Q&A with Patrycja Jakubiak

Healthy eating, healthy living, fat content, sugar levels, gluten-free, cooking meals is healthier than buying ready-made ones – we are constantly bombarded with messages about what we eat, but how to make sense of it all?

Elephants Sports spoke with Patrycja Jakubiak, a student from the Department of Food Science at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Poland, for some insight.

What was the beginning of your adventure with cooking?
To be honest there wasn’t a start. I guess my mother instilled in me the desire to cook. Since I can remember I helped out in the kitchen, sometimes we spent the whole day baking cakes or dumplings. I was always very selective when it comes to food, that’s why I had the motivation to cook what I really liked.

As for the second part of your question. I guess you can say that. Honestly, I had a lot of different scenarios in my head, but as the time went on I came to the conclusion it’s not what I was searching for. I really do enjoy gastronomy. This is what makes me happy and at the end of the day that’s what life is about. To do what you really love and enjoy.

People believe gastronomy is simply about cooking…
Gastronomy is the art of preparing and serving food based on culinary expertise. It’s the knowledge about various products, nutritional value, rational preparation of dishes, composing meals, culinary traditions, habits and customs. Completing gastronomy doesn’t mean I will live in the kitchen for the rest of my life. There are a number of options for me. People are simply unware and a bit ignorant of that.

Would you say a passion for cooking is essential?
I admit, you have to be passionate about cuisine, but that’s the way it should be in any discipline. We’re probably going to be doing it for the rest of our lives.

Most people only see the meal on their plate whereas your head is full of information about calories, ingredients and contents. Are you able to eat a meal without overthinking about what it contains?
Oh my, there’s a lot of theory and every day it gets worse. This is the reason I know how to mix every ingredient so the taste is delicious. Who would’ve thought chocolate and blue cheese is one of the best mixtures. We learn inside out what the dish consists of. Thanks to that I’m a conscious consumer. I rarely purchase products without examining the label. I’m not going to purchase pesto just because there’s ‘Tomato Pesto’ written on it, as it might only include 20% of tomatoes and the rest are extras. I’m a strong supporter of preparing food at home.

Results of research by the Nuffield Trust* have shown 70% adults in Great Britain will be overweight by 2034. Is it because of ingredients or ignorance?
The occasional cheeseburger won’t play havoc with our system. We’re all human and we like to eat, but there has to be a limit. We have to wake up a desire to prepare food at home – it doesn’t mean reheating a pizza or getting spaghetti sauce out of a jar. The internet is a mine of knowledge.

Is the typical English Breakfast a lethal mixture?
I wouldn’t say a lethal, but it’s a calorie bomb for sure. The typical English meal dates back to the old days when an English farmer had to eat a hearty breakfast to get him through the day. I took a chance to calculate the nutritional value of such a meal: 1200kcal with 93g of fat. The numbers speak for themselves.

People poison themselves with food that, health-wise, is barely consumable, from frozen pizzas to crisps and sugary snacks. Is it because it’s just convenient?
No one imagines watching a movie with a carrot in one hand and an apple in the other. Ready meals aren’t poisonous, but surely shouldn’t be served to maintain a healthy body weight. I’m talking about an excess of such products. Consumers are fuelling the machine of unhealthy food because they’re are purchasing these products.

Tasteless food is healthy? Would you agree with this statement?
I believe it comes down whether it’s properly cooked and seasoned. A little imagination along with common sense never hurt anyone.

‘Healthy’ food can involved a number of tricks in the form of sugars or other ingredients…
Back in the day, I also thought I could eat a 0% sugar yogurt without any restriction. It’s a common mistake. Sure, it’s 0%, but the amount of sweeteners and glucose syrup is enormous. Just like chocolate, when we see ‘chocolate 0% fat’ we believe there’s nothing wrong with eating the whole packet. Wrong! There’re a great deal of other ingredients, but their names are often unknown to consumers, so the information just gets ignored. That’s marketing for you.

There’s a high demand for ‘healthy’ products…
I think the reason for this is the fact a massive sign with ‘HEALTHY’ written on it is like a red rag to a bull. People follow such marketing tricks blindly believing it will make them healthy. The truth is these products often cost more but sometimes they doesn’t make you healthier. ‘Healthy’ is a lifestyle that has to be constantly worked on.

Along the same lines..Gluten? True or a scam?
Truth and a scam at the same time.

Gluten, gluten-free. Everywhere I look I see gluten…
I’ve read a number of articles and books about gluten, along with listening to a dozens of speeches. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this. A few years ago ‘one glass of milk a day’ was a must. Now there’s a trend for not consuming gluten. I bet you in a year or two it will be ‘once a week eat at least one cheeseburger’.

What are the three most important nutrients people actually need to pay attention to when choosing food? Is there an ingredient that can be life-threatening?
Proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Adequate number is the key to success. We’re not able to protects ourselves against harmful ingredients. Many of them are naturally presented in products of plant and animal origin. Even honey can include toxic substances if the bees produce the nectar from poisonous plants. Fish can be contaminated by the toxic substances from algae.

Have you encountered a saying ‘There’s no training without a proper diet’?
We have to take into consideration whether someone wants to be a professional athlete or attend the gym once or twice a week. Sport is not exactly my piece of cake, although I’ve noticed that a well-balanced diet and exercise certainly make me feel a lot better.

You’re on a diet yourself! Does it feel like a mission impossible?
It’s not a problem. The beginning is always tough, but in my case it’s not that bad after all. I prepare the meals when I wake up or the evening before. So there’s no motivation in this aspect. I have to say my cuisine is not so bad, so I can live with it!

*Nuffield Trust – The Obesity Epidemic