Interview: Ebony Malcolm (Neat 2 Eat)

We recently brought you a fun and fabulous recipe for an eye-catching fruit cake which came from Neat 2 Eat. Today we bring you an interview with the cake’s creator, Ebony Malcolm.

All of us, I’m sure, have had days where our children are fussy eaters and some of us have those days more often than others. Ebony had many of those days and they led her to creating Neat 2 Eat, a site which has been the saviour of mealtimes in many households. I was thrilled to be able to find out a little more about how it all came to be.

Welcome to Beauty and Lace Ebony, thanks for talking with us.


What inspired you to start Neat 2 Eat?

I had always struggled to feed my now 8 year old son, right from a young age he had problems with the texture, look, feel and smell of most foods, we later found out this was due to being autistic but along my travels I found a product called the lunch punch (it’s a sandwich cutter that removes the crust off bread with ease and leaves you with a cute shape). I remember at that point I was desperate, I had fallen into the trap of feeding him over-processed, crappy foods just to get him to eat something, anything! I had my doubts about something as simple as changing the way a food looked and whether this would entice him to eat. After all, at the end of the day it’s still that same food he wouldn’t eat before. Why would this make a difference? I thought to myself, but I gave it a go and was so surprised at the results. Not only did my son eat vegemite on toast for breakfast for the first time in 12 months, he actually asked for the same thing the next day! I started to search the net for what else was out there which is when I found bento and all the cool gadgets that came along with it. There was only one problem, there was a severe gap in the market here in Australia for bento supplies and the shipping costs/language barriers made buying bento supplies from overseas a no go. Knowing that there just had to be other parents facing the same challenges as I had with my son I just knew I had to bring bento to Australia; which is how Neat 2 Eat was born.

How did you discover the fabulous and fun food prep products you sell on the site?

As mentioned above it was through my son’s fussy eating and hours and hours of research.

What tips have you got for busy mums with fussy eaters?

Bento lunches really don’t take too much extra prep time on top of a normal lunch but planning ahead and having a baking day on a Sunday (the kids can help with this one too) can all save time on packing lunches. Find out what your little one does/doesn’t like and go from there i.e. they like bananas, well you could make banana bread, banana muffins etc.

Can you tell us a little about Bento?

Bento is the Japanese art of making cute pack lunches, in Japan bentos consist of such items as rice, vegetables, sashimi (raw fish with condiments) and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables.

Bento style lunches are becoming more and more popular in western cultures however they differ from the traditional Japanese style bento by the types of foods used to create them. These include more western style foods such as sandwiches, fruit/vegetables, cheese, cold meats, egg and/or leftovers presented in a cute compartmentalised manor.

Bento lunches are great for fussy eaters or if you are just wanting to provide a varying lunch for your child/ren. They are simple to make, bento lunches are also portion controlled which means your child can have those sometimes foods they love without overdoing it and you don’t need to use plastic wrapping/bags making them an eco friendly alternative to traditional style lunches and most of the products used are re-useable.

What is your favourite product?

Egg molds! Whoever thought of being able to change a simple boiled egg into a cute shape such as a bunny, bear, car, fish or heart is a genius!

You recently released ‘Everyday Lunchbox Recipes & Fun With Food’, can you tell us about the book?

The book targets everyday mum’s who may be in a lunchbox rut, it contains simple recipes that are lunchbox friendly and nutritionally sound as well as tips and tricks for feeding fussy eaters.

Have you got a favourite recipe?

It has to be wonton lasagna muffins, you use wonton wrappers instead of pasta sheets and bake them in muffin cups, they are just delish and so easy to eat making them perfect for the whole family.

Has the Neat 2 Eat journey changed your personal food choices as well?

It has, I’ve always struggled with food and am a testament to bad food habits lasting a lifetime. Recently however, I decided that I can’t very well tell my son (and other parents out there) what to eat if I myself am not making very good food choices (lead by example is the number 1 rule for dealing with fussy eaters) so have been working on my food choices with great success.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this journey for you?

I love hearing from other parents who are/were in a similar situation that I was in with my son, they tell me how much it’s all made a difference to meal times and how well their children are now eating. It’s the best part of what I do.

What has been the most challenging aspect?

It can be hard doing it all on your own, I’m very grateful I have such a supportive hubby who is there for me when I need him.

What does being a woman mean to you?

To me it means being capable, strong and wearer of many different hats (wife, mother, cook, cleaner etc.) all while being in tune with those around me emotionally, a trait which I love and I don’t think I would posses if I weren’t a woman.

Thank you so much for your time Ebony, it’s been great to learn a little more about you.

If you have a fussy eater, or are just looking for some interesting new lunchbox ideas I suggest you head over and check out Ebony at Neat 2 Eat

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