20160527_081231I’m a scientist. Science is my first love and it taught me that knowledge is power. I’m also an educator, food lover, competent cook, step-mum and one of the biggest fans of Star Wars that the galaxy has ever seen. I don’t suffer from migraines, my husband does. And it is this deep down need to not stand by and helplessly watch the greatest love of my life suffer through yet another migraine that drove me to try and figure out if science, my first love, could help him.

I’m a marine biologist by trade, yes a real life, card carrying PhD marine biologist and explorer of the deep sea. Go ahead Google it, you know you want to. I spent 20 years as an academic – writing grants, doing research, publishing research and teaching. Life was good, but the high flying life of field based scientist didn’t leave room for much of a home life.

Then on Valentine’s Day 2007 that all changed when I met my now husband, Stuart. There became a reason to have a home life. Over time his children started to live with us. Managing that and helping him manage his migraines became my new full time gig and I retired from academic life at the University of Sydney.

The kitchen quickly became the center of our home. But if I look back on it now, food has always been my way of fitting in. My first job was as a firefighter and paramedic, and I worked hard to become the shift cook. The cook made lunch and dinner for the team of 15 who worked the shift. It was an honour to be earned by first filling in for the cook when they were not there, until eventually there is a mutiny of sorts where the team says it’s time to move on to someone else. These meals needed to be healthy and able to support the demanding physical work that firefighting is. Also, as not only the only woman on the team, but the first female firefighter in the department, I needed a way to fit in. Cooking made me part of the team.

But the sea called to me and at 25 I left firefighting behind and reinvented myself as a marine biologist. After obtaining my PhD, I was a post doc at Harbour Branch Oceanographic Institute before taking up my first academic appointment in Australia. I might be American by birth, but I’m Australian by choice. My first appointment was at Flinders University in Adelaide. I consider Adelaide my Australian home town and was infused by it’s amazing food scene. In 2002 I moved to the University of Sydney and have been a Sydneysider ever since.

It takes an army of people to do field based science. Plus we all know an army marches on its stomach. The only way I was going to get productive work out of my team was to keep them well fed. To be honest, most of them were uni students who really didn’t know the first thing about cooking, unless you consider 2-minute-noodles a meal. Again these meals needed to be healthy and able to support the hard physical work of being in the water all day.

Layer onto this the field of research I was working in, is known as nutritional ecology. It asks question around what are driving creatures to make the food choices that they do. Yes even the simplest creatures make food choices and it’s called selective grazing. My research and ideas in this area became heavily influenced by Professors Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer and their integrative modelling framework for nutrition known as the Geometric Framework. The ideas that underpin the Geometric Framework have been tested on everything from slime molds to humans. This is ongoing groundbreaking research that is changing and influencing the way that we think about human nutrition. I was so incredibly fortunate to have Steve as my mentor while at Sydney Uni. Working with him and the Geometric Framework gave shape to my research findings on nutritional choices made by marine creatures. And it continues to shape the way that I look at food choices.

So the ideas behind this blog are a labour of all the things I love; science, food and to help end the suffering of my beloved life partner. What you will read about here are the results of the past 10 years and the journey we are still on.

In this blog I’m going to share with you all the things I love; cooking, learning, eating and foraging. You may come for the cooking, eating and foraging, but my biggest wish is that you stay to learn. Because the best thing you can do is make informed nutritional choices for yourself and those you care about. Knowledge is power.

Very important disclaimers for transparency

I am not a card carrying chef, photographer, nutritionist or medical doctor. Those are all qualifications that require training I don’t have. The people who practice these arts have skills, knowledge and experience that you should listen to. Before starting any diet you should check with your healthcare team.

The nutritional choices suggested are informed by evidence based, peer reviewed literature. In the learn section you can become informed as to why they are suggested with fully referenced readings. These sources are from the primary literature across a variety of fields and I am doing my best to make this information accessible to you. I encourage you to read the primary literature and make decisions for yourself.

Whilst I am reporting peer reviewed literature, the writings within this blog have not been peer reviewed. Further what I am telling you about is a very unscientific study with an n = 1. Stuart has and continues to be the guinea pig for these theories, and recipe testing too. That being said these common sense informed choices in diet have helped to reduce the frequency of his migraines from greater than 15 per month to less than 4. This is not a cure, but it might be a way to help reduce the frequency and/or severity of migraines for others like it has for my husband.

To the researcher, nutritionist or medical doctor who has been reading this and would like to engage in robust discussion about the science, I welcome it. There is nothing I would love more than for those with the ways and means to get the scientific evidence and demonstrate if this diet will work for the greater populace. Please contact me if you want to discuss or would like a copy of my Endnote library.

Lastly, as for the photography; I do all my own with my mobile phone. Images are all edited with the software within Instagram. I have done a bit of reading up on how to take acceptable photos and most of the advice I follow comes from multitalented and generous Sneh Roy. If you don’t already follow her blog Cook Republic and instagram feed @cookrepublic you should.

Knowledge is power.

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