Over the summer I emailed Nadia Lim. Her publicist had told me that even though she was away camping with her kids Nadia would try to find the time to reply. I imagined her crouched over a campstove and consulting her email, her bare arms and the well known smile tipping all stress and care into a great big tin plate and serving it up with watercress. She is the nation’s face of healthy living with a side serve of integrity. On the eve of expecting a new baby to her adorable family of four I ask the most important question; What do you cook for dinner when you’re camping?
“We had a little barbeque for grilling sausages and vegetables on, and the rest we kept really simple with no-cook stuff. My advice is: Cook what you can at home in advance and bring in (well-sealed) containers in a chilly bin. I like to keep the food simple and kid-friendly when we are camping – spaghetti bolognaise, wraps/burritos, BLT croissants, nachos, grilled corn, courgettes and sausies on the BBQ etc. We always bring bananas, marshmallows, dark chocolate and tin foil to wrap up and put on the campfire if one is going – best dessert (and bribe!) for kids!”
Nadia Lim’s success is certainly something that a lot of kiwis feel a part of, her well practised transparent public demeanour feels easy to get close to, familiar even, but the family life she came from was ‘very introverted”. She thinks it’s bizarre she’s ended up being in the public eye and she maintains that it’s her deep love of food and how it is produced that draws her into doing the cookbooks and TV shows. From the age of 12 there was nothing else she wanted to do. When she and her husband went into farming a few years ago they did so primarily to learn, live and breathe primary food production. “I am very lucky in that respect “ she writes” I always knew I wanted a career in food.”
Running Royalburn Station
Last year she and her husband took over the running of a 1,200 acre farm Royalburn Station in Central Otago. As far as farms go it’s incredibly diversified, she writes, “producing everything (on a large scale) from pasture-raised eggs to lamb, organic vegetables, honey, grains and seed. In their 4 acre market garden they grow a wide variety of open pollinated heirloom/heritage varieties of wheats and barley as well as the more standard hybrids.”
Over the last few months, I’ve been working with the My Food Bag team on their Fresh Start Jumpstart programme, and have loved the quick and easy recipes that showcase a huge range of fresh produce and vegetables. I’m a big believer in ‘nude food’, so fuelling your body with delicious natural food, and Fresh Start makes this so easy.
If that kind of backyard gardening leaves the reader feeling tired I ask her how she manages to juggle the inevitable work/life balance?
“Sometimes I feel like I don’t do it very well! We are lucky that our boys get equal Mum and Dad time (as Carlos and I work together). We work hard and a lot of the time the boys have to fit in with our schedules, but in many ways I think it is good for them to see their parents working hard – I don’t think they will grow up with any false expectations that you get anywhere in life by not doing much.”
Her own experience of parenting was modelled by hard working parents and although she grew up in cities (Auckland and Kuala Lumpur) the house she grew up in in Auckland actually backed onto a small farm. The family lore goes: 3 year old Nadia ran down the driveway yelling “sheep, sheep!” which is why her parents bought the house. “So it’s very serendipitous that I ended up marrying Carlos who is now a fifth generation sheep farmer.”
And what about her own children? What experiences does she think are important for them?
“Often we think we have to pay to have fun experiences, but more often than not the best experiences are free. We were reminded of this when we were on a family holiday in Aussie a couple of years ago and we took the kids to a theme park, horse riding and out for lunch to a cafe one day (and it cost a small fortune!). To cut a long story short, at the end of the day the kids were acting like ungrateful brats, so we vowed we weren’t going to spend any more money on them for the rest of the holiday. The next day we just went to the beach and playground and got takeaway sushi for lunch. And you know what, they had the best time and were so well behaved – and we spent next to nothing! Now, for family holidays we keep it cheap and cheerful. Spending more definitely does not make for more fun!
What Nadia’s perfect day looks like
“Waking up from a really good nights’ sleep, kids are all happy playing together (and not trying to wreck the house or fight each other), an hour of alone time in the garden, make a simple picnic lunch to take down to the lake (and a dip in the lake if it’s not too freezing), then a family movie at home and early kids bedtime so Carlos and I can have a bit of peace and quiet before an earlyish night. Boring, I know!”
It’s not boring it sounds like bliss to me, however in childfree times Nadia was an intrepid traveller and her dream she says would be to one day go to Mongolia “My father always reckoned we might have some Mongolian blood going way back (my father was Malaysian Chinese).”
Given that I can’t imagine this fresh faced self confessed ‘allrounder’ having any regrets I ask her what advice she might give to her younger self.
“Be open-minded, flexible and empathetic of all perspectives – things are rarely black and white; you’ll always have a spark that can never die – even when you feel like things are tough and you want to give up, that tiny spark will still be there and eventually build back to a roaring flame; invest in yourself; keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities, and make sure you take the bull by the horns and seize them when they come!”