When Pam Brook set out to create her debut book We Can All Eat That!, she was keen to encourage families to eat together free of any fear of food allergies just as she had done with her family over the generations.
With this in mind she sought the help of Australia’s top paedatricians and allergists and the best wholefood chefs Samantha Gowing and Sarah Swan, and pulled together 95 delicious and healthy recipes for the family to enjoy together.
“My vision is to take the fear out of food for families and help provide guidance and support for parents in the first few years and create great family food that they can all eat together,” explains Pam, who lives at Brookfarm in the Byron hinterland in northern NSW. “If I can create more adventurous eaters, and not one meal for one and one for the other; I will be happy.”
Pam and her team certainly succeed in giving good advice about food allergies and ways to introduce new flavours into young people’s lives so they grow up more diverse eaters. “It’s important to develop a far more adventurous palette from a young age, and encourage the whole family to develop their taste buds,” say Pam. Youngsters need to love the sour flavours, not just the sweet ones.”
Pam is talking to me from her beloved farm Brookfarm and as she describes the beautiful lush scenery surrounding her you can hear birds twitter in the background. She is quite rightly proudly about how she and her family lovingly transformed a run-down dairy into a thriving sustainable business producing everything from paleo, keto and gluten free granola, mueseli and even a baby food range called Bloom Baby Food under the Brookfarm label. My favourite in fact.
Brookfarm is a famly business. “We bought our farm in 1989,” says Pam. “It was infested with weeds such as lantana. Now our farm is a haven for wild animals and is quite beautiful. We have 3,000 macadamia trees and we are currently planting more native fruit trees. We already use Davidson plumb in our products but want to use more native fruits.”
If you get the feeling there was plenty of love and care put into the pages of the book, you would be right.
“It’s very exciting because I have not written a book before,” says Pam. “I worked with Sam and Sarah – they are both great wholefood chefs. We had a week where we made every recipe here on my farm. Of course, there was tasting every day!”
It’s a book designed not only for babies and toddlers but everyone in the family. “The book covers food for six month olds to people 80 plus,” adds Pam. “You can use the recipe modifications to get the baby or toddler food, so that way you just cook one recipe for the whole family. The aim is to introduce one allergen into their daily diet. These are foods that are full of flavour such as tree nuts, sesame, soy – and it’s important to put them in.”
It’s clear Pam’s family is especially close. There’s her husband, two sons and the three adorable grandchildren.
“We started selling our products at the Bangalow market and our two boys helped us,” she says. “My kids helped me cook in the kitchen and they grew up as great kids. We tried everything when it came to food and that gave them a great appreciation of good food. It’s the same with my three grandchildren Evan, 7, Noah, 5, and Cassius, 2, who feature in book. Every Thursday night we cook together, and it’s baby-sitting night. I love it. My parents did the same for us. It was party night at Mick and Shirls.”
‘This book should reassure anxious new parents, and if they follow the recipes they will be eating very well indeed.’–Stephanie Alexander, chef, author, founder of Australia’s Kitchen Garden Program
The idea behind the book evolved from the time Pam was researching and developing a children’s food range and the introduction of nuts. It was then she reached out to the leading paedietric and allergist, the late Dr Velencia Soutter.
“One thing I got to know from Valencia is what a challenge it is to live with a food allergy and the complexity of managing it every day,” says Pam. “About 4-8 per cent of population have a childhood food allergy.
“We wanted to talk about real food and what to do to prevent allergy and to get back to real food, and the fantastic emotional benefit of a family eating together which is very special but sometimes gets lost.”
Pam explains that the Government health records say it’s important in the first 12 months of life to introduce common allergy-causing food into the diet and that this is supported by all the allergy societies here and in the US.
“By introducing common allergens in the first six months of development, you help prevent babies from getting allergies,” says Pam. “Basically, it is their gut that helps to increase tolerances to food.
“There are so many packaged foods nowadays.
“When I grew up, I did most of my cooking at home. It’s not difficult to make baby’s first food – home cooking is easy. It’s fabulous fun to assemble the food together.”
Anne Swain from Royal Prince Alfred Allergy Unit, which Valencia and her husband were the founders of, also provided Pam with the latest scientific background into allergies for her book. “I was careful to only use the science pier produced research,” Pam adds. “There are many conspiracy theories and it’s really important we stay with the science.”
Pam adds: “It’s important we continue the research of food allergies and their prevention and treatment and it’s important our government funds that.”
What Pam has to say about the importance of families eating together is both sensible and refreshing, and her book is packed with scrumptious recipes that make the experience even better. When, I ask her what her favourite recipe is from the book, she finds it tough. “I do love the sweetcorn and macadamia fritters,” she says. “That also purees down to a great baby food. I love the breakfasts, the birchers and how to make so many variations. And there is Swannies bubble and squeak.”
If you want to improve your family meals and eating habits free of allergies, it’s worth buying the book and deciding yourself what recipe you prefer best.
ABOUT PAM BROOK
Pam is a doyenne of the Australian food scene—she is the co-founder of family businesses Brookfarm and Cape Byron Distillery, both in Byron Bay. She is a mother and grandmother.
Backed by the latest scientific evidence, We Can All Eat That! is the new must-have food allergy bible for parents of infants and toddlers, featuring 95 recipes that the whole family can enjoy together.