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Xanthe Gladstone in conversation with Beeble Backs

“We have become disengaged with how our food is produced because it is too easy to only connect with it as an end product.” 

Xanthe is a chef and food sustainability advocate. She recently quit her job and left London to train at the Ballymaloe cookery school, before moving to Wales where she runs catering events, grows vegetables, tends to her hens and practices sustainable cooking and living. We are so happy to have her us our first guest on Beeble Backs. Xanthe talks about the the importance of knowing where our food comes from, highlighting the health and environmental benefits of eating local produce. 

Xanthe Gladstone - Beeble Backs

Bees share this philosophy and have been practicing it for thousands, if not millions of years. Bees naturally forage nearby their hive, collecting pollen and nectar, turning that nectar into honey  that feeds their swarm and sweetens our sourdough toast (find Xanthe’s sourdough recipe below). Our Beeble bees feed on apple blossom, giving our honey a fruity fresh flavour. 

We asked Xanthe a few questions including how we can adopt a more organic diet and what advice she has for anybody who wants to live more sustainably. Xanthe has certainly inspired us to check our veg and eat more seasonally. Have a read of what she has to say.


What inspired you to pursue a career in sustainable cooking, growing and living? 

So many different things inspired me over the years until I finally committed to making the move. There’s a chef called Dan Barber who really inspired me initially and then I kind of spiralled from there. Lots of reading, watching documentaries, and talking to those already in the space about their work. I’ve been interested in vegetable growing for a few years as well as food and cooking but never had the confidence to properly make a move. I had been looking into cooking school for a while and was quite unhappy working and living in London, so I booked a place at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, quit my job, and moved to Wales two weeks later. 


What three tips would you share to someone wanting to live more sustainably? 
  1. Pay attention to where the vegetables you buy come from. Check the labels on packaging, it will always tell you. Consider the fact that the moment you pull vegetables out of the ground or off the plant, their nutritional value begins to decrease. So, if you are eating green beans that came from Kenya, as well as not being environmentally friendly due to the travel, they probably won’t be as good for you as vegetables grown nearer to home.

  2. Think about food waste. If your local council do not offer composting waste, either contact them to set one up for you, or consider making your own. It’s really easy and if you have a small vegetable garden, it’s perfect to improve the health of your soil. Citrus peel can’t be home-composted, but they make amazing natural fire lighters if you dry them out. Eggs shells also can’t be composted but they make a perfect slug repellent when dried, or can also be added to the soil. It’s about getting creative!

  3. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect when it comes to living more sustainably. There is a huge amount of anxiety surrounding climate change and it can be overwhelming to make too much change at once. Instead of going completely plastic free, maybe start by cutting down on your use of plastic and then eventually you’ll find yourself not using much at all. Go easy in yourself and start small.



What changes can someone make to their diet to live more organically?

I kind of answered this above, but I think paying more attention to where your food comes from is really important. If you aren’t willing to go completely vegetarian or vegan, maybe consider eating less meat and dairy and investing in higher quality products when you do choose to buy them. Look at local, grass-fed beef as a treat once a week, rather than eating cheap, low-welfare meat on a daily basis. Weekly vegetable box deliveries can also be a really great way to ensure you’re eating locally and organically. They can be a great way to get creative with your cooking and can end up being surprisingly cheaper than buying your vegetables at the supermarket day to day. 


What is your favourite recipe with honey as a the key ingredient? And can you please share it with us?

Honestly, honey with butter on sourdough toast that has just come out of the oven is my favourite of all. Here is my sourdough recipe. 

Xanthe Gladstone - Sourdough Bread Recipe


You are the Director of Food and Food Sustainability for The Good Life Experience festival in Wales. Festivals notoriously produce huge amounts of waste and damage to the environment, what measures have you taken with The Good Life Experience to ensure it is a sustainable experience?

Yes, it’s definitely tricky and we aren’t perfect by any stretch. We do try to make small steps to being as environmentally responsible as we can be. All of our food waste is composted and we are as close to plastic free as we can be. We work with a local rubbish sorting facility where any waste is sorted properly for recycling. From chefs, to food vendors, to those who we set up the festival with, it’s all about working with the right people whose values align with ours. 

           Xanthe Gladstone.             Good Life Festival

Good Life Festival


What do you think is the biggest environmental issue today? And what small steps can we do as individuals to combat it?

From the perspective of food and farming, I think the biggest problem we face is the disparity between what we eat and where it comes from. We have become disengaged with how our food is produced because it is too easy to only connect with it as an end product. This means that it is harder for us to connect with the effects of monoculture farming, overuse of chemicals in vegetable growing, and air miles connected with moving food around the world for us to get what we want, when we want. This isn’t necessarily our fault but a food and shopping culture that we have become accustomed to. Small steps that we can take to combat this are, where we can, supporting small independent food brands. This will usually mean shopping locally and more ethically. We have an incredible amount of food producers in our country who are really doing inspiring things to better our food system, and supporting them is a step in the right direction. Here are a few of my favourites: Hodmedods, Gilchesters, Neals Yard Dairy, Fen Farm. We have to  start valuing food differently to how mainstream might’ve taught us to until now.  

 

Who is your Queen Bee?

It couldn’t not be my mother! She’s really the best and has coped with six of us for the last 31 years. She is a daily inspiration to me and has endless amounts of energy to give to everyone around her. I am very lucky. 

Xanthe Gladstone

Written by Harry

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