My illness helped me discover Surinamese macrobiotic recipes4 minute read

Shanti Silos is an international speaker, writer, filmmaker, multi-entrepreneur, and life – & business coach from The Netherlands. She inspires and motivates others to reconnect with themselves, stand in their power and take action. She is also the founder and owner of a coach collective called www.Light-Works.nu. I spoke to her about her latest project, a cookbook she’s creating with a team of food experts called Happy & Healthy @ Home: Healthy Surinamese Food. In the cookbook, her father, Roy Silos, and a mutual friend Monique Cambridge share their secret recipes, tips, illuminations on Surinamese food and the macrobiotic kitchen and lifestyle.

Shanti Silos. Photo by Maarten Huisman

What is your earliest food memory?

When I was younger I had severe skin problems. My body and scalp was covered with eczema. I tried to cover it with long clothing and by brushing my hair forward. It got so bad that the highest doses of hormone creams wouldn’t work and doctors suggested radiation. My parents politely declined and looked for a better alternative. They found a food advisor in Belgium known for helping people heal from various health problems. So my parents took me to him for an assessment and as a result, I was given a strict meal plan to follow. It consisted of very basic and plain food; boiled beans, vegetables and grains without spices or sauces. So for me, food became my natural medicine.

Photo from Happy & Healthy @ Home: Healthy Surinamese Food

How did this unique idea for the cookbook come about?

My parents are from Suriname, a country in South America. Most food from there is absolutely delicious but, these days, not as healthy as it used to be. Due to Western influences, it is now prepared with more fat, salt and sugar. Because of my childhood illness, my dad learnt about macrobiotic food and found a way to have the best of both worlds. He made healthy and delicious Surinamese dishes that were enriched with ingredients of the Macrobiotic kitchen. Major principles of a macrobiotic lifestyle are to reduce animal products, eat locally grown non-GMO foods that are in season, and consume meals in moderation.

In 2010 the seeds were planted for this cookbook when I asked my dad to cook for a brainstorming session. His food was so great that over the years he ended up cooking at dozens of sessions that I organised. All in all, he cooked at about thirty different get-togethers and people would always ask for his recipes. Sometimes my friends would even phone me wanting to come over to eat leftovers when they saw a Facebook post about another session. At the beginning of 2017, when my dad announced that he was moving back to South America, I wanted to create a small tribute to him; so that even though he was leaving The Netherlands a part of him would be here guiding us. If we couldn’t keep him around at least we could keep his cooking going.

What is your next food adventure?

Healthy Surinamese Food is the first cookbook in our Happy & Healthy @ Home series. Because Suriname is a small version of the world where different cultures come together, we will have different series to reflect that, for example, Surinamese Creole food, Surinamese Chinese and so on. All our books will be ‘look cookbooks’ as they will have amazing pictures of the food but also of people coming together and enjoying it. Because for us food is not only about eating but also enjoying each other’s company – soul food. The series will also include photography by acclaimed Caribbean photographer Hedwig de la Fuente, Raúl F. Neijhorst and four other amazing photographers from the Netherlands. Together with Hedwig, we will also document traditional cooking methods that are still being used in the countryside.

Photo from Happy & Healthy @ Home: Healthy Surinamese Food

Happy & Healthy @ Home: Healthy Surinamese food will be released in Dutch early 2018 and then mid-2018 it will be released in English. For more info and/or to pre-order with an early bird discount send an email to info@light-works.nu

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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Julia Chanda Zvobgo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Of Africa’. She was born in Zimbabwe and raised in The Netherlands. As an Afropean she is always looking for new and creative ways to “make the invisible, visible”. She is a co-founder and a member of 'ethnovision' a collective of visual anthropologists and filmmakers. Julia also volunteers as the Director of Communications & Development for Tariro House of Hope, an NGO that transforms the lives of children and their communities in Zimbabwe.

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