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A cup of tea with Jade O'Donahoo author of Eat This My Friend

What are your ‘non-negotiables’ when it comes to diet & lifestyle?

Once upon a time, I was crazy vigilant about homemade. I wouldn’t dream of buying prepackaged/premade products. I loved making food but found I was putting so much pressure on myself to maintain this ideal, and combined with the basic demands of work/family/life, I was barely treading water. When it finally reached a boiling point I had to reassess what my non-negotioables were. I started to try things I’d never done before - buy things like premade muesli, and nut butter, and served up baked beans for an emergency dinner. Life got a lot easier to manage. I now know not to have non-negotioables. That it is ok to break the rules sometimes. Taking that pressure off had a really positive impact on my mental wellbeing!

When & how did you first begin cooking?

My introduction to cooking was kind of unconventional. I wasn’t one of those kids that licked the batter from the eggbeater or made pancakes for mum, that sort of thing didn’t happen in our house. I grew up in the 80's with my single mum. She was really big into nutrition, at a time when it was pretty uncommon. Sandwiches on Multigrain bread, mushy lentils for dinner, freshly ground peanut butter from the health food store, kombucha brewing in a tub at the back of the fridge - I hated it all. Mum cared deeply about our health but unfortunateIy really didn’t have great cooking skills. So I hated food and I hated cooking. For ages.

I got a job as a dishy in a pub kitchen at 20 with no experience at all. I thought it meant washing dishes, but on my first day was asked to slice up a box of mushrooms. I had to be shown how, as I really had no idea. I am a complete perfectionist so I took my job very seriously. I wanted those veggies to be cut as if they were being photographed for Gourmet Traveller. Over the years as I became more experienced my confidence grew. I started expanding my perfectionist nature into cooking, not just preparing, and naturally became more interested in eating.

When did you realise how much you loved it?

When I started to link the two together – the pleasure of me cooking something delicious and the delight of actually eating it did I really finally register just how much I loved it. Further down the track, I fell pregnant with my son Clancy. Suddenly I was responsible for someone else’s health and wellbeing, and all of those seeds that my mother planted in my brain as a child began to sprout. I became very conscious of what I was putting in my body, but unlike my mum, I had years of cooking experience under my belt. I started to use this skillset to make healthy food be absolutely delicious. I was completely inspired, as I felt it was a kind of personal challenge. A wonderful one! A new love for food and cooking was ignited.

Choc Banana Ice Cream Pie - recipe here

What inspired you to start doing what you do?  How has your brand developed and what have been some milestones for you?

After we sold Switch Board (the little coffee shop I co-owned with my best mate Kate Berry), I promised one customer that I would write down all the recipes for her, so she could just recreate the meals at home. My inner perfectionist needed to make these look pretty so I started to illustrate each recipe. During this time I became inundated with requests from friends and family for many of my recipes, and I decided to start my blog Eat This My Friend as a means of keeping ideas together and as a source I could direct my friends too.

All the recipes and illustrations I was working on started to look quite cute as a little collection, and I really began to take the project more seriously. I thought it had great potential as a cookbook, and luckily for me, the crew at Hardie Grant thought so too! Eventually, I released Eat This My Friend, my lovingly hand illustrated cookbook. This would have to be one of the biggest milestones in my career.

What do you love about living in Melbourne? Are there any restaurants, cafes, stores you visit for inspiration? 

Melbourne has always had a thriving food culture, and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to accessibility of great produce, products, and eateries. Eating out is an enormous source of inspiration for me, as I am always trying to recreate easy versions of the amazing food on café menus. In particular, I love Cibi and Mina No Nie, and Oasis Bakery but really, I feel like I am inspired wherever I go.

When did you first become aware of Loving Earth? What's your favourite way to use our foods? 

I used to buy Loving Earth years ago from my local health food store, as it was one of the only brands at the time that sold coconut oil and raw cacao powder – two main ingredients I was playing with to make clean + raw desserts. I also used to share a ‘heart’ chocolate with my son when we would do the weekly grocery shop together. Nowadays (in addition to using the base to create recipes) I use Loving Earth products for a variety of reasons, most especially the buckini clusters! They are incredibly delicious and super versatile - for breakfast with my fave nut milk, sprinkled on top of chia puddings or on top of bowls of fresh fruit and yoghurt, as well as in bases of vegan “cheesecakes”.

Follow Jade on Instagram here & find more recipes here

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