The wellness movement gained backlash when the eating disorder orthorexia (defined partly by an obsession to eat only ‘pure’ produce) became headline news. Well-known leaders of ‘clean eating’ like Ella Mills (she has publicly distanced herself from the term) faced negative press.
Yet her following remains strong: A second cookbook, snacks in shops and supermarkets, a deli café – attacks on Ella’s restricted diet have little damaged her brand. Two of Ella’s deli’s are closing however, leaving her Marlyebone deli single-standing.
When I first read about Ella in The Daily Mail, I found her inspiring. As a plant-based eater, I can’t help but warm to her gluten-free, vegan living. Rather than resting on her family (her mother Camilla is heiress to Sainsbury’s), Ella has carved a niche in the food market, helping to make vegan, gluten and vegetarian diets a normal, less selective lifestyle.
For those trying to solve health problems through diet, Deliciously Ella is a delicious comfort. Here is a woman who is out there in the public, offering a wide selection of recipe’s and tips most standard chefs steer clear from.
Trialling her debut cookbook
With the admiration I have for Ella Mills, I was eager to start sampling her meals and desserts. Like many, I’ve baked her infamous brownies and had an appetite to taste her other dishes.
My delight quickly turned sour. Flicking through her book, I struggled to find anything immensely appealing. The pages sprung salads, nut-based desserts and individual sides that could combine to make meals.
What to know about Ella
As the daughter of a Tory MP and Sainsbury’s heiress, Ella has turned her passion for food blogging to an entrepreneurial business in her own right. After being diagnosed with POTS (a syndrome which affects your autonomic nervous system) in 2011, Ella found herself in chronic pain, sleeping for hours a day, as well as facing numerous hospital visits.
After reading a book on a woman in the US who used food to beat cancer, Ella ordered a copy, and switched to a whole food, plant-based diet. Gone were chemicals, additives, sugar, gluten and meat.
In her book, Ella states it took six months to get comfortable on her new eating plan. She hails it as her cure, writing: “It felt like a miracle: my symptoms had all but disappeared and my self-esteem was rebuilt, all thanks to the goodness of plants”.
What to like about her cookbook
Without having trialled her second book, I can only write on her first which became the fastest-selling, debut cookbook in the UK. Ella launched at a perfect time; the rise of social-media pulled ‘clean living’ to a height supermarkets can’t ignore.
It’s clear through the opening pages, Ella is selling a lifestyle and not merely a book of recipes to whip up on a whim. There’s an entire section on getting started, including staple kitchen ingredients to stock. All recipes are sectioned into chapters on food types, with each category giving information on cooking. As an example, “Vegetables” has tips on the different ways to cook, including steaming and boiling.
For people not use to creating meals with plant-based food, Ella’s guides will greatly benefit. The explanation on each section adds a personal touch. I like that Ella uses the same produce throughout her book, saving her readers from wasting food and buying numerous items which may only be used for one meal.
Ella shines through her desserts. Cookies, flapjacks, key lime pie and cheesecake are all included. Additionally, Ella covers her basics. Sometimes we just want help mastering sweet-potato chips and strawberry jam.
What to dislike
Good luck trying to make and bake with Deliciously Ella if you don’t own an expensive blender. My Nutribullet is terrible at blitzing anything other than fruit and veg, and I’m sceptical the Phillips £80 blender she recommends as an alternative to her expensive Vitamix will really do the trick.
There’s also a food processor to consider – yes, Ella admits her Magimix has a high price-tag, though she clarifies it’s a life-long investment.
It’s disappointing to find salad options comprise most dinners. There is the odd stir-fry, dahl and pasta, yet nothing interesting to catch my eye. The lack of order in searching for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, frustrates me. Sections are categorised in food types so choosing a meal can require good patience.
In spite of my love for her puddings, it’s tiring to see syrups mentioned repeatedly. Research shows sugar alternatives are not that ‘good’ after all. A blog post on The Style of Laura Jane researched sweeteners such as honey, agave and maple, finding evidence they’re not much better than refined sugar.
Medjool dates feature consecutively as well, in addition to a variety of nuts. Both costly items to have on hand. One recipe can remove an entire packet of medjool dates from your cupboard. I adore the dates but eat sparingly daily. My cupboard without pistachio nuts feels empty, nonetheless, a UK £5 packet would disappear in an instant, if I was to make a Deliciously Ella dessert.
My issue with the wellness movement
I am hypocritical because I do believe my lifestyle choices have cured my energy, well-being and skin. Having said that, the wellness movement is about selling a beauty ideal.
We automatically assume women with flawless skin and minuscule waists are experts in health. There are women who take care of themselves incredibly well, but who are struck with spots and therefore, not worthy to hear advice from. When my acne was at its worst, I was continually judged and faced interrogation on my supposed bad eating habits. I do think there’s a fine line to tread, in telling others good skin can form from eating ‘clean’.
There’s huge pressure to avoid ‘bad’ food. I sometimes still feel guilty for tucking into pasta or enjoying toast each morning. And I’m a health-nut; gone are my days of monthly takeaways and post-work chocolate feasts.
Overall thoughts on Deliciously Ella
I don’t think Ella should face blame for eating disorders or obsessions with clean eating. She’s simply found a diet she likes and one which suits her body and needs. It’s not for everyone; Ella has brought light to plant-based eaters and those looking to use diet to change their well-being.
Is the book for me? No. Unless I bring myself to buy a Vitamix, I can’t see myself picking up Deliciously Ella often. Though I haven’t lost my admiration for her as she’s a great businesswoman and influential in making plant diets more mainstream.
If you have enjoyed reading, you’ll love my post on Instagram’s Clean Eating. Have you tried any Deliciously Ella recipes? What are your thoughts on the wellness movement?