Thomasina Miers: ‘I think all of us can affect the small environment around us. It's the big picture that's terrifying, overwhelming, and definitely does my head in’

The  Staff Canteen

Thomasina Miers is a cook, food writer, and co-founder of Wahaca restaurants. Known for various cookery shows, both on TV and radio, she's also written five books with the most recent focusing on Meat-Free Mexican inspired vegetarian and vegan recipes.

As one of the chefs joining The Big Feastival line-up this year, Thomasina took part in a q&a where she explained how she got into cooking and her thoughts on sustainability. 

“I had quite a foody upbringing because one grandmother was from Tennessee, and the other was from South Africa, and both places actually had quite strong food roots," explained Thomasina.

Her food journey started when she met Clarissa Dickson Wright, one of the women behind Two Fat Ladies, who told her “if you love cooking why aren't you cooking?” before encouraging her to enrol at Ballymaloe cookery school.

Whilst at Ballymaloe, she developed her cooking ability and took her long-time passion transforming it into career. It was during this time she began focussing on food and sustainability.

Sustainability

On the subject of sustainability whilst advocating environmentally friendly behaviour, Thomasina explained: “Twenty five years ago Darina Allen, who's the woman who runs the school, was talking about soil health. We've got this terrible thing about climate change, but no one talks nearly enough about the degradation of soil and the fact that we lose a football pitch of good soil every 5 seconds around the world.”

However, she wasn’t all doom and gloom and talked about how there are people looking into soil health and it isn’t entirely ignored.

She said: “Regenerative farming, which some people are very critical of and say it's all greenwashing, there's real innovation going on with farmers now about what goes on in the soil.

“It's really exciting all the progress and discoveries they're making about all the stuff that's going on underground but the people doing the most amazing stuff about this they're almost like amateur fungi enthusiasts. I think it's incredibly hopeful in a world that feels quite precarious at the moment," explained Thomasina.

Talking about innovations and changes farmers and others in the industry were making, she explained: "It's an exciting time,” whilst also warning that "at some point,  government has to start saying to people we've got to eat less meat'.

She added: "That's the only thing that has to change and really quite quickly. When our grandparents were around - when there were a lot less people - we just didn't eat the same amount of meat that we eat now. Meat should be a luxury.”

‘We've got a choice here and let's do our best’

Discussing how easy it is to get disheartened by climate change and how it’s often easier to give up, she said: “I really think with climate change and the way the world is that it's really tempting to just read the big bad headlines and get completely overwhelmed by it."

“You could just sit in the corner and bury your head and just say 'I give up'. That's one way but the other way is to go 'right, maybe there's a chance. You never know, we might live, we might die, might go all belly up - probably will. But we've got a choice here and let's do our best.'”

She explained that what the everyday person can do, especially if they are overwhelmed with everything surrounding climate change, is focus on the local and try not to worry about the big picture stuff.

“I think all of us can affect the small environment around us. It's the big picture that's terrifying, overwhelming, and definitely does my head in. But I really strongly believe that if you focus on your local environment, your local community - no one person can do everything, but every person has a skill and something that they are good at - and just focus on the stuff you're good at and just try and make a bit of it beneficial to the people around you then that's incredible powerfully impactful. I think we have so much power in our hands, actually, and I choose to be optimistic about it," she explained.

Describing how everyday choices can make an impact and how almost every person eats three meals a day, Thomasina explained people have three chances every day to make a positive environmental impact, by picking an option that has less or no meat, that uses local rather than imported ingredients, and uses less plastic packaging.

She said: “There's so much we can do; whether it's volunteering at a soup kitchen or every day we get a choice about what we eat - so we could have a really delicious hamburger but that's a treat so we're not going to that every day.”

Another thing she specified was that making changes isn’t an all-or-nothing movement.

She said: “I do eat meat but not all the time. I read a stat and it said that if we all just had vegan diets we would use 25% more landmass than if we had an omnivore's diet because there are micronutrients in meat that are much harder to find in a Vegan diet.”

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th September 2022

Thomasina Miers: ‘I think all of us can affect the small environment around us. It's the big picture that's terrifying, overwhelming, and definitely does my head in’