Laura comes from a large Maastricht family with five children. His mother instilled in him a love of food and fresh dishes. “I went to a culinary academy and always bought fresh produce from local suppliers,” says Laura. “I myself studied Dutch and worked in journalism, but that didn’t suit me. I got a job in a publishing house and I didn’t even like it. But we have also published cookbooks with this publisher, and that is where my passion lies”.
When she quit her job, Laura thought she could take a look behind the scenes of artisans and chefs and tell stories about them. So at that time it was given to a butcher in Leiden. “One of the first things he said to me was that ham is like human flesh. He always delivered smoked sausages to customers’ homes, which he simply threw in the mailbox and flattened them a little. As a result of this experience, I wrote a funny story in which I happily declared that I was happy because I didn’t end up smoking sausages. This story was picked up by the editors of chef Jamie Oliver’s magazine. They asked me to write for their magazine. So I landed my job as a fast-start food journalist,” she laughs.
Laura’s articles were popular and within a short time she was writing for several food-related outlets. Thus was born the idea of the Amsterdam cookbook. There he studied nutrition by looking at different cuisines and doing extensive research. This is how you noticed that your plate sometimes travels 30,000 km. “After the success of the recipe book in Amsterdam, I created another one, for which I traveled around the Netherlands on my electric motorcycle in search of the best products from the regions where I lived”.
With photographer Hans de Kurt, who did the photography for the book, Laura philosophized about an upcoming project. Because it would be nice to do the same thing in another country? “This is how Natural Austria was born,” says Laura. “Austria is a country with a wide variety of flavors, cultures and dishes thanks to its countless microclimates. Did you know, for example, that the cheese you find in Austria tastes different when cows or sheep graze in the mountains? They have many specialty cheeses, such as Alpen Bergkäse and Montafoner Sura Kees, which taste significantly different from cheese made in Holland.”
pumpkin seed oil
In about a month and a half, Laura visited several farmers, producers, chefs and hosts and gathered all the information for the book. “I met 55 people and learned all kinds of amazing things about Austrian products. Take Kürbiskernöl or pumpkin seed oil for example. I was riding around Styria on my electric motorbike and saw all kinds of orange pumpkins in the field. I really caught my attention, so I did, I visited some farms and found out that from these seeds you get a wonderful oil, something you hardly find in Holland.
In this way, I found something special in each federal state and became more aware of the importance of local products. “I like when chefs work with nature and its elements. This certainly happens in Austria. Chefs who grow their own produce in their own backyard and set up a bench in the middle of the field for you to enjoy your meal amidst all that delicacy. Or chefs who create mountain desserts from their region. I have many examples of chefs who prepare their dishes from nature. I’m still very enthusiastic about it.
Culinary Treasure Chest
Laura’s journey was like a culinary treasure chest. “When you read my cookbooks, you as a reader look behind me and discover these treasures with me.” “I wrote it so you can travel with me and see the importance of eating food that hasn’t traveled the world, but just comes from your environment. For example, I don’t really buy anymore of California almonds. There is a monoculture, which means only one crop is grown on a plot at a time. The bees also have to be moved there, so the trees can bear fruit in the first place.”
It’s not sustainable at all, says Laura. “Just like the lawyer. Few people benefit much and not the farmers. If you travel to a country where a particular product is grown, of course you can eat it. But in Italy, you don’t order Alaskan salmon. In Austria, on the other hand, you can easily eat delicious salmon from a mountain lake. I feel happy when people learn the stories behind the food by reading my cookbooks”.
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