Meet The Main Ingredient.
The Main Ingredient is our new interview series where we’ll get up close and personal with some special people to hear all about their experiences with and memories of food.
We believe that food has the power to do more than just fuel you. It’s nostalgic, it’s delicious and it connects us in ways few other things can. The joy food brings us is universal and in a society that can so often demonise food and how we feel about it – we want to bring back the magic of it all.
For our first edition, you’ll hear from our Founder, Al Thursfield. Al’s story about her journey with food and starting this brand stems from some pretty personal experiences as a child. She opens up about her earliest memories of food, her adolescent experience with an eating disorder and how, when it comes to body image, our society has a lot to answer for.
Trigger Warning: The following contains references to Eating Disorders and body image
Some of my happiest childhood memories are sitting up at the counter as Mum effortlessly and recipe-lessly whipped up something from what seemed like an endless repertoire of ‘pudding’ recipes. Cakes, crumbles, custards, scones, tarts, you name it and mum would bake it.
The kitchen was the heart of our home – my family and I always pulled up a stool while Mum was doing her thing. Sometimes we offered a helping hand, but mostly we spent time laughing, chatting about life and sneaking fingers full of delicious things when her back was turned (sorry Mum).
Food was such a huge part of our family life growing up, with the days of the week always measured in relation to Sunday roasts. My parents moved to Australia from England when we were young without much help and support – I can really see now why the 5 of us sitting down to dinner every night was so important to them. It was about so much more than the food. It was about us connecting, strengthening our family, and bringing those small moments of shared joy to what would have been a pretty thankless phase of their lives.
When I was young, I’d only ever thought about food and how it made me feel. Eat all your breakfast so you had energy to play. Eat your vegetables to feel strong. Eat the lemon meringue pie to feel happy and eat too many sour worms from the milkbar and you’ll feel hypo and then really really tired. I’d never associated food with how I looked. Then, I hit my teens.
I battled an eating disorder for most of my teenage life. I grew early, developed early and surrounded by my prepubescent friends – my body just felt wrong. The size of my body ate away at me for a long time. Magazines taught me about the “best” bikini bodies, girls at school talked about calories in vs calories out, and morning shows on TV explained the diets that would take me from “flab to fab”. Thinking back, as a real all or nothing teenage girl, I don’t really think I ever stood a chance.
So, food became the thing I feared the most for a really large portion of my life. It quickly became a huge source of anxiety, isolation and suffering. I will never forget how angry I was at Mum for serving up her famous birthday combo of lasagna and chocolate mousse on my 14th birthday.
I wish I could go back in time and give that confused and sad little girl a glimpse into her life now and show her how happiness is actually completely separate from the way you look.
Because so ingrained were her beliefs that her athletic body was wrong and that the size of her thighs defined her. I honestly don’t think there’s anything I could have said to convince her otherwise.
Unfortunately, this is the heartbreaking reality of the insidious diet culture and constant body shaming attacks that all of us were bombarded with in our younger years. I know my story is not an uncommon one. I’m sure many of you can personally relate, or have a best friend or sister who this story rings true for. And for generations of girls to grow up feeling ashamed of their bodies – it makes you think that somewhere along the line, as a society, we really fucked up.
I was fortunate that the severe phase of my anorexia was relatively short lived. As much as I despised them for it at the time, a supportive family and a stress fracture in my femur (caused by obsessive running) put a fortuitous brake on some unhealthy, dangerous habits.
But, my extreme disordered eating evolved over time into a more ‘acceptable’ obsession with health. Detoxes, water fasts, calorie counting spreadsheets, cutting out ‘bad’ food groups. A guise that was dressed up in wellness but honestly, had the same underlying issue at the root of it all.
If I'm completely honest, building a ‘health’ brand all those years ago was subconsciously part of it all. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, kinda thing. But I can see my industry now has so much to answer in terms of its contribution to the very culture that made me sick and caused me to suffer in silence for a really long time.
Perhaps it’s not as overt as it was in the early 2000s, but now it just subtly hides behind these terms like guilt-free, wellness, or detox. When you scratch below the surface, you’ll find an industry that still profits off us feeling dissatisfied with our bodies and feeling confused about what we should be eating, telling us we aren’t enough. And, ultimately, prioritising thinness above physical or mental health. It’s pervasive, it’s harmful and honestly – it’s gotta stop.
I’m in the privileged position to have had years of therapy to help me understand and undo so many of the belief systems I had around my body. I learned to trust my body and release that clenched grip of control I had on food.
The answer? It’s different for everyone, it isn’t black and white and the journey is probably never truly over, but the main ingredient for me has been to find my inner child again. Keep it simple, focus on how food makes me feel and how it connects me so deeply to the people I love most. This has been the recipe for the happiest and healthiest season of my life.
And just as I have evolved, this brand has evolved and I feel an incredible sense of responsibility to be a voice for change in the culture. I’m so committed to building a positive food brand that helps you have an incredible relationship with food and help you fall in love with feeling good.
By sharing my story, I hope I can make someone else feel a little less lonely. I hope we have more of these conversations. And, if it’s you, I hope you know that you’re not the problem, the culture is, and together – we can do something to change it.
- Al xx