Lentils for the new year is an Italian custom that may well go back to Roman times. In fact, lentils are one of the earliest cultivated crops to garnish our ancestral tables. (Remember Esau, scorning his birthright for a mess of pottage? It was lentils in that bowl.) (JG Photo/Nadia Bintoro)

A Holistic Approach to Food With New Earth Cooking

BY :NADIA BINTORO

AUGUST 31, 2015

Why do you eat the things you eat? Is it just because they taste good? Do you know where your food comes from?

These are some of the questions being asked through “New Earth Cooking," a cooking philosophy that invites people to question their food rather than blindly following the craze of the latest trends in healthy superfoods.

A philosophy of cooking developed by a Simon Jongenotter, the chef responsible for the cuisine served at Bali Silent Retreat in Tabanan, New Earth cooking encourages people to dig deeper into the implications of their food cycle and consider not only the nutritional values it contains, but also its effects on local communities and planet as whole.

The goal is to create a conscious eating habit that is not only good for the body, but also for the planet.

“New Earth Cooking is not a fad diet, we are not going to tell you what to eat or what not to eat. It’s an invitation to question your way of eating," said Jongenotter.

Originally from the Netherlands, Jongenotter has been training as a professional chef for 12 years, working in high-end restaurants across the globe, from Sydney to London, before deciding to come to Bali. As a professional chef in the health food industry, he started questioning the ingredients he uses on a daily basis.

“Whilst working in some fancy restaurant and being asked to cut the potato into a square and throw out the leftovers just because it looks good on the plate, of course I started questioning the whole thing, as there are too many foods being wasted. At the same time, people go hungry in other parts of the world," Jongenotter explained.

“We produce twice the amount of food to feed everyone in the world daily, yet every four seconds, people die from hunger or hunger-related diseases. This is not logical.

“After working as a chef for 12 years with a background in health foods, I don’t blindly believe the latest food hypes, which so easily flood the psyche of hip and happening crowds in the modern world.

"I started contemplating the effects of a health food culture solely focused on enriching our own physical bodies without considering the effects of our choices on the entire web of life. I noticed that whether in Sydney, Amsterdam or Bali, the same rigid ‘superfood’ doctrines dominate the trendy urban health stores and cafes.

"These diets always rely heavily on imported, slightly elusive ingredients, typically grown in Peruvian highlands or Hawaiian valleys, which by means of transporting alone are not really sustainable," he continued.

The philosophy is translated into vibrant vegan dishes served in Bali Silent Retreat, where Jongenotter applied the five principles of New Earth Cooking.

Just like the magic 4Ps in Marketing strategy, the principles of New Earth Cooking include Place, Product, Price, People and one addition of Planet.

When choosing the foods to eat, New Earth cooking invites people to think about these elements:

Place: Does it make sense to you to eat food which has been imported from far away places?

Product: Are you willing to eat food that is proven to be less vital, fresh and nutritious than Mother Nature has intended? Are you willing to tolerate any amount of toxin and pollution in your food that are known to be a burden on your system?

Price: When you choose affordable or cheap food, are you considering the real price you are paying? Are you thinking what you can afford today or what you can afford in life?

People: Would you be happy to eat food  produced by people who suffer emotionally or physically as a direct result of their work?

Planet: Are you willing to take more than you give back to planet earth? Do you want to honor the earth that has sustained us since the birth of our species? Is it possible to be a healthy individual whilst all life forms are under threat?

“It’s important to eat healthy by eating the so called superfoods, but it’s also essential to not follow the trends blindly that will lead to more harm than good," Jongenotter said.

He gave the example of quinoa as a hip superfood. A crop that has kept native South American people healthy and strong for many generations, quinoa has suddenly rocketed to become the latest trend in superfoods as its health benefits were recognized by health guru’s in the West.

As more people were convinced of its superior nutrition, exports to the Western world boomed and the price of quinoa went up dramatically as a result. Whilst well-meaning, health-focused people are enjoying their quinoa salads in health food cafés, the people living in South America who are in true need of their nourishing staple food can no longer afford it. And as a result, their health deteriorates.

More so, the planet subsequently suffered the after-effect as it patiently absorbs and transforms the emissions and shares her final drops of oil as big trucks and planes transport these so called superfoods around the globe.

More than an encouragement of using local produce, New Earth Cooking strives to create a harmonious relationship working with and caring for co-workers and suppliers through friendship and sharing.

This principle is being translated into a holistic, garden-to-table cooking style at Bali Silent Retreat. The cycle begins from the cultivation of the produce used to cook the menu.

“In Bali we are blessed with abundance, a tropical climate and fertile soils which contribute to year-round harvest of interesting and delicious produce. We grow and produce most vegetables, fruits and herbs that we use in our cooking in the retreat’s own jungle garden," Jongenotter said.

“Our garden team has worked hard to transform the once dense, clay-like soil into more fertile and healthy land by applying age-old Balinese traditional techniques along with permaculture principles.

“Veggies and fruits are being harvested twice daily, just after sunrise and just before sunset. Herbs are picked minutes before used in our cooking. The produce is thoroughly washed in well water and reverse osmosis filtered water before it’s used in the variety of dishes we serve at the retreat.”

While the retreat is able to produce a large range of foods on its own, it still needs the help of local farmers for other, more challenging harvest.

“A number of people in our village produce coconut oil using a traditional process. This rich, incredibly healthy oil is an absolute corner stone of our cooking. We also source palm honey and palm sugar to replace refined sugar in our cooking,"Jongenotter explained.

Despite having spent the past three years researching and experimenting with natural produces in Indonesia, Jongenotter continues to be amazed by the vast array of superfoods the archipelago has to offer, as well as the nation's capabilities to produce other food materials, as in the refining of palm sugar.

“Indonesia has an abundance of many superfoods that are often overlooked. For years people have eaten the recently booming Moringa or Daun Kelor. Sadly the benefits of this magic plant are often underestimated by the locals as it’s deemed as a 'low-class' food eaten by poor people," he said.

Through his website and book, which is soon to be published, Jongenotter wishes to spread the gospel of conscious eating.

“I am hoping more people can utilize more of the local ingredients and bring back the local cooking wisdom of the past," he said.

At the moment, the vibrant, delicious foods from New Earth Cooking can only be found in the home kitchen of Bali Silent Retreat.

For more information and practical menu tips, head to Newearthcooking.com

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