Q&A with Eve Kalinik

We spoke with Eve Kalinik who we have collaborated with to create three new Cultjar jars, which are available to purchase now; Spiced Cauliflower, Beetroot & Red Onion and Apple, Ginger & Cardamom. Here is our chat with Eve...

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background

I’m a nutritionist, functional medical practitioner and author specialising in gut health. My first book 'Be Good To Your Gut' was published in 2017 and my second 'Happy Gut, Happy Mind' was released in August 2020.  As a specialist in gut health I believe that having a healthy gut is fundamental to our overall well-being and thriving existence both physically and mentally. However, this wasn’t always the case…

Before I got into the business of gut health I worked in the fashion industry for around 13 years at a very senior level and I would say my food and lifestyle habits back then were anything but healthy. Long days, late nights, skipping meals juxtaposed with wining and dining and ultimately the job made me really unwell. I was literally sick and tired of feeling awful and having to rely on medication to keep me going that eventually realised enough was enough and took steps to get myself onto a path of recovery with the help of a functional medical practitioner. This was my turning point on many levels and most notably changing my career to retrain and help people in the same way. And over a decade later I have never looked back.

Aside from my clinical practise and writing I’m also passionate about cultivating a true love and appreciation of how food makes us feel on so many levels, and as such create recipes to help reflect this sentiment. I am also an advocate of supporting a regenerative and sustainable agricultural food and farming system with a particular interest in soil health - I truly believe we are one intertwined ecosystem.

Do you remember when you first tried fermented foods?
Being that my dad’s side of the family are Polish sauerkraut was a bit of a mainstay growing up so I don’t remember the exact first moment of trying it. My dad was often cooking Bigos for the family which is a sausage and sauerkraut stew. However I would say that my repertoire of fermented foods has grown exponentially in the last 10 or so years, I guess in part due to the fact that I’m focused on gut health, but also due to the increased popularity and availability. I would say that I have some kind of fermented food most days now which could be the vegetable based ones but I’m also a fan of full fat yogurt and cheese.

When did you start making them yourself?
Even though sauerkraut was abundant as a kid I don’t really think I actively started making fermented foods until around 8 years ago. I got into a real rhythm with it a few years back, especially with milk kefir, but then life stuff took over and I haven’t got back into the flow of it. Plus, when you can get really exciting and innovative ferments like the ones at Cultjar it is nice to have the freedom to be able to pick and choose and experiment with new flavours and combinations. This can make me a little less inclined to go through the palaver of making them myself, even though there is something really quite magical about watching a ferment transform.

Why do you think they are an important part of our diet?
Fundamentally fermented foods were how our ancestors ingested ‘probiotics’ which are essentially microbes that we believe to be beneficial for our gut health. Since our gut microbiome is now being considered an organ in its own right due to the far-reaching and pivotal role in our overall health, we do need to be really mindful about how we can best support its own health and wellbeing. We now know that our gut has an intrinsic role in our immune system with around 70-80% of this located and managed in our gut as well as producing a bunch of neurotransmitters that govern our mood and mental wellbeing. This all depends on a gut microbiome that is positively thriving and I believe fermented foods can have an important role in helping to support this. I also think they taste amazing and enhance the flavour of our food, so from just a culinary perspective there is every reason why I’m a big advocate of them being a central part of our diet.

What would you recommend to someone who hasn't tried ferments before as a good introduction?
I think its important to go for the ones that best grab your attention, to be honest, but if you are new to foraying into ferments and to be completely openly bias, I would say a sauerkraut or kimchi is a good starting point, especially if you are making them yourself. It is also important to get diversity in all of the plants we ingest through our diet, so experimenting with a few is always going to be more advantageous for our gut microbiome and our taste buds too.