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Volume 29 Issue 6
March/April 2024

My Thoughts are Turning to Gardening
Featuring the Benefits of Interplanting

Planning Your Open-Pollinated Garden For Seed Saving, Part 2

Jin Shin Therapy
“A Simple Art for Complicated Times”

Preparing for Surgery

Transforming Loss into Legacy: Honouring Loved Ones and Finding Purpose

From Participant to Facilitator: Embracing Holistic Healing Retreats

The Culinary Pharmacy: Intuitive Eating, Ancestral Healing, and Your Personal Nutrition Plan by Lisa Masé

An Easter Fantasy Story


The Culinary Pharmacy: Intuitive Eating, Ancestral Healing, and Your Personal Nutrition Plan by Lisa Masé
—An Excerpt: Reprinted with permission from Healing Arts Press
The Culinary Pharmacy

The sense of timelessness is what first drew me to cooking. I remember standing on a chair at my grandmother’s stove, tending a pot of freshly picked apricots. I could have been stirring for minutes, or hours. It didn’t matter. I watched, enraptured, as the sweet-tart fruit bubbled into jam. This summer ritual of making preserves has followed me in my travels. After I moved to my mom’s hometown, Kansas City, as a pre-teen, I continued to find ways to cook traditional foods. I would invite new friends over for homemade pasta, or crostata, an Italian fruit pie, which I always nostalgically filled with apricot jam.

Both during and after college, I had the great fortune of living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place where food—especially corn and indigenous red and green chile—is considered sacred. My partner and I lived in an old, two-story adobe house with a fireplace and views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. An apricot tree reigned in our small courtyard. Its branches drooped heavy with fruit each July. I made so many jars of the delectable amber spread one summer that we gifted some to each of our neighbors.

It may have taken me three days to complete the canning project, but I did not care. I was transported by the love of working in partnership with nature in order to create an offering for others to enjoy. Not only does food bridge personal experiences, it also connects people. We share food to remember what’s most vital, which is our connection to the earth. We come from and return to the same earth in which our food grows.

As author Barbara Kingsolver so aptly put it, “Living takes life.” We are a small part of the eternal cycle of death, rebirth, and everything in between. A song of the Yoruba tribe, Hunger, hails, “There is no god like one’s stomach. / We must sacrifice to it every day.” The word hunger is so ancient that it appears to have co-arisen in Anatolia, the Black Sea steppes, and the Indian subcontinent centuries ago—and the original form of this word sounds much like the modern English version. Hunger drives development. First, a child cries as it takes a breath, its first source of nourishment. Then, it cries for food. Once human beings learn how to feed themselves, they learn how to interact with their environment, which changes according to season and location.

I remember the first time I watched, mystified, as my uncle fried zucchini slices on a scorching dolomitic limestone boulder under which he had built a fire. We were spending one of our many summers in the high mountains where Italy meets Austria, wandering the woods in search of mushrooms and returning to a farmhouse with red-checkered curtains, a wood cookstove, candles for nighttime light, and a hand pump for well water.

My uncle, preparing the zucchini, was unhurried, tending the fire, slicing the zucchini, and talking as he worked. The important part of the process was not how long it took but the alchemy of fire and the flavour imparted by the calcium-rich stone. After many rounds of vegetables had cooked and we had slowly feasted on them, my uncle or father would pull a pot out of the fire, and we would enjoy a mushroom and tomato stew called goulash. These vegetable-intensive feasts would be peppered with slices of hardtack rye bread, chunks of Fontina cheese, and thin rounds of summer sausage that we had hiked up in backpacks from our hometown of Bressanone.

This Austrian-Italian town where my relatives still live is just as settled in its Tyrolean ways as the majestic mountains that stood here since before human settlement. Many of the elders in this area do not quite grasp the concept of email. They prefer landlines to cell phones. During a visit with our Italian family, my father and I took a morning drive to Maso Pineto, an old farmhouse-turned-rest-stop for hikers. We passed many local dairy farmers waiting by the narrow, twisting roads for the daily milk pickup.

Instead of building technological infrastructure like cell phone towers, this region has advanced through agricultural product subsidies, which include twenty-gallon stainless-steel containers with wheels for temporary milk storage and large milk trucks to visit each village and collect the precious liquid. I was struck by the intersection of traditional methods and modern conveniences—by the wrinkled old men and women with their blue aprons, felted hats, and wool coats, patiently standing next to brand-new stainless-steel milk transport containers. Instead of looking to the outside world to define its standards, this region stands firm in valuing the land itself as its most precious asset.

Though this mind-set framed the traditions in which I was raised, I lost touch with this simple way of life. Assimilation is a powerful force. I came to Kansas City for eighth grade because my mother, a native, needed to care for her aging parents. I saw that people here drove instead of walking, did not grow vegetables, and ate primarily brown food. I could see that I would need to participate in this new way of life or else risk being shut out, isolated, and judged by the kids around me. So, I did.

Food became a thread that linked me both to Italy, where I’d spent my childhood, and to the States, where I now lived as a teenager. I could make espresso and froth the milk for a cappuccino by shaking it up in an empty bottle. I knew how to bake elegant tortes and roll out homemade puff pastry. I was a novelty. I cooked to hide my pain. I ate to hide my longing for home. I prepared traditional Italian dishes to impress others while filling my own body with Pop-Tarts, Twix, and Mountain Dew. I ate many dishes for the first time: grilled cheese with ketchup, hamburgers, French fries, toaster waffles, and pancakes drenched in imitation maple syrup. I watched Saturday-morning cartoons while mindlessly devouring ready-bake cinnamon rolls from a can. Eating suddenly felt like an urgent, unpleasant act, with no time for timelessness. In Italy, food had been nourishment and medicine. In Kansas City, it became poison. I abandoned the practice of cooking and eating local, seasonal food for the sake of emotional survival at that time. However, it set up my digestive system for disaster when I spent time on the Indonesian island of Bali as a college student a few years later.

Lisa Masé is a board certified holistic nutritionist (BCHN) and a registered health and nutrition coach (RHNC), as well as an herbalist, intuitive eating coach, food sovereignty activist, and poet. The founder of Harmonized Living, a wellness coaching practice, Lisa lives on unceded Abenaki land in Montpelier, Vermont. www.harmonized-living.com. For copies of this book check your local and online booksellers or call toll-free 1-800-246-8648 or visit www.innertraditions.com.

This is an excerpt from The Culinary Pharmacy by Lisa Masé, (Foreword by Rosemary Gladstar), which is being reprinted with permission from Healing Arts Press (2023), www.healingartspress.com.


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