A Saucy Kitchen
Sarah moved away from everything familiar in Arizona to Sheffield, England in 2014, and busied herself in the one place where she was always comfortable, the kitchen. She feels strongly that the food we eat has a huge impact on the way we feel in our daily lives. This really hits close to home for her because her husband was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Sarah created A Saucy Kitchen to share their journey to better health through their stomachs.
I am so excited to have Sarah Nevins of A Saucy Kitchen here with me today.
(*All photos below are Sarah’s.)
On the Role Food Played while Growing Up:
I was really lucky because both of my parents are really good cooks. My mom more so just regular, everyday meal cooking, and my dad’s really great on the grill. So I was pretty spoiled with that and I guess that’s why I got into it because I always had good food around me. If I wanted that to continue growing up, I needed to figure out how to do it myself.
For local foods, being so close to the border, I think we were spoiled with Mexican food. That’s something now, that I live in England, that I really miss. But other than that, I don’t know if there is anything… just lots of really cool coffee shops. That was probably my favorite part, going and just finding different things that you’d see featured on the Food Network and trying their cupcakes and the coffees. All that was really great.
On Her Curiosity Around Cooking:
It started really young. I was thinking about it and I remember having an Easy-Bake oven when I was really little. That’s the little microwave sort of thing where you just make single cookies and I loved that. Then my mom actually got me into baking quite young to help me learn fractions. I’m a very visual, kinesthetic learner and I felt it was really helpful to measure things out and figure how it adds up to a whole. I’m not good at math, but I am good at baking and it’s stuck with me since then.
I was around them cooking a lot, and I’d see what they did. When I was little, my mom had a shelf of cookbooks in our pantry that I’d often go to and pull them out and I just did it. Most summer vacations in Arizona, it’s really hot. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to turn the oven on in 110-degree weather, but that’s what I would do. I’d just spend time trying out different cakes and things like that just getting my hands dirty and doing it myself.
On the Difference in Food Between Sheffield, England and Arizona:
I feel like in Sheffield or in England, in general, they have more of their staples that you recognize. And I don’t know if it’s just because Arizona doesn’t have anything that’s specific to them. But here you have a lot of fish and chips, and you get the classics like Yorkshire pudding, which I really love. There was a lot of different food. it was the same but very slightly different, which is kind of confusing.
We went to Liverpool, which is not at all like Mexico, and we went to this pub, which is not where you should buy Mexican food. And I was just really curious because I saw taquitos on the menu so I’m like, “Hmm?” And they were really nice but they were not taquitos. I feel like there’s a lot of things that they say is something like enchiladas and they’re great, but they’re not enchiladas. It’s funny seeing how different it is not having that influence there. But then they have a lot of really great food here. They’ve got a lot of Indian food because there’s a large Indian population. So you can get great curries. That’s something that’s unique to here, I think.
On Celiac Disease and What it Means:
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder which is basically when your body confuses itself or things inside your body as being foreign invaders and attacks itself. With Celiac Disease, what happens is when you eat gluten, which comes from wheat products like bread. When it gets to your small intestine, your body kind of freaks out and starts attacking itself because it doesn’t know what to do. That just leads to a whole host of problems. When I looked it up last, there were about 300 symptoms of Celiac Disease. Which can be really difficult because, for the most part, people only think of the stomach issues when, in reality, you can have arthritis that you got from eating gluten and not even know it.
It is because he was diagnosed only a couple years ago but sick for about 10 years without even realizing it. It can take years and years for people to finally get a diagnosis.
It’s difficult too because it just affects people in so many different ways. His dad actually found out when he did that he also had Celiac Disease because it’s a genetic thing. But with his dad, he goes through his entire life not really realizing that there’s something wrong. Whereas, with Mike, when he was about 10 years old he got sick and he just never really got better from it because of the same exact thing.
On Learning to Cook Without Grains and Refined Sugars:
It was a lot of trial and error. A lot of research went into it because I used to just bake anything. I would use real sugar, real butter, real eggs, everything. Then we found out that he had Celiac Disease. It’s like, “All right, take out the gluten.” And then as we started uncovering more health problems, it felt like it wasn’t quite enough, so it’s like, “Okay, maybe cut back on the sugar, cut back maybe even on the eggs sometimes.” Really, I think with something like that, you just have to try it yourself and figure it out. One thing that helped me, I think, is just reading other blogs and seeing what they have to say. That helps you piece it together.
On FODMAP Foods:
FODMAPs is an acronym. It’s Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols. Basically what that is, is they’re carbohydrates that your body doesn’t fully digest. For most people, like me, I can eat garlic and I can have no problem. But if you’re someone with a lot of stomach issues, what happens is it sits in your small intestines and it just sits there and ferments, and it causes a lot of IBS problems. High FODMAP foods can be anything from apples to garlic and onions and things like that. A lot of people have found that their symptoms of IBS pretty much go away if they take out these foods. For some, it could be that you have a problem with apples but not onions. It’s one of those things where you just have to take it out for a while and see how it is and then slowly, over time, add it back in.
I think a lot of people are turned off by the idea of doing the elimination diet, which is where you get rid of food for a period of time and enter it back in. But I think the people who have gone through so many different health problems, it’s almost just too easy for them to do something like that because if it can give you your life back, it’s really not that difficult of a thing. Because it doesn’t have to be forever, it could be until your body gets back to health.
On Eating Out with Celiac Disease:
It’s so difficult because the thing is it’s very difficult to be completely gluten free. Just because you take the burger off of a bun doesn’t mean that meat is gluten free. By just touching it, it’s got gluten residue on it because it’s such a sticky thing. So we haven’t really been eating out lately because it’s been such an issue. But whenever we do, we call ahead and we tell them the situation, and we’ll talk to the chef. Either they’ll tell us, “I’m sorry, we can’t guarantee this,” or they’ll say, “We can set something aside for you,” which is really great when that happens.
I think in England there are so many people who are getting diagnosed recently that it’s pretty easy. It can be difficult because it is also, to eat gluten free, a very trendy thing right now. So people say it’s gluten free when it’s not. But because there are many people who have this issue as well, restaurants are really needing to learn about it. We’ve got a couple of restaurants I can think of where the owners are Celiac, so they get how serious it is and those ones are great.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I quite like to watch Chopped. That’s one that I used to watch with my family. That one’s really fun. And I haven’t kept up this season but I really like The Great British Bake Off. For anyone who likes baking, that show is amazing. It’s just great.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I really like Not Without Salt. I think Ashley Rodriguez is a really great writer, and I really admire her. And I quite like Bev Cooks because she’s the opposite of her where she’s just completely zany, but it’s just so bright and fun, and I love it.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
I follow so many people on all of those. I quite like following people with really great photography because I’m so jealous of it. So I like following Half Baked Harvest. She has such beautiful photography. Local Milk’s another good one. And this isn’t on any of those channels, it’s on YouTube, but my husband and I often watch someone called Greg from Ballistic Barbecue. It’s just fun because he just goes out and he just grills all these crazy things and makes these amazing hamburgers, and we quite like watching that. So I’ll add him to the list.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
It’s not very unusual, but I treasure my coffee pot. After I moved to Sheffield last year, there were a few dark months when we didn’t have a coffee pot because they drink tea. So they had tea kettles and instant coffee, and I find instant coffee offensive. So I didn’t have coffee during that time, and I got one for Christmas and it’s amazing. It gets me through the day.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
You know what’s funny? I cook almost exclusively now with coconut oil, and I hated the smell of it. I hated the way it made things taste. I don’t know if I just started off using really strong coconut oil, but now I really quite like it. I think it adds an unusual flavor to the dishes and it smells nice, makes your skin soft. So, probably coconut oil.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I don’t own as many cookbooks as I’d like to because I tend to be on the more minimalist side, but I have Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and that is a really great resource for anyone. It pretty much covers the basics. I grew up on the Taste of Home cookbooks, so those ones are always special to me. I think they’re just great and fun.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I like listening to more upbeat things in the kitchen. And it depends on the week, but what I’ve found I’ve done lately is I just go on Spotify, and I find a Motown playlist and I just do that, and it’s a lot of fun.
On Keeping Posted with Sarah: