Thursday, June 30, 2022

Inside the Wonderfully Chaotic Life of Nadia Lim

Capsule sits down with national treasure Nadia Lim for our series, How Are You Today.

When Capsule catches up with Nadia Lim, she’s got a lot on her plate – pun not intended.

As well as her usual heavy workload, in the last few weeks she’s thrown a birthday party for youngest son River, rescued a helpless chick from a certain death in Central Otago’s freezing weather – and adorably called him Marvin – and launched a new partnership with a charity that’s super-close to her heart.

Oh, and there was the trip to the local radiologist when oldest son Bodhi swallowed a coin – but even that didn’t much faze Nadia, who posted a picture of the x-ray with a nonchalant, “Bet you can guess what I’ll be doing for the next few days, at least [the] Covid gloves and mask I bought are coming in handy.”

Still, New Zealand’s favourite chef still found a slice of time to chat to Capsule about My Food Bag’s Garden to Table partnership, her new life in the gorgeous Central Otago and how she’s finding a little bit of peace in the madness of this time.

Hey Nadia! Long time, no talk – how are you going?
I’m well, thank you! By the way if I sound like I’m talking a bit funny it’s because I just got these clear braces in and I feel like I can’t talk properly! I thought I may as well do it now, my dentist wanted me to do it for like seven years, but I was always like, ‘No, I need to eat too much!’ I can only eat four times a day which is very annoying. I actually cheat, I take them out more than that – like 10 times a day. I should have done it during lockdown!

No worries! How was your lockdown experience? You made an incredible cooking show, Nadia’s Comfort Kitchen, out of your own house and filmed on a phone. What an experience!
Yeah, it was amazing! Remember how everyone was freaking out, and all the panic around food shopping? I was like, jeepers, people need to just chill and stay and home and not panic, so I started thinking, ‘what can I do to help?’

I put up some recipes up for what you had in the pantry, and with all manner of substitutes so you didn’t have to go out specifically, and the response was huge and people asked if I could do more. Then Warner Brothers called and asked if we could do a whole TV show about it… and I was like, ‘hmmm! Could do… But I don’t have a videographer and we can’t have any crew!’ But then [Nadia’s husband] Carlos came in and did it on his phone, with the kids running everywhere!

It was a real silver lining, to have people cooking more. The only thing that wasn’t so real in the show was that the children weren’t as well behaved as they came across on screen – all of the screaming and fighting was edited out! They drove me nuts in lockdown!

You moved down to Central Otago a while ago for a change of pace – how is it going?
Oh, it’s amazing – especially before lockdown, we felt very lucky to have the space and everything. We’re about 20 minutes out of Queenstown, and about 10-15 minutes from Arrowtown, so we’re close to everything.

Nadia’s two boys, River and Bodhi

And, of course, you’re a chick mum now!
Yes! I didn’t expect to be looking after a newborn chicken, but here we are! He’s going so well, he’s stuck to the side of me, and he follows me around everywhere. He’s having a nap at the moment – I’ll call you back on Facetime to show you! I felt a bit weird interfering with nature but I had a feeling it wasn’t going to go well, and I was right. I found one that had hatched and frozen to death.

You have a lot on your plate at the moment! Tell us about Garden to Table – I know it’s a cause you’re hugely passionate about.
Garden to Table has been growing for about 10 years, and from almost right from the beginning I’ve had a bit to do with it – I’m so drawn to it and I loved the concept.

One of my things is that I believe it should be mandatory to learn what I think are basic, essential life skills – how to grow your own food, grow harvest and cook our own food, and I don’t know why it’s not mandatory in all schools. That’s what Garden to Table do – and it’s so advantageous for Kiwi kids to learn these skills. So now people can choose to donate to them through their Food Bags.

When you point it out, it does seem weird that it’s not taught in Kiwi schools! I mean, I’ve never used Pythagoras’ Theorem in my entire life, but growing carrots would actually be handy!
Exactly! It’s not just a food thing, it goes deeper than that. It’s got such massive positive potential and impacts for the environment – if everyone was doing more than that, there would be far less plastic packaging, no food miles because you just walk out and get it, no sprays and chemicals used – it ticks all the boxes.

Nadia’s been passionate about Garden to Table since its inception

But also with mental health – it’s so important for children’s mental health to get into the habit of going outside, getting fresh air, sunshine, vitamin D and the connection with nature. I think a lot of kids don’t. Being a gardener myself, I know how important it is for me and my mental health, and I can see it in my children as well. They’re so much better behaved and so much happier when they have some time outside in the sun, just playing around.

And it’s a responsibility, you’re starting with a tiny seed that you have to nurture and look after every day, and then you see it grow, grow, grow. It shows children what’s possible. Especially in the wake of post-Covid.

Learn more about the cause here

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