Hello and welcome to Poshveggies!
Since my website is mostly dedicated to organic gardening and healthy living, I could have started my introduction post with a story about an illness or condition that really affected my wellbeing, on that made me reconsider my entire lifestyle, but this was not the case…
As a child who was born in Russia, I was literally exposed to natural gardening for as long as I remember. It’s a tradition in Moscow for families to have a house, a dacha, in the countryside where you would grow crops and could exile your children for the entire summer. Our family was no different. This is exactly what our mother did to us – my brother, my sister and me.
Our grannies, babushkas, would stay with us in these dachas during the school breaks. Spending time with your granny didn’t really mean carefree vacations, though. It meant helping her in the kitchen – and in the garden. Flowers were never the main feature of our babushkas’ gardens. Instead, they were full of strawberries, red currant, dill, and cucumbers.
Here, I guess, our childhood memories can be very controversial. Despite the fact that everything was organic and sustained us as children, we didn’t appreciate it at all. Definitely, did not. In fact, as city children, we were attending a very posh private school – which meant we really disliked gardening, especially during the picking and preserving seasons. We knew who was going to work their posh asses off.
We also took for granted having all this goodness right outside the house – goodness that we could casually eat right from the bush. Growing your own crops was too boring, too traditional too old-fashioned…
We, along with our posh classmates, were more fascinated by all these novelties from the West that the fall of the ‘Iron Curtain’ offered us – Snickers and Mars candy bars, Bounties, potato crisps. You name it, if it was bad for you; it flowed into the country and filled the shelves of grocery stores. What used to be inaccessible and longed-for was now available, in fashion and desirable. Did we have it? Well…
Here comes my mother. Freshly squeezed carrot juice for breakfast was our normal morning routine. So was swimming in the hole in the ice every day during winter since the age of 4 months. Homemade Hopi ear candles when we were sick. (‘What’s that?’ was a typical question from our neighbors) Transcendental meditation taught by Indian gurus? Yes, please! We practiced it every day before and after school. That meant visualization practice and pranayama on weekends…
I remember I was sitting there in the big studio surrounded by other weirdoes (this is how I felt) imagining a lotus that transforms into a sphere, that changes color and then surrounds me and protects from the outer world and… to be honest, I truly liked it – regardless of the fact that I couldn’t discuss it with my classmates. Not having meat and the planned annual injections that all other children had been already given was more than enough for my brother, sister and I.
I think this brief excursus into my childhood gives you kind of and an idea what my mom was like and her attitude towards new Western sugary treats…
We were perfect grass-fed, free-range children. We rocketed through puberty without a single pimple or oily skin. We stayed clear of any other health issues, too.
Fine, fine… there was an illness…
Problems appeared when we started to attend high school and universities and moved out from our little organic sanctuary. Our mother no longer had this strict control over our diet and lifestyle. Gradually, we discovered treats loaded with refined sugar, GMO, artificial trans fats and preservatives. Long story short… after 3 weeks spent at summer camp, I came back home with a skin allergy… ‘the living will envy the dead’ kind of allergy.
My face was swollen, and big flakes of skin pilled off. It would take me at least an hour every morning to be able to open my eyes after applying wet herbal compresses.
My mom used all her big guns. Indians prescribed me Triphala Churna – herbal Ayurvedic cleansing powder and a glass of milk with saffron before bedtime. Our family homeopath investigated color changes in my iris and after concluding that I needed to get rid of toxic substances, gave me 5000 little white balls.
Our energetic healer gave me 6 different bottles with herbal drops for blood and liver cleansing. I had to eliminate all newly discovered junk food and cleanse my system thoroughly. It took me about 4 months to fight the allergy.
However, minor reactions on my face would pop out here and there later. I started to notice that even some ‘healthy’ foods like nuts, fruits and vegetables could cause it. Each time I would eliminate suspicious food from my diet for some time to give my body a break. I even banished some foods forever if I realized that, even after a break, it gave me an unwanted reaction.
This method could have been fine, but I was working in the restaurant business, where I had to try different food on the daily basis to maintain the quality of the menu in the restaurants I was in charge of. Besides, there is only so much food you can eliminate.
One week I could eat mostly everything, and another practically nothing. Different doctors would blame different foods. One recommended not to eat red and yellow, another to give up on grain, or dairy, or you name it… A very old-fashioned Soviet allergist recommended drinking vodka for sterilization purposes…
Needless to say, I tried all sorts of diets, but they had one thing in common: they all failed. I started to be suspicious about any food I had on my plate. It caused a real anxiety. I was still trying every dish at the restaurant, but then spitting it in the napkin. What a ‘clever’ solution, isn’t it?
There was no junk food, no fizzy drinks, no fruits no nuts, no nothing. But my body was still letting me down. This is how I thought… until one day when I looked at this problem from a different angle.
I thought if there is not any known condition where people are allergic to everything, there should be something about everything that I consume, something that is significantly different from those times when I lived an ‘organic, grass-fed life’ at my mom’s sanctuary…
So I decided to really concentrate on the quality of food rather than keep continuously eliminating it until there was nothing left to eliminate anymore. I started to choose organic produce when I was shopping. I started to grow a little bit of herbs, strawberries and different vegetables in the summer…
After couple of years of eating mostly organic produce, I completely got rid of my allergy. As a result I also changed my existing plans for the future.
I started to grow everything.
I knew how to do it from those times when I was helping my granny and my mom in the garden. It was sitting there all these years waiting for the right moment. It was something I had to discover through a series of endless mistakes. In the garden, such mistakes can result in your whole harvest dying. That’s something I have learned from my friends – chefs who are on the organic side of the restaurant business.
Learning about how many chemicals we consume with food on a daily basis and about the effects of non-organic farming on humankind and the entire planet made me reconsider my previous education. I put my degrees in interior design, international relations and English history in the far corner and started to study organic gardening and organic farming.
It really came down to something simple. As ‘father of permaculture’ Bill Mollison said, “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple”. It’s exactly what has happened to me. All I needed is to come back to my roots to something that my body knew, loved and missed most – food without pesticides and chemical fertilisers.
I think that I’m very lucky to have been born into my ‘free-range’ family. Without such an experience, I would have nothing to compare to what is normal, what is right, what is clean.
That’s why I decided to share this experience with you. I’m so excited to show that growing vegetables can actually be fun and sometimes even meditating. (No, no spheres and lotuses here. I promise.) Spending time in the garden really does help to clear your mind.
Drawing on my past – my experience in the countryside of Russia, friends from restaurant, finding my own organic path – I will also show you simple and delicious recipes that are made from my own seasonal produce, each one, filled with love and goodness!