Updated: Mar 9
I'm just grateful for the joy of eating! And all the preparation and love and energy that’s gone into it. And the earth where the food is coming from!
i sat down with Black british icon ms dynamite to talk veganism, haggis and the difference between a bake and a fried dumpling. read along for the recipe for her favourite dish!
sisterwoman: how would you describe your diet? do you subscribe to any labels?
Ms Dynamite: I definitely wouldn't put myself in any box or give my dietary lifestyle any kind of label to be honest. I like to practise listening to my body and being in tune with my body and going through natural phases. Being in tune with the environment, the season, and just more observing the kind of things I feel like eating as opposed to having the discipline to put myself in a specific category of eating.
sisterwoman: have you gone through phases or has it always been the way you've eaten?
Ms Dynamite: I’ve definitely subscribed to labels; I've been vegan, I've been a pescatarian, I've been a total carnivore… I’ve definitely gone through phases over the years, but even that was based on my feelings. Now a lot more people are strict vegans, suddenly I’m not! But for me it wasn’t about anything other than how I felt at the time. My body was like let me try this now, it’s time for a shift.
I wasn’t intentionally on that journey until I started doing a wellbeing course, and part of it just happened to go into food and its effects on the body, why we crave certain foods and stuff like that. There were things that really resonated with me emotionally, in terms of the links between emotional eating and food. It just really fascinated me, and it also helped me to identify some things within myself that I had never even considered. I guess then it became real for me.
sisterwoman: what was your experience with veganism like?
Ms Dynamite: You know what, it was amazing. It changed my life. It was for quite a long period of time, and I just remember feeling really aligned, in flow, healthy. I remember thinking when I first started to become a vegan that I couldn’t imagine not eating meat and being full up. I didn’t realise this at the time but the thing I was always looking for from food was to feel full up. I couldn’t imagine not eating meat, but something in me just didn’t want to eat it anymore. So I made the shift very quickly, I just made it happen, and I felt the benefits of it straight away. I didn't fully understand then, because I didn’t fully understand the relationship between food and how we feel. I just suddenly felt like not eating meat and I felt better within myself. I felt lighter, I just felt a way I never expected to feel. I felt more healthy, like I had more energy, more happy, you know?
credit ms dynamite 2021
s: you definitely seem to lean towards a more intuitive style of eating. has that ever been difficult for you?
Ms Dynamite: Food has always been a massive part of my life, I’ve always loved it. I don't feel like I’ve been much of a fussy eater - I like most things give or take - but then I might be fussy about the way I eat something or the way that it’s prepared or something like that. I don't think I’ve ever found it “difficult”, although when I was a strict vegan that was really challenging at the time as there weren’t as many options as there are now. At that time I was touring loads, and you go to places that just didn't understand the concept of veganism. Particularly at that time, before the recent evolution of food and food awareness. Our perceptions about food have changed so much and advanced so much in such a short space of time.
s: oh definitely, I've been vegan since 2014 and there’s been such an acceleration in that short time alone! what brought you to understanding the connection between food and overall wellness?
MD: I guess I did have some understanding because my brother was a vegan long before I was, and I knew he did it for health reasons, but actually I remember I was having some issues with my skin and that was the first thing that made me think about trying something different. Thinking about it now I probably did have some kind of unconscious awareness of the connection between food and wellness, but I wasn’t intentionally on that journey until I started doing a wellbeing course, and part of it just happened to go into food and its effects on the body, why we crave certain foods and stuff like that. There were things that really resonated with me emotionally, in terms of the links between emotional eating and food. It just really fascinated me, and it also helped me to identify some things within myself that I had never even considered. I guess then it became real for me. As well as, “oh my skin’s gotten better and I feel like I have energy that I didn’t think I’d have, and I can now see some information that feels very relevant”.
I wouldn't class myself as a conscious eater, I kind of eat what I feel and if I’m totally honest about it, sometimes how I feel is not conscious, you know! But it’s a practice, and the majority of the time, if not always, there’s gratitude with whatever it is that I’m eating, because there are so many people on the planet that are not eating, not able to eat, not able to have a choice or conversation about being picky and choosy about their diet or what’s best for their health. Also just grateful for the joy of eating! And all the preparation and love and energy that’s gone into it. And the earth where the food is coming from!
s: how was your relationship with food first cultivated?
MD: I first really learned how to actually cook when I left home, because I wasn’t really allowed to cook in the house. When I would go to my gran’s I would always watch, but my grandad was the real chef in the house and he didn’t really want women in the kitchen when he was cooking. Of all the jobs that I was made to do, I wasn’t allowed to cook. Saying that, I did used to bake with my stepmum when I was a child, which I loved. I really enjoyed the whole process of mixing and stirring and then it came out transformed! I really enjoyed that, but in terms of actual cooking when I left home as a teenager it was just trial and error. I’d made a few dishes here and there before then, and I was amazing at a fry up, but in terms of real cooking and exploring and venturing out and trying different things, that started when I moved out. It started on a real budget first, which was interesting. I can’t totally remember what meals I made but because I’m very creative I would never have something in a straightforward way, I’d always have to add a little bit of this or a little bit of that, and it was a long process of trial and error. Some things were disgusting, but because I didn’t have money I still just had to eat them! I’ve always loved food, but I probably fell even more in love with it once I grew up a little bit and was able to buy foods that I liked and was able to cook for my family. I think then I was just beyond in love. I maybe didn't realise then the connections between creativity and being expressive and the love that you put into your food. The whole concept and expression and ceremony of having a family dinner or family gathering and that preparation of that food. I hadn’t consciously thought about that whole process and what that means to me - as a mum, sister, daughter, a maternal figure within the family. That brought even more things to life for me about cooking.
I feel like it would be great to see information about food - taught in schools, spoken about in homes, just across the board. From my personal journey with food and my own experience and the things I’ve seen other people experience, food is so important and so vital to our quality of life, often to our health, to our state of mind. It can either support a healthy lifestyle or it can sort of deplete us. Having information helps us to make more aware and informed choices, and I guess if we are fortunate enough to be in a position where we do get to choose what we’re eating, we can create either better habits for ourselves or just a more conscious relationship with our food and with our eating. And that’s not at all to sound like some preacher that is conscious of what I’m eating all the time, it’s definitely not like that, I just say it because I’ve learned a bit of stuff that’s helping me and it would be great if information was more readily available and accessible and relatable. Why would that not be an amazing thing?
s: being Black and mixed race has been a large part of your identity. what are some of your favourite food memories from jamaica and scotland?
MD: I really remember going to Scotland for the first time as a child with my brothers and sisters and my mum and having haggis, and just thinking “oh my gosh, no way, this can’t be real, this can’t be true”. I also remember all of my Scottish aunties, great aunts - oh my god. They baked their own bread, they made scones, they made cakes, they made shortbread. They made all the “naughty” stuff, but they were melt in your mouth, magic that I've never tasted anything like again!
On my Caribbean side, I’m actually biologically Jamaican, but my step dad is Grenadian, my godfather is Guyanese, one of my grandad’s is from Barbados, so what was really interesting was going to all the different houses and they all come from different islands but then you suddenly realise they cook things just that slightly bit different or they might have different names for the same things. So one house I might be saying, can I have a bake? And hearing back “it's not a bake, it’s a fried dumpling!”
s: you’re the oldest daughter of THIRTEEN kids! what was a typical dinner table scene for you growing up?
MD: Depending on the period of time that you pick, when we were younger we went through quite humble periods. A funny thing about being mixed race, in terms of cuisine, is that there are Black people’s broke dishes and then there are white people’s broke dishes, English and Caribbean, so on one side we’d constantly be having egg and chips, and on the other we’d be having corned beef and rice. There would always be joy, and there would more than likely be a Caribbean roast dinner or a more English/UK roast dinner.