Food for the Body

Thoughts about eating well to feed your body and spirit.

Six Hours of R&R (A Simple Extravaganza)

I woke completely refreshed this morning, even though it was a very long work week, I taught two classes yesterday, I have lots to do today, and it promises to be a stressful work week coming. The sense of well-restedness is thanks to the six (or was it seven) hours of nurture I gave myself at the end of the day yesterday.

First I walked to a late afternoon appointment with my wonderful massage therapist, Patrick McClintock. My walk to see Patrick  is a beautiful walk 14-block walk through Capitol Hill. I strolled home afterwards, stopping at the grocery store to pick up soy milk and a couple of other items I like to have in the house (no more than I could carry easily), then walking through Lincoln Park on my way home.  Taking my time on my walk, I visited with a few dogs and neighbors who were out.

For dinner, I made a stir-fry of tempeh and radish greens (greens and herbs came right out of the garden).

  • In peanut oil (or other oil that can take high heat; not olive oil with asian flavors); slice a clove or two of garlic, mince some ginger, saute until garlic is translucent; add sliced onions and saute until translucent (when you add onion or onion parts depends on whether you are using onions, green onions, or scallions — white onion or onion parts go in before the greens, green parts go in after bitter/firm greens or with tender greens); add diced tempeh (or tofu or leave it out and add minced toasted nuts right before serving); saute until onions and tempeh are turning golden; splash with rice wine vinegar and Braggs liquid amino protein or soy sauce; quickly stir to integrate flavors; add greens and fresh herbs from the garden; saute until wilted; add splash of sherry, white wine or water; saute until liquid has evaporated. Serve with any grain or asian-style noodles.

After dinner, I read for a bit. Then I gave myself a mini-facial and pedicure. At twilight, I sat out back with an herbal infusion made from mint and lemon balm from the garden and watched the moon rise — it was a glorious moon.

I followed this simple, extravaganza with a long practice of restoratives, supine poses, and forward bends, and took my savasana into bed for the night.

Maybe you cannot fit in this much, and I do not do this much R&R in a single block every week — some Saturdays I want to go out on the town. Try to make part of some of your weekends (especially critical if you, like I, work six days a week, not five)  restful without having to go away — perhaps including one of the Serenity Saturday workshops at Capitol Hill Yoga when you can.

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“A Balanced Diet, in Moderation, Is the Best” (Yoga of Eating Part IV)

Geeta Iyengar, in Yoga, A Gem for Women, sums up the proper diet according to Ayurveda as follows:

“A balanced diet, in moderation, is the best.  Ayurveda says that the stomach should be filled with two parts of solid food and one part of water, and that one part of the stomach should be kept free for the movement of air.  Food which is not congenial to the system should be avoided.  Too oily, dry, spicy, and sour foodstuff are not good for the system.  A diet which is balanced, light, varied, and well cooked is ideal for health.”

In other words, to be healthy, we should eat fresh, varied, well-prepared, tasty food.  We should eat with sufficient awareness to know enough the effects of what we eat on our energy level, sleep, digestion, and ability to move and think that we know what is good for our system in small, large, or any quantities (and eat mindfully in accordance with that knowledge).  We should not eat to the point of fullness and beyond (this is a common suggestion in the West for losing weight, i.e., stop eating when you are full or right before — think getting away from the unrealistic American portion size).  Any other dietary practices should serve to find this place of moderation and enjoyment, the two real keys to health and happiness with and in eating.  Diets that take us away from balance will be hard to follow, unhealthy, and cause all sorts of other shifts in our mind-body.  What is best for you depends on your own knowledge of yourself and your environment.

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Borage and Bee Balm and Licorice Mint

Enjoying some edible flowers (pansies, marigolds, nasturtiums, chive and basil flowers) and found myself wishing I had borage and bee balm in my garden.  I’ve tried in the past, but they tend to take up more space than I have for what they offer.  Perhaps I will try again anyway.

Found a seedling of Korean licorice mint at the Fresh Farm market at Penn Quarter yesterday.  If it takes, it should be a nice addition to the mint, lemon balm, and verbena I use to make infusions (hot and iced).

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Food is the link between self and spirit (Taittreya Upanishad and the Yoga of Eating Part III)

The Self in man and in the sun are one./  Those who understand this see through the world/ And go beyond the various sheaths/ Of being to realize the unity of life./ Those who realize that all life is one/ Are at home everywhere and see themselves / In all beings.  They sing in wonder:/ ‘I am the food of life, I am, I am;/ I eat the food of life, I eat, I eat./ I link food and water, I link, I link./ I am the first-born in the universe;/ Older than the gods, I am immortal./ Who shares food with the hungry protects me;/ Who shares it not with them is consumed by me./ I am this world and I consume this world./ They who understand this understand life.’  Taittreya Upanishad, 10.5, trans. Eknath Eswaren.

As one who is immersed in the joy of growing, selecting, creating, and tasting food and studying and practicing yoga, it is no suprise that the Taittreya Upanishad (which Eknath Eswaren subtitles “From Food to Joy”) is one of my favorite readings.

The Taittreya Upanishad explains the five sheaths or koshas that make up the self — the food body, the energy body, the mind body, the intuitive body, and the bliss body.  What we take in with our senses and what makes us flesh and blood can, with right observance and practice, lead us to a consciousness of self as joy and spirit embodied.  This is the yoga of eating and of food.

For more details on the Taittreya Upanishad, please see Jon Janaka’s article, “I am the Food!”

Other sources:

Upanishads, trans. Patrick Olivelle (Oxford World Classics 1996)

The Upanishads, translated for the modern reader by Eknath Eswaren (Nilgiri Press 8th Printing 2000)

The Ten Principal Upanishads, put into English by Shree Purohit Swami and Wm. Butler Yeats (Faber and Faber, London, Reprinted 1952)

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Fine Day in the Garden

Yesterday I went out into the garden first thing and fed and deadheaded and trimmed and harvested and pulled seedlings and rearranged and swept for several hours.  One of the most delightful things about planting decoratively with herbs and greens is that trimming and pulling things back transforms directly into meals and gifts for neighbors and friends.  My visitor to the garden walked away with bunches of oregano, lemon balm, and mint and lemon balm with roots to plant in her own garden.  We drank a cool lemon-mint infusion (mixture of spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, and lemon verbena) and ate a few strawberries (some from the garden, some from the farmers’ market).  Later in the day, my lunch included a salad with lettuce, radishes, baby spinach and chard, spring onions, and various herbs.  For dinner, I used chard, beets, and green onions to make a stew of chickpeas and greens.

With today’s rain, everything will keep flourishing, and I’ll be out there doing the same later in the week.  My morning visitor and I agreed that one of the great delights of gardening is that the garden always welcomes more attention.  The garden never asks to be left alone; it drinks in whatever attention and nourishment we are able to offer and returns it with grace.  There are few things that both are comfortable with steady attention and fully nurture us the more attention we give.  I find that meditation, too, always gives and receives graciously steady attention, which is one of its great gifts and joys.

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Some Books on Food I’ve Been Revisiting (Yoga of Eating Part II)

I have been revisiting these cooking and gardening books from among my varied collection as I prepare for the “Yoga of Eating” Workshop.  In addition to having recipes and/or gardening techniques each teaches about health, ecology, plants, and seasonal eating, is written in a way that would appeal to both novice and expert cook/gardener alike (including some recipes in the gardening books), and some have very pretty pictures.  The key words for this focus in the titles:  enjoyment, art, healthy, ecological, seasonal, healthy, earth, practical — essential attributes/attitudes/directions for eating with yoga consciousness.

Cookbooks:

Bishop, Jack, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen:  Easy Seasonal Dishes for Friends and Family (Houghton Mifflin2004)

Sass, Lorna, Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen, Healthy Meals for You and the Planet (Wm. Morrow & Co. 1992)

Shaw, Diana, The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 1997) (Your Guide to the Best Foods on Earth:  What to Eat; Where to Get It; How to Prepare It)

Tiwari, Maya, Ayurveda:  A Life of Balance (Healing Arts Press 1995) (The Complete Guide to Ayurvedic Nutrition and Body Types with Recipes)

Waters, Alice, Chez Panisse Vegetables (Harper Collins 1996)

Kitchen Gardening:

Bremner, Lesley, The Complete Book of Herbs:  A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs (Dorling Kindersley – London 6th Ed. 1993)

Gilberti, Sal, Kitchen Herbs:  The Art and Enjoyment of Growing Herbs and Cooking with Them (Bantam 1988)

Guerra, Michael, The Edible Container Garden, Growing Fresh Food in Small Spaces (Fireside 2000)

Lloyd, Christoper, Gardener Cook (Willow Creek Press 1997)

Pavord, Anna, The New Kitchen Garden (Dorling Kindersley Am. Ed. 1996) (A Complete Practical Guide to Designing, Planing, and Cultivating a Decorative and Productive Garden)

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Yoga of Eating Part I (what it is and what it isn’t)

Yesterday, a former student of mine stopped me in the hallway at Willow Street and asked whether the “Yoga of Eating” workshop I will be leading on June 13th  will cover Ayurveda.  “I will mention it,” I said, “but I will not be teaching it.”  I didn’t have time to explain further because I was about to lead class.  As far as I got was to add that I was not sufficiently trained to teach it.

Ayurveda is a wonderful science, and I honor and respect my yoga friends and colleagues who study, practice, and teach Ayurvedic principles.  Ayurveda is a much broader discipline than yoga, though, and is really medical practice rather than yoga.  Asana are among the practices that might be recommended by an Ayurvedic practitioner for a client or patient, but eating in accordance with the Ayurvedic principles is not the same as bringing yoga to how we eat.  For me, many of the principles of Ayurveda I have read or been taught are useful, but it has not resonated for me as a governing system, just as I do not believe in applying all of the principles of Western medicine to how I heal and nourish my body.

Bringing yoga to my eating, like bringing yoga to all of my life off the mat,  is both simpler and harder than being taught a science such as Ayurveda with fairly clear, but quite complex, do’s and don’ts and then following them.  For me, practicing the yoga of eating, is practicing conscious eating.  It is practicing reverance and moderation.  It is balancing nourishment and pleasure.  It is knowing deeply when the will to eat is serving us or getting in our way.  It is both simple and subtle.  It is easy to say, but deeply challenging and sometime complicated to practice — just like practicing the Anusara yoga principles of alignment.

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Okra Germinated; First Roses Opened

First flower on a cherry tomato appeared overnight.  Peppers are budding.  They all like the heat.  Dill is going yellow around the edges already.  It does not like the heat.  One of the things I love most about gardening is noticing what thrives to excess and what struggles, depending on the weather patterns.  With the right balance of plants, there will always be a bumper crop of something (both edible and ornamental).  Eating locally, with consciousness acknowledgement of the limits of space and time in an affirming way,  requires accepting what are the crops of the year and being creative with them rather than finding a recipe and insisting that the ingredients be available to the detriment of flavor, pocketbook, and environment.

Fostering such a relationship to my garden and my food helps me also accept that although I can grow and shift, I ultimately cannot change certain fundamental things about myself.  It is better radically to affirm what I have been given than to try and contort myself into something that it seems society (Heideggerian “they”) would prefer.

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Granola (yes, it’s basically cookies in milk without the egg and butter)

On Wednesday, reluctant to turn on the heat despite the cold, I turned on the oven instead.  I already had muffins and bread from the previous weekend in the freezer, so I decided to make granola.  I first made granola at Quaker youth camp in the 1970s in upstate New York.  It was tasty, but loaded with honey and fat, and we made it in such vast quantities that it was years before it occurred to me I could just make the same amount that would be in a cereal box for myself.  If you have never done it, or suffer from the same inhibitions I’d suffered from, give yourself a treat and make your own.

Take a few cups of multigrain flakes (or just oat flakes).  Throw in any or all of the following:  shredded coconut, chopped nuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seed nuts.  If you have them in the house, add a handful of wheat germ and/or flax seed meal, a little salt (makes it taste sweeter) and spices if you like (e.g. cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg).  Stir in enough of any of the following liquid sweeteners (my favorit is brown rice syrup because it gives the best clumping with the smallest amount), honey, maple syrup, agave, fruit juice concentrate (thaw first) and a little vegetable or nut oil (my favorite is walnut), that the mixture is a pleasing combination of coated flakes and small clusters.  (The more sweetener you use and the stickier the sweetener, the bigger the clumps).

Spread mixture on an oiled cookie sheet.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 325-350F.  Let the mixture get golden, but not brown (or to taste).  Turn and respread mixture once at about the 12-15 minute mark.

When you take the mixture out of the oven, stir in dried fruit of your choice (raisins, currents, dried blueberries or cranberries; dice larger fruits such as dried apricots or apples).

Use combinations of nuts, spices, sweeteners, and fruits that make sense:  apple, walnut, maple syrup; brazil nut, coconut, pineapple juice concentrate, nutmeg; cranberry, raisin, walnut.  You get the idea.  If you like peanuts, blend some peanut butter in with the sweetener and oil before mixing it with the grains.

Why is this recipe not exact?  Because it does not need to be exact to come out delicious.  Because breakfast cereal is best if it is the way you like it and not the way someone else likes it.  (Just like doing your own asana practice at home).

If you have never done it before and are afraid of picking your own proportions and oven temperature, find a couple of recipes on the internet or in a cookbook and then use the recipes as a basis for experimenting.

For muesli, leave out the sweetener and the oil, omit the baking, add the fruit to the flake and nut mixture and then prepare as you like your muesli (soaked or not soaked, with yoghurt or with milk, etc).

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Green

greensThe haze of pink on the flowering trees is turning to green, and the maples and oaks are starting to leaf.  I love the pale green of new leaves before they have gotten dusty from smog and heat.  I hope this time we will get the promised rain (last storm we only got a fourth of what was forecast).

Another green:  in the garden, my spinach is coming up, as is the new chard, kale, cilantro, and salad greens.   I have been eating the romaine that seeded in the fall and the chard plants that weathered winter.  Delicious!

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