Dad and Mom outside their Florida Home, 1970s
My Dad was right. During his adult years high blood pressure was a dangerous problem because he had a type of hypertension not well-managed with the existing medication. In an effort to help himself he turned to naturopathic medicine. Dad tirelessly promoted a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, at least that’s how it seemed to us sitting at the dinner table. He became the food explorer, trying new flavors and combinations and pressing his discoveries on the rest of the family.
There was no stopping Dad when he leaned over my dinner plate, squeezing fresh lemon on all the vegetables, meat and potatoes saying, “This will make you beautiful!” He often railed against our packaged snack foods of childhood. Mom was no help; she went along with all his ideas. I’m sure she hoped a cure was in reach and his strategy would keep his debilitating disease at bay.
Carrot, hummus, and sunflower seed appetizer
It turns out Dad didn’t go far enough. Over the years I‘ve been inspired by his food adventurism myself. I cherish the memories of group meals and extended family dinners from my childhood and with our own family and friends today. Healthy fresh meals, full of fun preparations and festive gathering together, remain high spots on my life landscape. For a while though I lost sight of Dad’s full aim, his belief that through loving interaction we also can use food as medicine.
Today there are many voices hawking food cures, touted to us daily across the media. Popularizing a particular food may give it the mantle of fad or quick fix (really, an “it” veggie of the year?) And ubiquitous food advice masks more serious issues of food access and quality control for large swathes of our population. Now it seems the media saturation, if effective to draw your attention, is increasingly important. A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows people all across the country are dying daily from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes due to poor diet. We are dying from lack of good food in our land of endless abundance and the all-you-can-eat buffet!
Savory pancake with tomato and avocado-feta topping
Mainstream medicine is taking a life-changing step, to prescribe food and improved patient access to it through hospitals with a Fresh Food Pharmacy.
Not only that, teaching kitchens are springing up in primary care doctors’ offices, with the basic healthy food preparation skills deemed important to ensure compliance with food prescriptions. The loss of home economics in schools turns out to have endangered our entire national population. Good food practices are lacking across all economic strata. Ask your doctor about gaining food skills!
Fresh strawberries are easily prepped with a knife or strawberry huller tool
Healthy choices are a mark of self-care, just as Dad advocated all those years ago. When we teach our children and ourselves the powerful connection between choosing fresh ingredients and our health and wellbeing, we aren’t denying joy, we are embracing a whole new more joyous adventure into living life fully.
It does take inner strength to do this and a big dose of self-parenting as well. For the past two weeks I’ve been attempting a sugar and gluten cleanse with guidance and group support from Donna at Better Off Well. It’s been eye-opening to discover the hidden sugar and gluten in everyday food encounters. I discovered my own behavioral pitfalls and made substitutions for my food indulgences. Every day is not perfect, but I’m more aware and that makes my choices more mindful. This is a potentially life changing moment, and I know my parents would be pleased to see the lessons they introduced still having an impact.
Red cabbage and citrus slaw, sweet potato and kale-stuffed portobello mushroom
Here’s my latest Book Discovery—Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitra Agrawal. The South Indian cooking is light and fresh and full of color and flavor. Ingredients are widely available as are the spices. Take yourself on a food adventure in your kitchen!
And for the crime novel lovers, a dash of Indian food, history and culture is integral to the satirical murder mystery, Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. As an admirer of Jane Eyre, Jane Steele must navigate the dangerous world of Victorian England to secure her lost inheritance. See my review on Goodreads for more.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and others who parent us along the way!
Photos and food prep, Claire Mauro