flavor combinations we’ve developed over time. To me, that’s much more interesting than a green tea flavored donut or a ramen burger – haha!
5. What is one significant change to your diet/lifestyle has had the most impact on your life and the way you feel?
I think being conscious of what I put in my body is perhaps one of the most important components to my diet, exercise habits, and over healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s a massaged kale salad or a double fudge brownie sundae (gluten-free of course!), being mindful of my choices is imperative to a healthy life. If I slip up, I have the tools to get back on track the next day. It wasn’t until I started practicing yoga more frequently that I actually learned what being mindful was all about. I used to stress about eating fat or sugar or salt. Now, I realize a little chocolate won’t kill me. Ultimately, it’s helped me create a lifestyle that’s healthy, but also balanced and realistic.
Thanks for sharing in the Heyday Diaries, Taji!
Check out more of Taji’s wit, insight and love for all things culinary at We’re Talking About Food.
Talk soon, friends!
Interested in being a guest blogger? Contact me here!