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Interview

Sarah Britton Brings Us Back to Our Roots

BWB’s resident cookbook author and wellness enthusiast Rebecca Leffler sat down for a – virtual – chat with Sarah about all things plants, pandemics and keeping the peace in these wild times. 

Tiger nuts have found their unofficial publicist. Chia seeds have a cheerleader. Spaghetti squash has a spokesperson. The vegolutionary voice of this plant-based generation is Sarah Britton: chef, blogger and founder of My New Roots. When she is not taking photographs, fermenting food, or writing, this mom-meets-influencer is exercising, organizing retreats and growing sprouts.

As a woman wearing many delicious hats, Sarah is a certified Holistic Nutritionist who has worked as a chef at several restaurants and published two books: My New Roots and Naturally Nourished. In addition to her successful retreat business, she is also working on an online wellness portal called GROW. This platform will feature cooking classes, nutrition lectures and her signature healthy plant-rich recipes.

Her passion for cooking and wellness is so contagious, you can taste it in every one of her original, colorful, flavorful recipes.

Sarah’s playful, laid-back approach to the traditionally rigid health food world has garnered her a loyal fan base. In fact, her authenticity and zest for life has made her a household name in kitchens across the globe. Sarah is a label-hating, self-described “whole-food-lover,” whose recipes happen to be all vegetarian, many vegan and gluten-free, but that isn’t the point. In other words, Sarah’s mission has never been to impose a plant-based life on others. Instead, she seeks to inspire people to take pleasure in cooking nourishing meals and comfort foods like her signature “life-changing loaf of bread.”

Looking for genius chickpea tofu? Revolutionary pancakes? The best coconut soup, ever? Look no further than Sarah Britton. Her passion for cooking and wellness is so contagious, you can taste it in every one of her original, colorful, flavorful recipes.

I last spoke to you for BWB back in 2015. So much has changed in the last 5 years… And especially the last 5 months! What has changed in your world of wellness?

Since we last spoke, there has been a massive shift in what people care about. When I started My New Roots in 2007, I was a bit of a special case, excited about rather fringe health practices, and never-heard-of ingredients. Now, if people find out that I’m a holistic nutritionist, I’m suddenly the coolest person in the room! Health and wellness have become an important part of our cultural dialogue, which is fantastic to see! People are finally waking up to why this matters. We have so much more access to fresh whole foods, plant-based alternatives, and organics like never before. The market has changed so much.

There are more and more plant-based alternatives, but they are often heavily processed. What is your opinion on this?

The plant-based milk market alone has exploded, but we need to exercise caution with anything that has a label–and stay informed about processing! There is a lot of misleading messaging out there. Just because something is ‘plant-based’ doesn’t mean it’s good for you–especially if it’s made in a lab.

How would you describe the way you eat?

Eat whatever you want, you just have to make it yourself.

Michael Pollan is one of my heroes, and his adage: “eat whatever you want, you just have to make it yourself,” is a great guideline for people, since you’re not going to be making vegan sausage out of refined pea protein at home in your kitchen. If I can’t figure out how to make it, I typically don’t eat it. I am still vegetarian and I probably will be for the rest of my life, but I stick to unprocessed, whole food ingredients whenever possible. That is how I would describe the way I eat!

So how has the culinary world shifted since My New Roots sprouted in 2007?

Today, if there isn’t a vegetarian or vegan option on a menu, a restaurant can’t exist. Professional kitchens are really catering to gluten-free and vegan diets to include all diners, which is something to celebrate!

You’re always ahead of the cool food trends; you’re like a plant-based prophet! What is an upcoming trend you think we’ll be seeing soon?

Tiger nuts, AKA Chufa – it’s an Ancestral African food. They really haven’t gotten a lot of traction, which is surprising considering how nutritious they are. They’re not a nut in fact, but a root vegetable. They make the best milk, but can also be turned into flour. They are rich in minerals and fiber with nine essential amino acids. They are sweet, creamy, versatile and delicious!

This issue is focusing on inspiring women. Who are some fearless females who inspire you?

If we come together to help one another to fight for our rights, we will be unstoppable, and real drivers of change.

There are so many I admire, like Tabitha Brown, Sophia Roe, Lily Diamond, Idil Farah, Christy Dawn, Amber Tamm, Jameela Jamil, Glennon Doyle, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Brené Brown, Eva Kosmas Flores and Keli Garza – to name a few! Today, I see that women are gaining more confidence (and the support) to stand up for what they truly believe in. There is a wave of power coming from movements such as #MeToo and BLM that have sparked deeply important conversations and the realization that women across the world are going through similar things, and if we come together to help one another to fight for our rights, we will be unstoppable, and real drivers of change.

And what makes you feel good?

I love movement so much, and I feel really lucky that I find such pleasure in exercise. Culturally, we have framed it as something to tick off of a list, or something we do to lose weight, but I move for the joy it brings. Lately, I have been trying to sync my workouts to my cycle and I really notice a difference (high intensity during the first half of my cycle – follicular to ovulation and low intensity from luteal to menstrual). I love being outside, I walk at least an hour every day, I garden, swim often, lift weights, practiceyoga – I just love moving! Moving has to be fun, just as eating well has to be fun. Nothing is sustainable unless you’re enjoying it.

What are your current food/health obsessions?

In the summer, I’m eating whatever I’m growing. Aubergine, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini are abundant. I make Ratatouille, where I grill all of the vegetables and then fold them into a tomato base. This way, everything retains its form, the vegetables aren’t a pile of mush, and the smokiness of the grill keeps. I love corn on the cob, tomatillos, and making my own tortillas – really all Mexican cuisine. In the winter, I keep things more cooked, warm and spicy. I rely on whole grains and legumes to keep my vitality high.

What differences do you see in the way people eat and approach nutrition in North America vs. Europe?

It’s simple: people in Europe cook. People here in Canada really don’t, although that has changed during quarantine. We need to remember that if you did not put your hands in the food and interact with it, you’re not going to be a vital human being. You have to cook your own food on a regular basis so that you know what goes into it, and what it took to get to your plate. There’s also an energetic connection when you prepare and cook your own food; something we cannot overlook, even from a nutritional standpoint.

If you could host a dinner party tomorrow anywhere in the universe with anyone (dead or alive) as your guests, with whom would you dine? And what would you serve?

I think the above list of women would be there! Although we would also invite Oprah, because OPRAH.

What is your all-time favorite recipe?

It would have to be my “4 Corners Lentil Soup” and “The Best Lentil Salad Ever.”

Proof that eating well can be simple!

I am actively trying to amend those [blind spots] and be more inclusive, to create social change within the community.

The majority of things I share are basic and accessible like lentils, but I also have a passion for discovering new foods. As the world gets smaller, it’s amazing that I can get baobab from West Africa, or tahini from Lebanon. But I also understand how lucky we are that we get to decide to be vegan (or paleo or raw vegan…). We are the first culture in the history of the world that has had that luxury and privilege. And I totally understand the blind spots that existed in my work and I am actively trying to amend those and be more inclusive, to create social change within the community.

What is your favorite recipe when you are...

… Feeling sad?

Double Chocolate Chunk Sunbutter Cookies.

… Hungry?

The Winter Abundance Bowl.

… Tired?

Pantry Pea Soup from Naturally Nourished.

… Feeding a crowd?

Minty Black Bean Salad.

… Busy and need to eat quickly?

Four Corners Lentil Soup.

… Traveling?

Here are my best tips!

… Celebrating a special occasion?

Carrot cake.

… Working out?

Totally Baked Hemp Protein Granola Bars.

… In the mood for love?

Valentine Rawlos.

Rebecca Leffler

Rebecca Leffler is a Paris-based writer and journalist who, after a career as the French correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter and as a film critic on Canal+, traded red carpets for green smoothies. She’s written five books about healthy lifestyle from Paris to NYC and beyond, including Très Green, Très Clean, Très Chic: Eat (and Live!) the New French way with plant-based, gluten-free recipes for every season, and most recently Le Nouveau Manuel de la Cuisine Végétale. Rebecca has pioneered the “vegolution” in Paris, where she continues to organize events focusing on healthy eating, yoga and la vie en rose… And green! You can keep up with Rebecca on Instagram!

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