When Xochi Balfour attended one of our UK press days recently, she immediately caught our eye with her personal style and natural grace.
Turns out, she’s quite an inspiring person both inside and out. Xochi is the voice behind The Naturalista, where she shares healthy recipes, natural beauty products, and more – all with the goal of living a brighter, lighter, healthier life. In addition to her blog, Xochi and her partner Ben also have a street food truck called Rainbo that is quite popular in London for its delicious dishes made with the freshest local ingredients, and its charitable ties. Oh, and her home? Amazing. Read on to learn more about Xochi and to take a peek inside her gorgeous space!
Firstly, we LOVE your street food! How did Rainbo come about?
My fiancé Ben and I quit our office jobs in 2011 to do street food – we are both naturally free spirited and the nine to five was not working for us! Street food was really kicking off in London at that time and we wanted to bring something totally different to the capital: something colourful, healthy, and vibrant that made a change from all the carby meat-in-a-bun options that dominate the scene. So we bought an old 1948 Ford pickup and came up with Rainbo and our signature Freedom Box: 6 gyoza, rainbow Asian slaw with caramelized chilli nuts, and edamame with sea salt. 20p from every meal sold goes to our Food for Freedom initiative, helping rescue and rehabilitate child labourers in Western Nepal.
When did you start your blog, The Naturalista?
After three summers on the road with street food I became exhausted last summer, hauling ourselves from festival to festival with little sleep and eating whatever was closest to hand on the go – coffee, sugar, and carbs were usually our traveling staples. After all there’s only so much of your own stock you can eat…
I injured my back and hit burnout – it was really challenging keeping it all together. But I enrolled in a diploma in Naturopathic Nutrition in London and overhauled our pantry and our bathroom shelves – no more processed ingredients or refined sugars and starches, just healthy wholefood ingredients and natural chemical-free cosmetics and lotions. And I blogged about it.
Embracing a natural way of life has been a very spiritual experience for me and has changed the way I see the world. Nature has so much of what we need to heal and protect us but we have lost this knowledge. Through my blog I hope I can inspire and help people to gain the information and confidence necessary to cook fresh, vibrant meals and skin food recipes that fuel their spirits and bodies without taking hours of prep or reams of specialist knowledge. Eating well and making your own skincare can be super easy with a well stocked pantry and a little creative exploration. And once you make friends with your body and give it what it needs, you can fly so much higher for longer. The sky is the limit.
Tell us about your neighborhood in London?
I live just next to Ladbroke Grove which is home to Portobello market and lots of creative and bohemian Londoners. I have been there for four years and love the mix of people and shops on every corner. There are loads of green parks nearby and I love wandering the back streets and discovering new houses I never knew existed. Ben and I often walk around on sunny evenings and weave randomly through the neighbourhood peeking into people’s lives and admiring all the beautiful gardens.
Your home is beautiful. When it comes to decorating, what’s your secret and magic?
Thank you! I like to see my home as a blank canvas against which I can express my interests and experiences. I love traveling and this is always reflected in my style both at home and in my wardrobe. I crave colourful things and am always drawn to vibrant patterns and textures. Keeping my walls and floor white lets me bring all the treasures and talismans I like into my home without it feeling too busy. I also think a place looks best when it’s really lived in: when I first moved in I wanted everything to be perfect and just so, but not many of us can live the minimalist life and I love my home space more and more as my things are properly used and lived with and find their own place there. Real memories and experiences shouldn’t sit in a glass cabinet all their life…
How would you describe you style?
Eclectic is probably the best word. I am definitely drawn to styles from my travels and all things far away and exotic. I like to express my personality and my passions from day to day, and while they can often shift and change I always come back to my favourite rings and crystals and a few staple shawls and boots whatever the weather. I’m not so overtly feminine – I never wear heels and rarely leave my jeans – but anything with exotic embroidery or tribal texture always calls to me. Clean minimal lines are not my thing!
What do you do to chill out after a busy weekend of Street Food?
Ben lives near Hampstead Heath and it is my favourite place to go walking and reconnect to nature in the city. You can stomp for miles and it’s so wild and untamed, and sometimes we sneak in to the swimming ponds on a Sunday evening after a busy market and jump in in our pants. No one is there but the ducks and the trees and it feels like a different world to the hustle and bustle beyond.
What is your favourite meal?
We get a weekly organic veg box delivered and I find the best meals often come from using up whatever is in the box. Impromptu cooking is always the most fun. I like my meals to have variety and colour so I usually make loads of different things and pile them onto one plate – some roasted veggies with crunchy tamari seeds, a bright raw salad with herbs, sprouts and lots of alkalizing lemon, some black quinoa with steamed greens and hemp oil… Perhaps some wild salmon if I am craving protein. And I am a total chocoholic so always something healthy and stuffed with cacao to finish. In fact most of my recipes are healthy variations on chocolate snacks I crave… Ben is like, another raw cacao cake? How do you do it?!
How do you keep up such a healthy lifestyle?
For me, following the strain I put on my body last summer with street food and the sugar and caffeine I stuffed it with on the road, it comes from a deep place of respect and friendship toward my physical self. I think we can so easily get very disconnected from our bodies and see them as the apparatus which just carries out our mind’s work, but we are a whole, and what we put into our mouths and on our skin literally becomes the cells we use to live, so asking so much of our bodies and our minds without giving them what they are designed to digest creates imbalance and chaos within and without. When I feel life getting stressful and work taking over, as it always does, and the disconnect coming, I always tune back in to that place of love and respect for our miraculous bodies and try and listen to what mine wants.
Any natural foodie tips you can share with us?
For me, healthy natural eating is always easiest when I have a well stocked pantry. Good oils, seeds, nuts, and seasonings can make any vegetable delicious and help undo the myth that greens are boring. I use hemp oil with most things as it can withstand relatively high heats for cooking and tastes delicious with most things; tamari seeds are a staple for snacking on or throwing on top of steamed greens; and plenty of nuts and nut butters can be transformed into so many things, both savoury and sweet. I also make sure I have plenty of fresh herbs to hand to add extra flavour and healing to whatever I am eating. Smoothies are also the easiest and fastest way to get instant nutrition and veggies.
You have just launched Pura Vida Social Club, tell us about it and how did the first event go?
Pura Vida Social Club is a midweek gathering in London to heal and inspire body, mind, and soul. We wanted to create a space where like-minded people can come together in the city and explore healthy high vibration food alongside spiritual practices and inspiring craft. For the launch we had a beautiful sound healing and live world music, with a bespoke vegan and gluten free menu that I designed for the night, talismanic jewellery making with Daisy Moon, and other crafts where people could come together and meet. The response was amazing and I can’t wait to start on the next one. London is really transitioning at the moment and we all need to come together and explore wellness and spirituality as a community.
What are the 3 things you can’t live without?
Currently: my Vitamix (it just broke and I am totally at sea!); a beautiful tourmaline crystal from the first Pura Vida Social Club last week, imbued with all its calm and magic; and enough sleep!
Do you have any exciting trips planned for this Summer?
Summer is our busiest time for Rainbo and we are preparing for Wilderness festival at the moment. It is a great vibe there and I am really excited. After that we will go to a villa in Umbria for ten days to relax and cook and sleep and I cannot wait.
If you could exist in another period of time, when would it be?
The late Sixties, early Seventies. Everything going on then was so expansive and groundbreaking and in many ways I think we are returning to elements of their cultural revolution.
Favourite author, painter and musician?
Author: Garcia Marquez.
Musician: so hard! Probably Bob Dylan judging by sheer volume on my iPod.
What does being ‘free’ mean to you?
Finding out what you want to do in life and pursuing it; changing with it; learning from it, always being true to who you feel you are no matter what others dictate.
And finally, any advice you would give to someone wanting to venture in to street food?
It is a tough scene to be entering into now as there are so many people doing it, but if you are really passionate and truly believe in your product there is always room for more good food in the world’s hungry cities. Keep it simple, and make sure it’s something you really love. When the chips are down and you hit a rough day trading you have to come back knowing you believe in what you are doing and just keep on going. And don’t be afraid to tell your story! Street food is full of interesting and creative people and their stories are important and inspiring so tell the world who you are and why they need your food.
Thank you for letting us in, Xochi!
Find out where you can find Rainbo here www.rainbofood.com
Photographs by Lily Bertrand-Webb www.lilybertrandwebb.com