Touching Food*: A Healing Balm

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

When I was going through my divorce, I moved back to Central PA and lived with my naturapathic friend Hope, who asked me to help her with her mail order natural foods business. She gave me a wide berth of time to get unpacked and resettled, often just holding or sitting with me when I cried, or doing her therapeutic massage on my body, and generally being my Sagittarian Soulmate. (Our birthdays are one day apart.)

One of the things that she asked me to do was to weed her huge, organic garden.  She lives on a mini-farm, with goats and small fields, and a large farmhouse about 15 minutes outside State College. Every late afternoon, when the heat of the day had waned, I would take the wheelbarrow and fill it with huge weeds, “as high as an elephant’s eye,” and dump the weeds into a compost area. After about two weeks, the cloud of sadness and depression that had been hanging over my head began to dissipate and my old, cheerful self began to surface. During this time, I also ate dinner with Hope and her family, and the food was basic, whole foods that we picked from her overgrown garden, plus what she ordered from an organic farmer.

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Parsley from my patio garden

I am convinced that the weeding of the garden and the eating of whole foods influenced my “recovery.” As my friend Sylvia once said, *”touching food” has healing powers. (Thanx, Sylvia) But my touching went beyond that, or rather before that, because I was digging in the very soil that the plants and weeds grew, which I then ate. (Not the weeds, just the plants!) Pulling the weeds got my hands dirty (back to earth) and the late day sun warmed my back and face.

Fast forward to the present: Whenever I feel overwhelmed or off center, I run to the kitchen and create something that I hope will be delicious. Even if it is not, touching the food has a healing effect on me. So if your divorce proceedings are stressful, if letters from your soon-to-be ex-husband make you scream, put them in a pile and head for the kitchen. Bake a cake, toss a salad, clean out the ‘frig, go to a Farmers’ Market and handle the food. Play in the kitchen until the touch and smells and colors of the food reawaken your creativity and banish the blues. ♥

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A “full head of chives” from still growing in my patio garden.

Below is one of my recipes from my website: www.menupause.info. Feel free to click on other recipes in Kitchen Nutrition with Recipes. Then start playing with the food and have a great time in the kitchen. I can almost guarantee you will feel better!

Herbal Garden Salad

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Ingredients
one head of organic lettuce (I used red-tipped curly lettuce)
one ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
one organic cucumber, peeled and sliced
one half cup grated yellow summer squash
one-two thin slices of red onion
(Feel free to add or substitute veggies of your choice)
2 cups fresh herbs (available in most markets; these are from my patio):
basil
oregano
sweet marjoram
thyme
parsley
chives
(I cut several stalks of each, removed their leaves but kept them intact. I removed the leaves and washed and gently dried them. With the chives, I merely cut the stalks at the base and cut them into smaller pieces.)

Directions
1. Wash and spin dry the lettuce, ripping leaves into bite-sized pieces.
2. Wash, peel, pit, and slice avocado into slivers. (I wash before I peel so when I cut into the avocado, none of the outside “dirt” goes into the flesh.)
3. Wash, peel and slice the cucumber. (If large, cut slices in half crosswise.)
4. Prepare herbs as notes above, keeping the leaves intact. In this salad, the herbs are major ingredients.
5. Right before serving, toss with your favorite light dressing. (I use olive oil and lemon juice.)

Note: The 2 cups of herbs impart a different-tasting salad, because the herbs come on strong. Feel free or start with one cup. Salt & pepper may or may not be necesary.

In Book, Film, and Website Reviews in June 2007, I reviewed a book called Main-Dish Salads by Marsha Rose Shulman. By using the guide in Shulman’s book, you can select fresh herbs that are more sweet, more pungent, or more bitter, which will definitely change the taste of this salad above. I used more pungent/bitter herbs and I could definitely taste the slightly bitter flavor. Next time I would probably use more dill, chives, and basil and less marjoram, parsley and thyme. Play around with the herbs. The joy of cooking is the title of a cookbook for a reason!

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