Better known and followed as the Secret Kitchen, Jana Brunclikova is a modern day ‘green witch’ on a mission to inspire ‘intuitive eating’ through the senses. She grew up amidst wildflowers in the Czech Republic, harnessing homegrown and embracing herbal medicine used in folklore tradition, and so writes recipes driven by natural ingredients and food through feeling.
Here, we talk about Jana's new book ‘Earth Cakes,’ acknowledging and eating with the cyclical patterns of nature and recipes on high rotation.
M+E: Your cookbook, Intuitive Eating aims to re-educate around the principles of eating; informing us to eat based on the needs of the senses opposed to the archaic, ‘three meals a day ‘system we’ve long been accustomed to. Tell us more.
JB: The Intuitive Eating book follows the principles on nature’s cycles. Both our internal cycles and those of the natural world around us constantly provide guidance on how we can best live and care for ourselves and others. These gentle inner and outer directives have the power to answer most if not all questions we have about nutrition, exercise, and optimising our health … if we listen carefully. Intuitive Eating simply describes the cycles of nature. Using senses such as touch, smell and sight effectively deepens our relation to food and herbs. When we use our senses while eating, we satisfy our hunger, make a ritual form of eating and support our digestive system (to absorb nutrients and nourish our body better). This ritual hopefully helps us to eat in a relaxed / happy state of mind.
M+E: You’re a beautiful mother based in Byron Bay. How does the principle of intuitive eating shift when we go through life stages such as pregnancy, and then when we’re stressed, for example?
JB: There are many cyclical patterns in nature and each has its place in helping us live full, rich, and healthy lives. The continual shifting of the four seasons is a well-known natural pattern, as is the alternation of day and night. The transitions within our lives are also cyclical patterns we should intuitively adjust to. Nature, therefore, is a good example of how to adjust like the seasons around us.
Examples: The Blood Moon that fell mid-autumn was a well-known sign that our bodies may be craving - and could benefit from eating - more fermented foods, root vegetables, and heavier meals. A time when we honour the chill in the air by practising warming rituals. When we notice anything that isn't working in our lives, and clean out the closets of our psyches.
Pregnancy is like autumn. Women instinctively slow down, eat more comfort food, nourish themselves and acknowledge, increasingly, the needs of fellow human beings.
The opposite of stress is relaxation. To balance the common excess of stress is to find time to rest and nourish our bodies and nervous system. This supports survival in times of pressure and does not sabotage our bodies needs.
M+E: What does a day of eating typically look like for you?
JB: I love food. Especially when it’s quality, homegrown or locally sourced. I enjoy cooking for my family and friends and sharing my passion for food with others, and so I make this a priority. As mentioned before, even life has its seasons. I try to flow with the seasons and events that each day brings. So, there are days when I rush out of the house without breakfast, and there are those when I enjoy a slow, long nourishing breakfast. There is no rule to my eating, but I try to recognise when I have a stressful day to ensure a day/time to rest. We don’t always get everything 'right,' but I believe this is the beauty of the flow (and enjoying) life through a bigger picture lens.
M+E: What other daily mantras do you live by?
JB: Do not harm.
M+E: What kind of recipes can we expect to find in your new book?
JB: My new book is called ‘Earth Cakes’ – the witchcraft.
It contains various sweet, simple and more complicated recipes for your home baking. You will find recipes for simple snacks perfect for kids’ lunch boxes as well as cakes you can use for various celebrations. The recipes are mostly plant based, always gluten and dairy free. This is because I like to teach people how to push boundaries and work with ingredients sourced from nature. It will also teach you how to become a green witch and use your own kitchen magic.
M+E: What are two of your favourite recipes, and what is on high rotation at your place right now?
JB: Ayurvedic Kitchari from my first book ‘Intuitive Eating’ and Coconut Chamomile Panna Cotta from my second book ‘Earth Cakes.’
M+E: You talk about the wildflower fields where you grew up? Where exactly was this and how much has your upbringing/early environment inspired what you do today?
JB: I grew up in the hills of a communist Czech Republic where people grew their own food sources and herbal medicine was used as a folk tradition. It truly shaped who I am today. I was always interested in learning herbal magic from my Grandma, and have been told that she made herself in me again.
M+E: The book is limited edition with only 250 copies printed – why did you take this approach?
JB: My first book was created by crowdfunding as I didn’t want to compromise on quality and wanted to support the environment (and companies) with this approach. It is therefore printed in small batches in Sydney on 100% recycled paper, and hand stitched with poetry throughout to imitate the use of senses.
The Intuitive Eating book is currently sold out but I’m working on a reprint which is coming in September.
M+E: Song/album on repeat?
JB: Currently my son ☺ Besides that, I love Kings of Convenience – Misread.
M+E: The most impactful words of wisdom passed to you?
JB: “You create your own opportunities.”