Let’s be clear from the outset: I am not celiac or pre-diabetic, nor do I suffer from a compromised gut or any of the myriad of food allergies for which there is now an epidemic of self diagnosis. I have infinite patience and concern for people who are legitimately celiac—meaning, they have been treated by a doctor and not a chiropractor masquerading as a nutritionist—but zero tolerance for food faddists. I think people should eat what they like when they are hungry and make sound choices because better food is tastier. I work in fashion and have had a lifetime to think about fad diets; sanity has been hard-won.
So consider my surprise when I received a copy of Hemsley and Hemsley’s The Art of Eating Well, the hugely successful U.K. recipe book that arrives in the States this month, and found I couldn’t wait to start cooking. Melissa Hemsley and Jasmine Hemsley, the rather beautiful London-based sisters who are private chefs (for rock stars and film people) and celebrated food bloggers for Vogue U.K., are advocates for a grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free approach to diet. They make noodles from vegetables and cheesecakes from avocados and rice from broccoli. But their book is less a wily approach to monasticism and self-denial—which is everything I am allergic to—and more a celebration of the yummy things one can eat. They cook with stock, or bone broth, and argue for a “warm” diet of fewer salads, more soups, and stews. They use epic amounts of butter, ghee, and coconut oil. They like a buckwheat noodle, raw cacao, roast chicken, salty cheese.
As do I. And for this reason I have decided to eat in a Hemsley and Hemsley manner for Fashion Week—or make that weeks, as the spring collections march on for a month. This will be a significant adjustment for me, as food during the shows is at best typically a scrounge or an afterthought. (A lot of caffeine, alcohol, bread, and chocolate are consumed; green vegetables, not so much.) My plan is to eat home-cooked Hemsley fare during New York Fashion Week, and then to follow their dietary guidelines, as best as possible, when in London, Milan, and Paris. In those cities I will keep a little pantry of healthy bits in my hotel room and travel with a grater and a few other Hemsley go-to gadgets. I will not eat croissants with jam.
To prepare for this challenge, I spent a day with the sisters in August learning their kitchen secrets. At a friend’s house in Dulwich (the Hemsleys are South London girls), and with my goddaughter, Lydia, and Jasmine’s boyfriend, Nick (who styles and photographs their creations), we cooked our way through individual breakfast frittatas, strawberry-avocado smoothies, chicken pho and red lentil dal, carob brownies made from black beans, kelp noodle salad, and something called Quicker Than Toast, which involves grated zucchini, toasted pepitas, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil (it’s a breakfast, a garnish, a side dish, a base coat).
The Hemsleys cook in that deliberately offhand and unprecious way that seems part and parcel of being a self-taught British domestic god or goddess (Delia Smith, Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson): you “bung” stuff in a pan, you “dump and stir” (Jasmine’s favorite technique). You use every bit of your ingredients and favor home economics over the flash of fine dining. They are clever and cool, sort of the Alexa Chungs of the kitchen, and disarmingly modest about the whys and wherefores of this regimen. (They do believe that the consumption of bone broth contributes to beautiful skin; as they both have gorgeous complexions, who is going to argue?)
Lydia and I came away with enough food for a week, and a long list of supplies and ingredients to order in advance of the New York shows: a spiralizer (for making vegetable noodles), coconut in every form (cream, milk, oil, shredded—if you see me in a coconut shell bra on the front row, do not be alarmed), ghee, soba, dulse, miso, mung beans, red quinoa, chicory tea, a dry body brush (one is supposed to do this before bathing—part of the Hemsleys’ list of other small changes one should make, and why not?), individual Pyrex dishes for packed lunches and snacks.
My kitchen is now organized. There is chicken tinola (a Filipino stew-like soup) in my refrigerator and coconut-tamari-goji-berry halva in my freezer. The grater sits at the ready next to a stack of zucchini. Let the shows begin.
The post The Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Fashion Week Challenge: Part One appeared first on Vogue.