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Sustainable lifestyles

Updated Friday, 18th June 2010

Trina Hahnemann, Danish chef and writer, talks about Dirt Café, and her passion for cooking, organic food and sustainable lifestyles.

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Copyright The Open University


Interviewer: Trina, could you just tell me something about where you’re sitting, where we are and what you’ve been involved with today?

Trina Hahnemann: I’m in my friend Carsten’s house. It’s an allotment, which means a little house on a little bit of land outside the city where he has a little house where he lives mostly during the summer, and we’ve hosted a lunch today, in a collaborative project called Dirt Café, which is about getting people, a small group of people with no press, no outer attention, you could kind of say, to sit down and have a meal served, and have a specific conversation about something really important that can change our lives.

Interviewer: Could you say something about your job, your work?

Trina: Yeah, I’m a chef, and my main work is to write cookbooks and travel, I travel round the world and talk about food and sustainability and how we can, and how important food is in our life, which role it plays and how important it is to celebrate cooking and eating together, and not lose that part of our culture.

Interviewer: And do you remember when you first became interested in environmental change issues, was it personal or professional, what sparked your interest?

Trina: I’ve been interested ever since I was born, I believe, because my parents were very active in the left wing movement against nuclear plants, and they were, I mean I’m brought up in something like Christiania Copenhagen, not really that, not as hippy, but more left wing. So I mean I would never, I couldn’t put the date, because I’m brought up, you know, being told that if we don’t, I mean even before it has happened today, I mean, if we don’t change our way of living, the climate won’t sustain us… we have to be, you know, all these things, all these issues, I’ve heard about them ever since, I mean, so…

Interviewer: You took that through to your professional life immediately?

Trina: More or less, yeah. But not really in the beginning, yeah, the organic thing, yeah, I’ve always, you know, organic produce has always played a major role in my life. I mean for the last 20 years 30 per cent of everything that I buy has been organic, so, yeah.

Interviewer: And you’ve always been a chef?

Trina: No, I studied literature before that, and I didn’t want to become a chef, it was like a student job. But you can say in my professional life, in my writing, I really emphasise organic, but in my company we work with some organic products, but that is one of the emphasis, where it’s a very hard job to – it’s very, very difficult to buy and handle organic food on an every day basis for 4,000 people because the supply chain is not as good as it could be. And chefs have a really big problem with not being able to get whatever they want on an everyday basis.

So that is some of the major things that I’m going to work on for the next five years is, so I would say it’s – when we talk about writing and cooking and being a chef on, as a person, out there, trying to emphasise or trying to make people change and understand why it’s important. And then working with it professionally in a big catering company, is two very different things. But they of course go together, because it’s something I believe in, but it takes a long time.

Interviewer: Is there a particular project you’re working on at the moment and what motivates that?

Trina: I have written a cookbook called The Nordic Diet that will come out the 1st January. That is about changing your lifestyle. And so eating more vegetables, have a healthier lifestyle, bicycle instead of taking your car, sit down, cook everyday meals, sit down with your family and friends and eat, and celebrate food, and don’t eat meat more than three times a week. So, I would say, when that comes out 1st January that’s going to be my project for the next couple of years is to promote that idea.

Interviewer: Okay, so you’ve answered the first part of the next question but what do you anticipate working on in relation to the environmental issues in the next year, then if you could look a bit further into five years time and finally over the next in a decade’s time, in ten years’ time, where do you think you’ll be with your work?

Trina: I mean, hopefully I will have an even more, even bigger or larger global network, working with people – teaching people how to cook and eat healthy from what is around the regional. That is going to be my goal from and also writing about it. I mean, I’m starting a project about how you can live more sustainable where you are. And for me it’s also very, very important to address all the paradoxes, because I think it’s a real problem if this becomes a religion. There’s the people who are sustainable and then into climate change and want to do it a different, and then there’s all the people who think it’s just too overwhelming.

So, for me, that whole issue about change, making change, what does it mean, how do you make people believe in it, how will you, how will it be interesting, how will it be sexy to do this? I mean, and all the paradoxes, because, for me, there’s also so many paradoxes and things that I would hate to give up, and that’s hopefully what I’m going to work with for the next five or ten years.

Interviewer: So looking out over the next ten years would you describe yourself as an optimist or a pessimist?

Trina: I’m always an optimist. I mean I was brought up and told by my parents when I had the age I have today, the world would be a much better place: it would be safer, it would be cleaner and there would be no people starving. I mean that hasn’t really happened, but some of the things has actually happened in some places. And I think it’s such a complex issue, and I truly believe that of course it’s going to be a better place. I mean if you gave up that belief, I think it would be horrifying.

Exploring climate change





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