In Ayurvedic thought, the root of all disease lies in the digestive tract; faulty digestion leads to the buildup of a toxic sludge in the intestines, that eventually leaks into the blood and other bodily systems. Interestingly, this was the same line of thought taken by the father of modern western medicine, Hippocrates. Hippocrates was born in 460 BC on the Greek isle of Cos. Being among the first physicians to contend that disease was not in fact inflicted directly by God, but rather was the result of natural causes, beginning with poor digestion, Hippocrates was a thought pioneer. Thus, his famous quote “Let thy food be thy medicine.”
Ayurveda offers the same advice.
In order to practice this form of medicine, a person must bring awareness to the process of cooking. The recipe I created for this article includes steps beyond the usual chopping and cooking. At first glance this may seem a lengthy process – but the process is part of the medicine. As we use cooking as a time to relax and unwind, the time taken for oneself becomes a healing practice.
The first step in this recipe is obtaining the food. I went to my local Farmer’s Market last Saturday. Ambling through the white tents, letting my eyes feast on the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, inhaling the scents, was a healing experience in and of itself. My kids also enjoyed it!
We bought fat nectarines and sat on chairs, listening to live music – a quartet playing traditional Scottish, folk music – as juice from the fruits ran down our chins and the sun shined on our faces. I took home a basket of vegetables that was comforting just to look at.
This experience was medicine. If you have access to a Farmer’s Market – use it. Otherwise, finding a place to buy organic vegetables and spices is crucial. At first you may feel as if you’re spending a bit more money on food, but you will save that cash in co-pays for doctor’s visits down the road.
When you are home and ready to begin cooking, take a moment to prepare your space. Turn on some of your favorite music that is both soothing and energizing to you. Perhaps light a scented candle. Lay out all the ingredients on the list, so that everything is at your fingertips. Work with a nice, sharp knife. If you don’t have a decent chef’s knife, buying one is a good investment. It is important that the preparation of your food is pleasurable.
As you chop vegetables, take this opportunity to find the rhythm of your breath. In our hectic modern lives, this practice is easily forgotten. Cooking is the perfect time to cultivate a breath of ease: deep and smooth. Chop and slice with awareness. Rein in your wondering mind; the bills can wait, as can the to-do lists. This is YOUR time. Hold your attention steady. Notice the amazing purple of the beets as you slice into them. Inhale the scent of the simmering spices as you stir. Allow time to slow down as you notice ONLY this moment.
The recipe calls for making your own spice paste, something I will continue to offer in articles on this site. While it is easier to purchase already mixed spices pastes, it is well worth making your own, whenever you feel in the mood to do so. Thus, you are ensure that no added yucky-ness or fillers are in you paste. In addition, it is a healing experience to stir your spices, inhaling the aroma as you go. The herbs and spices we use in the recipes on A Year To Heal, are truly medicinal.
For example, coriander seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition. The oils within these little seeds are FULL of minerals including iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Minerals are sorely lacking in the standard, modern diet. This may seem insignificant, but allow me to assure you, it IS NOT. Hashimoto’s is associated with mineral deficiency. The body needs minerals such as selenium and zinc to produce thyroid hormone, which affects every cell in the body. Minerals are essential to good health. Coriander seeds also provide oil that aids in smooth functioning of the liver and the bowels. They also contain anti-histamine properties, staving off the dreaded anaphylaxis, as well as hives. Yes, these little seeds are medicine. As are the leaves of their plant, which is cilantro. Cilantro is a true super food, with the ability to bind to heavy metals in our bodies (in today’s world, we have no shortage of those) and usher them out. Thank you, cilantro!
I will discuss other spices and their healing properties in future articles.
For now, let’s get cooking. And once you are sitting to eat, remember to enjoy your food, chewing thoroughly. As you dine, save discussions about worrisome subjects for another time. Ingesting this meal is a time to relax and enjoy. Sink into the moment, relish the food, and the sensation of nourishing yourself. You are alive, and life is good!
4 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter – can be found at a health food store or ordered online)
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 Tablespoon cumin powder
1/2 Tablespoon turmeric powder
1/2 Tablespoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon finely chopped, fresh, ginger root
1 clove garlic chopped
1 can of pure coconut milk
2 or 3 beets, chopped into cubes
2 or 3 carrots, chopped into wheels
2 large yams, chopped into cubes
1 sweet onion, sliced along the natural lines of the onion, so that they are long and slightly curved
Half a cup of fresh cilantro leaf
1 cup cooked Basmati rice (soaking the rice for 4 to 6 hours prior to cooking it makes it easier to digest. Drain the water you soaked it in before cooking. If you are on autoimmune paleo diet, skip the rice of course)
Chop all your vegetables. Place the potatoes and beets in a steamer, and begin steaming. After about five minutes of active steaming, add the carrots. Prepare your rice, and put it on to cook. In a cast iron frying pan (or whatever you use – Teflon not recommended), heat the ghee on low heat. Add the coriander seeds and stir. When the seeds begin to pop, add the cumin and turmeric and continue stirring. When the paste has blended (you will still see the seeds, but the spices will look blended), add the onions, ginger and garlic. Continue to stir. When the onions look translucent, add the coconut milk and salt, and stir well. Now, add the steamed veggie mix. Stir everything together. Let this simmer on a medium-low heat for around fifteen minutes. You will know it is done when the beets are easily pierced with a fork, and the coconut milk and potatoes have taken on a vibrant color. Place the rice in the center of your plate, and pour your creation over the top, adding the fresh cilantro at the last moment.
Enjoy, and allow your food to be your medicine!