A personal report on the nutrition conference 2014

Wendy Cook

I arrived a day early and so was able to absorb the atmosphere of this unique place. The Goetheanum is an extraordinary building and today it is shrouded in scaffolding, with an international group of builders working on the roof and the main auditorium. I was delighted to be able to join a guided tour.

The skies were often metal grey, sometimes raining, but the surrounding meadows were by contrast embroidered with colourful displays of loosestrife, lady's bedstraw, clovers, cowslips, bugloss - just to name a few of the wild flowers. An international group of 180 plus participants arrived for this conference (only the second on nutrition, the first being in German); an intense two-and-a-half-day event attended by doctors, cooks, nutritionists and BD practitioners. It was a vast subject, ranging from agriculture to the kitchen, and to therapeutic practice.

The verse taken as a theme was Rudolf Steiner's

"Seek the truly practical material life,

But seek it in such a way

That it does not numb you to the spirit that works within it.

Seek the spirit but not out of spiritual lust or spiritual egoism.

Seek it rather because you wish to become selfless.

In the practical life of the material world

Turn to the ancient principle:

Spirit is never without matter,

Matter never without spirit,

And say to yourselves

We will do everything material in the light of the spiritual

And will seek the light of spirit in such a way

That it enkindles warmth in us for our practical deeds."

We were meeting in the auditorium of the Schreinerei (former carpentry workshop) where Rudolf Steiner's drawings were on display, which arose from his talks on nutrition to the workers.

Jean-Michel Florin from France, BD Coordinator at the Goetheanum, addressed the theme of transformation and process, using a quotation from Paracelsus, "Learn from Nature" - Nature as direct revelation of the spirit. See the Sun (and the Moon) as ripening agents and bees transforming nectar; a process where substance becomes more and more spiritualised, more sublime. We as cooks should endeavour to continue this process. He spoke of the previous work of Nicolai Fuchs who had taken up the question of world nutrition and whose recommendations have by no means been fully implemented.

However, many people disgusted by the destructive processes used in modern agriculture have formed groups promoting slow food, vegetarianism, allotments and the 'grow-your-own' culture. There are vegans and raw food groups too, which may be seen as an attempt to become purer, but lack a holistic view and can be problematic. The understanding of plant, animal and human and their inner qualities stands at the centre of the biodynamic system.

Dr Petra Kühne is a nutritionist working with both medical and biodynamic sections at Dornach. She spoke of the creative role of cooks and reminded us that the word for the nutrient 'protein' comes from Proteus, god of the sea who changed his form continually.

This principle of change and transformation of movement and sublimation - as well as being an etheric process - is time-related, requiring thinking, feeling and willing. It happens seasonally on the land, in the kitchen before we eat, and then meets our digestion, for the main part unconscious. In food production and processing the vital/etheric forces can be so easily lost. This qualitative aspect needs to be constantly re-enforced when addressing anthroposophical nutrition. Our modern day nutritional science is now 150 years old, with food 'fads' coming and going, but still relying on this fixed principle. Do our genes really fix our nutritive needs? This is a current topic!

In bygone times, the hunter-gatherers developed a divine wisdom, from which came Ayurvedic nutrition, still prevailing, that brings cosmos and earth together. In anthroposophical nutrition, we focus on the fully conscious human being, while making our choices, preparing the ingredients, and eating together. These ideally produce a radiating effect that allows people to feel comfortable and at ease with each other.

On Friday, during a panel discussion on the verse I quoted earlier, our sleep life was raised as an important consideration. From this the need for a contemplative attention to our work, including pauses, silence and an attitude of reverence and gratitude. This creates a space for real inspiration to arise.

Joel Acremant, who is a chef and Waldorf teacher at the Waldorf School at Chatou, near Paris, also spoke of the importance of the inner life, of cosmic nutrition, taken in through our senses, and of Rudolf Steiner's emphasis on 'Nutrition as Work' (challenging the catabolic/metabolic functions) with superior formative forces and structure, as often met with in biodynamic food. He spoke of the importance of involving the seven tastes on our tongue when preparing a menu and lastly, he bounced a rubber ball on the stage saying, "Good nutrition should produce BOUNCE!” i.e. vitality and resilience.

The workshop that I attended was entitled "Transformation in BD agriculture and transformation processes in the human being" and was led by Susanna Küffer Heer and Dr Reinhard Kindt (German doctor). This provided some Goethean observation of soils, carrot tasting and smelling of flower oils. The other workshop of choice was "Help! My child does not want to eat - what shall I do?" This was led by Dr Edmund Schoorel (paediatrician, the Netherlands) and Johannes Kingma.

This subject highlights a growing problem in the 'wealthy' countries: children refusing food or having very strong sympathies and antipathies towards mealtimes. Complicated strategies - often psychological - were suggested. I personally think that many children are seldom properly hungry when they come to the meal table, if there is still a meal table and mealtimes in their home! Often these children have been chauffeured everywhere, not having proper exercise and allowed to snack between meals, frequently being asked, "What do you want to eat?" Meanwhile, two-thirds of the world are malnourished . . . are we neurotic or what? Michael Pollan, author of "the Omnivore's Dilemma" certainly thinks so!

On Friday night there was a cabaret in German. On the last day a large group met in a World Cafe, arranged by Jean-Michel Florin and Heinz Fendrich (caterer for the Sonnehof), to discuss some of our most burning questions. This was a real bouillabaisse of possibilities to make good contacts. Cooks are often still in the kitchen when everyone is outside, even for celebrating festivals, so to be allowed to be together en masse is quite unusual (no wonder it was so short!).

My question is often, as it was in the days when I was working in the Emerson kitchens, "If you have 25 different nationalities, seasonal produce to use, a budget to adhere to, untrained helpers, and Steiner's recommendations to consider - what do you make?" My solution is that you have to have eaten widely yourself so you need a cultural cooking background and a large repertoire of dishes to be creative from. In the end, despite all the special diets and individual tastes, Rudolf Steiner recommended that we should, as in The Last Supper, be able to share the same meal. Something to strive for!

The closing speaker was Ueli Hurter, co-leader for the Biodynamic Agriculture Section at the Goetheanum. He reminded us that it is the earth, which is the source of our health, that which we will eat tomorrow is growing in our fields today and forming our landscapes. 90% of current day agriculture is managed in a chemical way and only 5% down to biodynamic agriculture; only BD includes a diversity, with the human being orchestrating the other kingdoms, and thus it has a real responsibility. The preparations are the core, a meditative practice puts us in partnership with nature. Food is sharing - there is not a world shortage, but food must be produced locally. We need better food in the right place to eat and to cook, grown in a way that people may develop their own food sovereignty.

Footnote

The conference was so over-structured and content-heavy, not giving time even to arrive at the sometimes quite scattered venues on the campus, and too little time to meet each other and make new contacts, which can be so useful in promoting this Cinderella of the anthroposophical work.

A list of participants, their professional activity and location, would be very useful. Knowing that most anthroposophical initiatives need a cook, I constantly ask, "Why isn't there a good, practical training for them in this country?"

I must congratulate our very own Bernard Jarman for his impeccable simultaneous German to English translations, which he tirelessly achieved.

Perhaps the next conference will be in the UK?

Nutrition - a creative process. Tracing the paths of transformation.

International Nutrition Conference at the Goetheanum

1st – 3rd of May 2014

(English, German, French)

Nutrition is transformation: from cultivating, processing and preparing food, to eating and digesting – it is a process of continuous movement and change. This process leads from the living earth to plants, animals and finally man. Each step along the way from soil to man transforms the previous substance into something new. These often alchemical processes of transformation form the essential quality of nutrition.

How can we become more conscious of these transformative processes and shape them constructively in our everyday nutrition? How can we convert the original substance that is contained in plant and animal products in a way that leads to true refinement?

Alongside a deepening of these questions, the conference also aims to connect individuals and nutrition initiatives from different countries. Cooperative workshops using dialogue methods will be used to enhance the exchange amongst the participants. The conference is open to all interested individuals and will be trilingual. Workshops will be held in various languages.

Flyer with programme and registration form

Workshops - short description

You can choose two of the following workshops to attend during the nutrition conference.

WS 1: Breeding cereals a process of creative transformation (DE/EN)

Dr. Isabell Hildermann and Nina Töpfer
Since thousands of years cereals are amongst the main staple foods of humankind.

This workshop deals with the long history of cereals and the fundamental role of humans during the evolutionary process of these important plants. Wheat, spelt and rye are well-known cereals. But who knows more about the relationship of wild einkorn, wild emmer or wild grasses and our major foodstuffs?

Humans carried out intensive breeding work on plants and thereby transformed wild plants to plants suitable for human nutrition. For centuries, breeding was done by breeders in the fields under the open sky. Only the most promising plants were selected for the breeding programs. Crosses were carried out respecting the natural barriers between plants. Nowadays, breeding takes place in the lab in test tubes and more and more by means of genetic modification, which does not respect the natural crossing barriers between plants any longer. What are the impacts of these different methods and techniques on plants, when we assume that the breeding process does not only influence the outer shape of a plant but moreover the inner quality and vitality? Examples of bio-dynamic breeding will show us, that modern breeding can still be done successfully without the use of genetic modification.

WS 2: Nutrition as a foundation for curative education (DE/EN)

Anita Pedersen and Heinz Fendrich

Number of participants: max. 15

Looking at the threefold plant and its relation to the threefold human being, we would like to research different constitutions and imbalances, described in Rudolf Steiners curative education course, also temperaments could be looked at. We will have some samples to taste.

WS 3: Voglia di trasformazioni – come sarebbe con la preparazione di pasticcini? (DE/IT)

Emma Graf e Birgit Hausheer

Luogo: Cucina delle scuole pubbliche a Dornach

Numero dei partecipanti: 16

Nella parte teorica tratteremo la particolarità dei cereali in relazione all’organismo umano. I cereali contengono carboidrati, proteine, sali minerali e vitamine in proporzioni equilibrate, per cui possono coprire una gran parte del nostro bisogno giornaliero.

Nella pratica “trasformeremo” prodotti biodinamici in piccoli cibi gustosi, sani e variopinti per bambini, adolescenti e per tutti i buongustai. Con una semplice preparazione creeremo delle cialde e “bricelets” salati e dolci, pane croccante e diverse creme saporite spalmabili sul pane. Tutto questo lo preparerete e assaggerete voi!

WS 4: Fett und Wärme – eine Herzensangelegenheit (DE)

Dr. Petra Kühne and Ulrike von Schoulz

Wir brauchen Fett in der Nahrung, um gesund, gesättigt und zufrieden zu bleiben. Aber Fett kann noch mehr: Es ist wichtig für die Funktionen des Herzens und anderer Organe und spricht uns seelisch und individuell an. Welche Fette ernähren uns? Wie erleben wir ihre Wirksamkeit? Was bedeutet fettarmes Essen?

WS 5: Transformation processes in biodynamic agriculture – transformation processes in the human being (DE/EN)

Susanna Küffer-Heer and Dr. Reinhard Kindt

In his Agriculture Course of 1924, Rudolf Steiner described the foundations of an agriculture that can provide a future for man and earth. One of its cornerstones are the biodynamic preparations. Through them, transformation processes are set off and shaped in very special ways. The preprations also have an effect on the quality of the food produced, and hence on people. Especially in the 8th lecture of “Spiritual Science and Medicine” (GA 312), Rudolf Steiner describes smelling and tasting and its transformations in the human being.

After a short introduction to the topic, we will trace the transformation processes occurring in biodynamic agriculture. Then we will look at the metamorphoses of smelling and tasting in the human being and try to become a sense of the meaning of using “living” products for our nutrition.

WS 6: From nutrition knowledge to everyday practice

Renate Lendle and Judith Schake

Often people know a lot about healthy nutrition, but how can this knowledge be transformed into everyday life practice? How do we organise our shopping, the prepration of meals and how do we unite the differing needs concerning food that exist within our family, with people in different ages and with different temperaments? How do we maintain our joy in eating? We want to look at these questions together and work out realistic, practical solutions.

WS 7: Les épices : plus de plaisir en mangeant (FR/DE)
Jean-Michel Florin

Les épices jouent un role important dans l'alimentation par leur capcité à favoriser les processus de transformation, lors du repas et lors de la digestion. Nous découvrirons quelques épices importantes par des exercices sensoriels (goût, odeur et observations morphologiques, …)

WS 8: Changement du comportment alimentaire (DE/FR)
Cornelia Vellut und Joël Acremant

Changer d'alimentation nous conduit de manière subtile, plus ou moins consciente, à un changement de relations, notamment aux forces de la nature contenues dans les aliments. La nature humaine dans sa globalité en est aussi, de ce fait, légèrement modifiée . Le but de cet atelier est de tâcher de comprendre, à l'aide d'échanges et d'expérieces pratiques, quelles sont ces modifications.

WS 9: Nutrition and inner work (6-months-excercises) (DE/EN)
Sabine Hurwitz

Nutrition - a Creative Process: How can the process of transformation of our food be accompanied through inner work? Inner work as the creation of a new dimension for the quality of our food. Using the 6-months-excercises as an example of inner work in Anthroposophy we work on transforming our inner attitude, by creativity infusing our thinking, feelings and actions with balance and enhanced metabolic life forces which influences the quality of our food.

 

WS 10: Our eating biography – how life is mirrored in our eating behaviour (DE/EN)

Martina Kallenberg and Claudia Tritschel

Eating biography: What happens if we change our eating habits? Does it have a wider impact on our life? How can we support ourselves to specific situations that come up in life, by adapting our diet? This workshop provides a space for us to reflect on our personal eating biography. We try to sense our current nutrition needs and explore how we can support our development through choice of food. How is our life linked to what we eat?

WS 11: Comment mettre en oeuvre une alimentation dynamique au sein des cantines des écoles Steiner Waldorf? (DE/FR)

Ina Chesnier, Gilles Daveau et Jean-Chrisophe Daluz

Après avoir constaté un certain isolement dans les cantines des écoles Waldorf en France et leurs difficultés à proposer au quotidien une qualité alimentaire comprise et reconnue, plusieurs cantines se sont mises en réseau pour mutualiser leurs ressources et leur réflexion autour d'un "projet alimentaire de référence". Ce dernier rappelle l'importance et la place de la cantine au sein de l'établissement ainsi que la nécessité de créer d'avantage de liens entre les cuisiniers-ères, les mangeurs et les aliments, comme base d'une alimentation "saine".

Dans le cadre de cette recherche 2 axes de progression sont proposées:

  1. Définir dans une Charte les critères de qualité que partagent ces cantines et qu'elles mettent en oeuvre au quotidien.

  2. Partager des outils de formation sur les fondamentaux de cuisine de collectivité pour permettre une culture "minimale" commune et créer les conditions pour partager ensuite des avancées sur le plan de la conception et de la pratique d'une alimentation dynamique.

    Les intervenants témoigneront de ce processus et de leur quotidien en tant que formateur, chef-cuisinier, gestionnaire, parent et consommateur et inviteront chaque participant à partager ses expériences, questions et attentes par rapport à la mise en ouvre d'une alimentation dynamique au sein des cantines des écoles Steiner Waldorf.

WS 12: Help! My child doesn't want to eat. What shall I do? (DE/EN)

Johannes Kingma and Edmond Schoorel

A child that doesn't want to eat often makes his/her parents feel helpless, insecure and sometimes angry. There are a variety of reasons why children dont eat well. It can have to do with the education or related to the chid itself. The child, for example, may be about to fall ill. Food intolerance or digestion problems can also play a role. Sometimes psychological issues are relevant: the child refuses to eat to achieve increased attention form its parents, or to achieve something nice for itself or to avoid something unpleasant.

In this workshop we want to look at the whole array of possible causes of eating disorders in children. Regarding the methodology, we want to ask each participant to bring a case-study of a child with a clear eating disorder. It's helpful but not essential to bring a picture of the child. The case-study descriptions form the basis of our work, as we try to study and order them together in the first part of the workshop. In the second part, we will discuss therapeutical options based on the experience of participants. This experience may be the same as the example given before, or it may differ. The therapeutical measures applied in the participant's examples do not have to have been successful. Oftenw e learn more out of unsuccessful interventions than of successful ones.

WS 13: Guided tour to the statue “The representative of man” with focus on the conference theme (DE/EN)

Esther Gerster

Friday, 2. May 10.45-12.15 am

Meeting point: Exhibition Room, 3rd floor, south staircase

Guided tour and artistic appreciation of the statue of the Representative of Humanity in wood with Lucifer and Ahriman as it relates to the theme of the conference “Nutrition - a creative process. Tracing the paths of transformation.”

(with consecutive translation from the German).

This statue was conceived and executed by Rudolf Steiner and Edith Maryon with the assistance of many other co-workers. It is an Imagination of certain forces and the beings representing these forces which are part of our daily lives. In actively observing the image we become aware of the polarity of forces active in all the processes of life, including those of nutrition. In dealing with and in bringing these forces into balance, a living, animated equilibrium can come about. We experience these when we observe this work in meditative practice.

What is anthroposophic nutrition?

Nutrition circle of the Section for Agriculture

Anthroposophic nutrition is oriented on the specific needs of the individual; there are no prescribed rules. It was developed at the beginning of the 20th century as an adjunct to nutritional science, also incorporating non-material planes of existence (etheric, spiritual).
Anthroposophy means wisdom of the human being and was established by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Anthroposophic nutrition is based on his understanding of nature and man and is open to all cultures. The specifics of the practice of anthroposophic nutrition are flexible and can be adapted to individual countries and cultures.

Foundations

In anthroposophic nutrition, factors that lead to growth and ripening (forming powers and vital powers) are included as quality factors, as well as, nutrients and active substances in food. Nutritional and quality recommendations are based on all of these criteria. Foodstuffs should, as far as possible, originate from organic/ biodynamic agriculture. The food processing methods utilized should maintain the quality of the high agricultural standards while supporting the needs of the person. The foodstuffs should be a product of fair trade (fair economy, associative economy). In addition to this, it is recommended to consider the rhythms in nature (seasons) and prefer regionally grown products when making food choices. Based on the anthroposophic understanding of nature, the effects of foodstuffs are described without imposing a recommendation either for the inclusion or exclusion of these foods, as there can be a food which is appropriate for certain people, yet not suitable for others.

The assessment of foodstuffs is founded on the anthroposophic understanding of man. In this light, man is not only seen as a physical being, but also as having other distinct vital, psychic and spiritual components. Hence, it is possible to take into account different constitutional types, temperaments, or rhythms of the body.

Free Food Choice and Individual Responsibility

Anthroposophic nutrition leaves people free to choose the food they eat based on knowledge (acquired through learning about nutrition), awareness of nutritional needs (inner satisfaction) and independent implementation (active effort). This requires spiritual interest and insightful perceptions, or even training of the senses started in childhood. In practice, a mainly ovo-lactovegetarian diet with small amounts of meat or fish has proved to be reliable. Grains are prefered as the main staple foods. The sensory perceptions (nutrition through the senses) are significant components of nutrition. A conscious food culture (regular meals, meals together with others, a calm and pleasant atmosphere at the table) are also important elements of anthroposophic nutrition.