To celebrate the relaunch of my first recipe book, Natural Harry – Delicious Plant-based Summer Recipes, I am taking a little trip down memory lane to where this book all began. Come along for the ride...
Although I didn't know it at the time, the seeds of the first Natural Harry recipe book where planted in late 2012 when I began studying Integrative Nutrition at IIN. The one year course offered a good, basic overview of many different dietary theories. What I began to see as the common thread for optimal health was including more WHOLE, natural foods in your diet. That means more WHOLE fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes and less packaged and ultra processed foods. Instead of a diet focused on the amount of macronutrients (such as high fat, low fat, low carb, high carb etc) that made up your meals, I was noticing that the emphasis was on how much wholefood you could include in your diet. These wholefoods were minimally processed and as close to their original state as possible. Rather than miracle and gimmick diets for 'health', I was realising that a back to basics approach and a diet focused on natural ingredients was what made the most sense to me, providing a greater nutrient 'bang for your buck'. So, I began to experiment in the kitchen every spare moment I had in between my days as a nanny (and making mens shorts from upcycled fabric, but that is a story for another day...haha!) And wow did I experiment. Every dollar I earnt that year went towards my new creative passion. Before this, I was fairly disinterested in food and cooking, so this was like a whole (literally) new world had been opened up to me. One full of rich colour and vibrant flavour. Not all trials where a success and friends and family that taste tested the countless treats and smoothies gave honest feedback. It was a quick way to learn, a good old process of trial and error.
Noticing there where no fresh, delicious wholefood smoothie and raw dessert options at local venues in our area, Fraser, my now husband, suggested I start offering them to a wider audience so more could experience them. But how to do this? We threw a few ideas around over many months and eventually settled on the concept of a wooden vintage caravan. We hadn't seen an example of one as a food vendor and couldn't find an old one in good enough nick for sale. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Fraser was inspired to build one from scratch (side note: he is a carpenter by trade, and a clever one at that). He built that caravan from the ground up, including the chassis, using a combination of reclaimed and new materials. We fitted it out with a compliment commercial kitchen specifically for the purpose of making and selling scrumptious raw desserts and smoothies. We spent many late evenings after work constructing the caravan, with Fraser sometimes arriving home at 2 or 3 in the morning only to get up at 6:30 for a day as a chippy. While Frase was building (and in between my role as a very unskilled labourer) I was sewing curtains for under the benchtops, conversing with council for approval, crafting some basic branding, recording my recipes and sourcing 100% organic wholefood suppliers as locally as possible.
With a date (12th December 2013) set as our opening day, we finished painting the outside of the caravan the evening before and parked it on the grassy hill at 10pm that night. I spent some time showing Frase how to make a smoothie and we opened at 7:30am the next morning! Our first customers were our friends Clare, Jess and Marcel. Legends!
Frase was meant to help me for the first day. Instead, he was still there slinging smoothies for 4 years...oops. Looking back, I realise we were both such perfectionists with each and every smoothie and the experience we wanted for our customers that we found it incredibly hard to delegate. The same four smoothies I jotted down on the blackboard the evening before we opened were the same ones we served for the three seasons we were open, but we learnt a few tricks along the way to really perfect them. Interestingly, each was equally as popular as the others. Everyone had their favourite and rarely strayed. I continued to whittle down ingredients and processes to the perfect raw dessert each evening as I prepared for the following day of trade. Eventually having my ideal list of creations to pick from each day. From the first weeks perched on the hill trying to convince customers to try our plant-based creations when almond milk in a smoothie and avocado in a dessert was still a little fresh, eventually, our popularity grew and there was a line down the hill on busy days. People were even making special journeys from Melbourne and regional Victoria for the day to enjoy some NH goodness. By the second season, we needed an extra pair of hands in the van each day and we had wonderful friends work for us over the years - we have the BEST memories of these times with so many legends!
I was asked an overwhelming amount of times for the recipes to these caravan creations. Of course we had them written down and I had tweaked them over time until I was satisfied that they were the best they could be, but I was hesitant to go jotting them down for people. I wanted to do them justice. With a background in fashion design and a passion for design in general and on the suggestion of a few customers, I began to entertain the idea of writing a book. This idea became more and more exciting as I envisioned packaging up the whole NH experience with all of the recipes into a beautiful book, one that the owner would be proud to have sitting on their kitchen bench or coffee table. So I dove in head first. The months that followed were a steep learning curve. Even though I had all my recipes recorded there was much to do in the way of photography, layout, editing and printing. But it was also wonderful. We turned our tiny house bedroom/living room/study into a mini photography studio and Nikole Ramsay and I styled the recipes I was churning out of our little kitchen. Little did I know that this would be the first book of three created in our little space. Knowing that we would not be in the little caravan on the block forever, I was keen to craft the book in a way that the van and those special summer days could live on in its pages...and I really feel like it does! Each time I open it to make something special, be it a birthday cake, some treats, one of the delicious savoury recipes, a staple like a spread, one of the home and body recipes or a classic NH smoothie, I can feel the fresh cool morning air and sunshine on that grassy little hill.
I poured everything from our times in that little caravan into these pages. The smoothie recipes, the most popular and delicious raw desserts, the tasty plant-based savoury meals that we enjoy at home, some simple DIY tox-free home and body recipes and the most delicious pantry and fridge staples. I am SO stoked that after running out of the fourth print run of the published version earlier this year, it is now joining my other two recipes books with the Hardie Grant family. This means it is now available far and wide, in all good book stores, boutiques, online, health food and wholefood stores. I hope you love the book as much as I loved making it for you and that it gives you a glimpse of those special days in the van! x Harry PS: <!-- wp:preformatted --> <pre class="wp-block-preformatted"><meta charset="utf-8">I poured everything from our times in that little caravan into these pages. The smoothie recipes, the most popular and delicious raw desserts, the tasty plant-based savoury meals that we enjoy at home, some simple DIY tox-free home and body recipes and the most delicious pantry and fridge staples. I am SO stoked that after running out of the fourth print run of the published version earlier this year, it is now joining my other two recipes books with the Hardie Grant family. This means it is now available far and wide, in all good book stores, boutiques, online, health food and wholefood stores. I hope you love the book as much as I loved making it for you and that it gives you a glimpse of those special days in the van! x Harry PS: Click on the image below to see more of the book.