I love me a decadent sweet. Puddings, cakes and desserts done right, made with actual cream, butter and sugar – all the good stuff that Marie Antoinette would approve of (mis-quotedly so, mind you).
That aside, I do appreciate alternative forms of traditional foodstuffs that we are familiar with, done right by people who know what they’re doing. Genevieve (better known as Evie) from Evie and Ginger is one of those people.
Evie is a co-owner of the successful cafe, Ginger Brown, in South Hobart, but her real passion is all sorts of little sweet and healthy treats: moreish morsels made with toothsome bite, without the guilt factor that comes with so many refined and packaged food. I became hooked on her raw Snickers Cups, which I discovered on a lunch time food raid when I was working in the city.
Hailing from Victoria originally, Evie was an established journalist when she moved here, and secured writing roles with The Mercury and The Sunday Tasmanian. Writing about the Tasmanian way of life was a great way to learn about the local pace and get in touch with producers, food, people, and so introduced her to that quintessential Tassie lifestyle we are so well known for.
A self confessed health food nut, Evie started Evie and Ginger as a creative outlet for her dorky obsession with healthy food. At the time, she made healthy treats for Ginger Brown to offer to customers with food intolerances. An offer from Jo Cook, food curator at MONA, led to a stall at the MONA Market (MoMa) offering gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, and vegan friendly bites.
That led to Hill Street Grocer approaching Evie and asking whether she would supply four product lines in three of their stores. To date, Ginger Brown provides treats for Ginger Brown and Hill Street.
Evie generously let me have some of her time over email to answer a few questions about what motivates her in her health food quest, how she perceives the growth in allergy friendly eateries in Hobart, and what she enjoys about cultivating her conscientious lifestyle down here.
Where does your interest in healthy eating stem from?
I’ve always been into health and lifestyle and I have about 50 books on the subject! Growing up, I was always the friend on a detox or making giant batches of cauliflower soup. I think I’ve always been a big health nerd in my heart, but it’s only in the past 10 or so years – since having a family – that I’ve lived the lifestyle in an authentic way. I don’t drink alcohol, eat sugar or gluten – I’m absolutely no fun at dinner parties!
At the same time, I absolutely do have a sweet tooth! I’m in love with these little paleo choc and fig fudge raw cakes I make. I need to talk myself out of eating too many straight out of the freezer! But I gave up refined sugar a long time ago. I think if you’re going to have something sweet, and especially if it’s high fructose, then it needs to be nutrient dense too – and it’s just a treat – don’t eat an entire raw vegan cake in a day!
What does it mean to you to eat ‘healthy’ and how does that affect how you live day to day with your family?
I would say dropping sugar from your diet is the big one as far as eating healthily goes. A little high quality dairy here and there is okay. But the days of eating regular chocolate or ice cream are way over. I feel much better for it. As far as general health goes, I think plate crowding is a good way to approach it. Crowd your plate with quality vegetables and fats. Don’t be afraid of fat – I eat spoonfuls of coconut oil. If you’re going to eat meat, know exactly where it comes from. Read labels, there’s so much sugary and salty junk hiding behind healthy-looking packaging. I would say eat wholefoods wherever you can and cook your own ‘fast food’. As far as living healthily day-to-day with our children, I try not to be a total food dictator or nag them too much! They do enjoy healthy food though, mostly. And when they eat ice cream and fairy bread here and there I try to let it be – it’s a balance.
Do you feel that your health choices are affected by your lifestyle in Tasmania specifically, or it’s something that you would try to duplicate wherever you were situated in the world?
I love the home grown bartering system in Hobart. I’m always bartering sweet vegan treats for a box of apricots or apples. Or friends will leave surplus from their veggie patches on my doorstep. That feels like a Tassie thing to me, and I love that. I think I would be pretty healthy wherever I lived but there’s something about the landscape down here, Mt Wellington so close, the air and such amazing fresh produce that all inspires a healthy lifestyle.
What do you think the increase in allergy and intolerance friendly eateries reflect in Hobart/Tasmania- a growing awareness for eating restrictions, or that people are wanting to experiment more in what they eat, and are open to alternatives if someone can provide them?
I love all the new cafes catering to GF [gluten free] and DF [dairy free]! A dream day would include just hopping from one to the other around Hobart. I think it’s a combination of both [awareness and adventurism in food consumption]. People without dietary restrictions are into experimenting and definitely into eating in a cleaner, healthier way. And the industry is definitely paying respect to people with dietary restrictions.
Do you think the development to eat ‘cleanly’ and sustainably (i.e. locally sourced and seasonally driven) has stemmed from this increased awareness in dietary requirements?
I think people are consciously moving away from Big Food and feeling empowered by that. Consumers now know the power is in their hands and they have the choice about what they eat and where they shop and how far it has travelled to get to them. It’s not at all ‘alternative’ now to choose the health option. Eating a clean diet is tastier, makes you feel great and is more sustainable – why wouldn’t you do it?
How do you go about recipe testing, and how did your knowledge develop when it came to finding effective alternative ingredients for standard baking ones like flour or eggs, or dairy?
I do lots and lots of playing around in the kitchen and testing out new recipes on friends. Whenever I make a new treat for Ginger Brown or for Hill St I ask several friends and most importantly, their children to try them for me – four year-olds are brutally honest about what they like or don’t like! Our little girl Jemima is allergic to eggs and soy, and I don’t eat dairy or gluten so there’s a lot of experimenting with traditional recipes going on. I play around with chia seeds, tapioca flour, almond meal etc to replace flours and eggs. Of course, it doesn’t always work, I’ve had some pretty big flops! I’m just learning, teaching myself everything as I go along.
Is Evie and Ginger a creative outlet for you to express through? Is there any future vision you would like to achieve, or just something you are enjoying and communicating with people in the present?
Evie and Ginger is definitely a creative outlet. I recipe develop and food style for The Brown Paper Bag in Sydney and Melrose Health Australia. I’d like to devote more time to my own blog and start writing lots of health and wellness articles. And posting up lots more recipes too. I like the idea of simply writing about all the areas of health and lifestyle that I’m interested in and hopefully creating a little hub of information for others. At the moment I’m just thrilled people are enjoying the treats! I meet so many beautiful health lovers via Instagram who are just as nerdy about their breakfast as me. It’s a really fun, devoted kind of community. I’m just enjoying that aspect of it now.
If you want to sample some of Evie’s creations, hightail your way to Ginger Brown Cafe, 464 Macquarie Street, South Hobart, or enquire at your local Hill Street Grocer.