Food & Culture

Seal: how I eat

The musician on veganism, his speakeasy playlist, and addiction to popcorn.

By Maggie Scardifield
Seal (Photo: Getty Images)
Do you enjoy cooking?
I joke about this imaginary cooking show I have, Cooking with Seal. It revolves around me essentially cooking the same dish every time and the tagline is "a recipe for disaster". That should tell you all you need to know.
How would you describe your diet?
I'm vegan with pescatarian tendencies. My reason for veganism isn't to avoid eating meat, though, so if I felt like having a steak, then I'd go and have a great steak. I just haven't felt like it in the past year.
What's your favourite type of food?
French mountain food. I love snow, the mountain mentality, the freshness of the air. The truth is I feel more alive on a mountain top than I do on a beach.
Who does it best?
La Soucoupe, a restaurant in Méribel in Les Trois Vallées, in the French Alps. My favourite thing there is the anchovies. They're not like those horrible ones you can get on a Caesar salad. These are in olive oil and are quite long and super-thin. They have a beautiful delicate taste. That's my flavour.
If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I love popcorn. And really trashy, shitty popcorn, too. There's this one kettle corn that's like crack. It's brutal and I can't stop, which is why I avoid it.
What was on the dinner table when you were growing up?
My parents are from Nigeria, so we ate a lot of West African food and it was always very, very spicy. It usually consisted of some kind of starchy carbohydrate – perhaps brown rice, cassava or yam – and a tomato-based stew with meat or fish. There weren't a lot of vegetables and the ones we did have were cooked to the point where there were no nutrients in them whatsoever. Honestly, when I think of what we used to eat, I'm surprised I'm actually still alive.
Who did the cooking?
My dad, and because I was the eldest I was always helping. I had to clean the cow and goat's tripe. There's a real art to it. I would stand in the kitchen over a hot bowl of water and get all the muck and gunk off it. It did taste nice, don't get me wrong, but conceptually it's utterly disgusting.
You've travelled around India. How was the food?
Once you've got past the dysentery it's great. Of course, having grown up in England I was very familiar with Indian food. I ate in people's houses; I ate food from all the street vendors. After a while
you stop worrying about getting the runs and you just roll your dice.
Do you enjoy dining out?
If I go out it's usually to a vegan restaurant. ABCV in New York is amazing. There are wonderful Indian-style dishes with cashew-based yoghurts, for instance, and it's all gluten-free. If you took anybody, even a carnivore, and told them they could eat like this every day, everyone would be vegan.
How have your attitudes towards food changed over the years?
The older you get the more true the saying "You are what you eat". It sounds so clichéd but you really feel the effects of what you put in your body so much more profoundly.
What's a typical meal when you're in the recording studio?
Vegan pizza. It's made from all the husks that remain after you juice vegetables, the stuff you'd normally throw away. You congeal it, press it together, dry it out, and it forms a crust. And then for toppings, perhaps mozzarella made from cashews or coconuts, cherry tomatoes and basil.
What's been the most memorable meal of your life?
It was in Venice. When we got there, the chap at the hotel recommended a small, hole-in-the-wall kind of place down the road. I had tagliatelle al salmone: straightforward pasta with a cream of salmon sauce. I don't even know if there was any cream in it, and I don't eat gluten any more, but my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
What do you hope to teach your children about food?
A healthy body is a healthy mind. I'd like them to understand that they don't have to eat what's put in front of them because, for the most part, what's on offer in schools and supermarkets is either toxic, ploughed with sugar or genetically modified.
Do you entertain a lot?
I have dinner parties at my house; I call them speakeasies. I don't do any cooking, but I do the entertaining. There's a piano, which I think is essential, and I've got guitars lying around everywhere, too.
What's your secret to entertaining?
We're living in a world where we're constantly being forced to defend ourselves, to retreat, to become more insular. I think that the key to good entertaining is pretty much my basic philosophy in life: be open and be accessible.
Your most recent album is called Standards. What are the standards on the playlist at Seal's Speakeasy?
Hall & Oates' "She's Gone". Joni Mitchell albums like Court and Spark, bits of The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and of course Hejira, which I've just read means travel in Arabic. We listen to Steely Dan, too, and of course Stevie Wonder. You know what? While we're talking I'm going to put something on in the background. "Okay Google, play 'I Was Made to Love Her' by Stevie Wonder." You can't really go wrong with Stevie.
What does your kitchen look like?
It's part of my living room, so very open plan and very welcoming. My crockery is all from Kit Kemp. She does her own line of Wedgwood china called Mythical Creatures. And there's always lots of apples, protein powder, vegan pizza and vegan burritos in the fridge.
  • undefined: Maggie Scardifield