TRANSPORT: “The Lunch Lady”

Since her interview with Ken Miller at the 2016 TRANSPORT Topanga Literary Festival, Hilary Boynton, co-author of the “The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet,” has taken Manzanita School by culinary storm. “I am ‘The Lunch Lady’ at The Manzanita School in Topanga,” she says. “My vision is to inspire a whole new wave of Lunch Ladies & Lads to sweep across the nation and disrupt the trend of chronic illness in this next generation of kids. I’m looking to open a training hub/cooking school in Topanga, where Lunch Ladies & Lads, parents and children can all learn about ancient wisdom, traditional cooking, and ancestral health.”

Watch her video (12 minutes) to see how far she has come in a very short time, and be inspired.

This interview was for Transport in 2016.

KM: What transported you to Topanga?
HB: We moved to California from Massachusetts two years ago (2014) because my husband had throat cancer. We had treated it on our own for eight months or so and changed everything about his lifestyle. He had been overworked and stressed out, so we picked up and moved across the country with five kids (two little ones plus triplets) to seek a different lifestyle and do some treatment out here.

We landed in Marina Del Rey, moved to Mar Vista, then to Santa Monica. Then, literally, his first day out of bed, he said, “Let’s take a drive to Topanga.” We’d been hearing about it, so we just drove up, popped into different stores, and in Pebbles, this lovely woman said, “Oh, this is a great town, and there are great schools, in fact, the Manzanita School just
opened up and people are moving here for it.”

That was a year ago (2015). Of course, we went to Manzanita and checked it out. I had written the cookbook that had just come out, so I told the woman in the front office about my cookbook. She said, “Oh, you’ve got to meet the chef here.” The students had just caught their own fish and cooked it up that day. She said, “I really want to roast a whole goat,” and this was what my cookbook is about so we just kept coming back and
fell in love with the school. I had tried to change the school lunches in Massachusetts for ten years.

We realized that we loved the school, but couldn’t afford it. They told us, “Just apply. You never know. We have financial aid.”

We threw it all together in one week. Our triplets were going into sixth grade. We put it out there in the Universe, filled out all the applications, and received 90 percent aid to Manzanita for the triplets. We enrolled the two little ones in Topanga Elementary.

We found a great rental and knew this was our spot. We couldn’t be happier. We feel like we’ve finally settled, our kids are thriving, and the community has welcomed us with open arms.

My husband’s been healing and when he was on pain meds in Santa Monica he was, like, “I think I need a bus or a camper or something for my office,” and I said, “Okay, whatever.” An hour later, he was, like, “We own a bus!” He had bought this old, 1969 school bus, a junker, in Compton. After months of trying to fix it so it’s roadworthy, the people drove it up—we live at the top of Portage Circle, so it’s like way, way, way, way up—and he converted that big blue bus into his office. Only in Topanga would this fly! We love it. That’s what brought us here.

Hilary Boynton. Photo by Katie Dalsemer

KM: You wrote a cookbook. What is your cookbook?
HB: I wrote a cookbook called the Heal Your Gut Cookbook, which chronicles our family’s journey on this healing diet, the “GAPS Diet,” the Gut and Psychology Syndrome, the gut-brain connection. When we set out to do this diet—it’s like a two-year protocol and
very daunting— there was nothing out there. I’m a self-taught cook and a chef and I feel passionate about people getting back in the kitchen, learning to cook and teaching their kids how to cook. I had been teaching cooking classes and a woman in my class was on the same diet. She was a photographer, and said, “We need to write a cookbook about this!” and we just threw it out there.

When I moved to California, the book came out eight days later and it’s been doing really well. Now, I’m trying to go one step further and write another book and potentially do a TV show. I feel so passionate about people waking up and preventing disease. My husband’s cancerfree, but he has all these side effects, so it’s not something that I’d wish on anybody. Food is medicine.

KM: Was the book inspired by his illness?
HB: No, we had this “Plan 22,” that we were going to move somewhere in the world. He said he needed two years to wrap up his business. About a year-and-a-half later, he got the frying-pan-to-the-head wake-up call with the cancer diagnosis. I had handed the book over to the publisher the week before. California was our Plan 22 now. We kept
it on the down-low, because we knew that we would be forced to go into chemo and radiation if we started telling everybody.

KM: What was it about the place and the people that made you feel that way?
HB: I felt they were “my people.” Back East, I was the freak who was so into food and health, and nobody understood. I felt I belonged out here, and Topanga is just a whole other level of being family-oriented. When we went to the first Halloween thing up at the Community Center, I thought, “Well, if the deal wasn’t sealed already, this is it!” We
walked in, our kids split in every single direction, and we knew they were safe. We love it here.


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