inner life






Introduction to Food Section

Eating habits are deeply affected by cultural and family traditions, aesthetic and taste preferences, efficiency measures most of us rely on to one degree or other, finances, and increasingly what we have come to learn or believe as a result of spiritual and health consciousness.

Anthropology was my favorite department in university.  Having a Sagittarius Moon, I love the way minds of anthropologists work, the non-judgmental manner in which observers recognize and describe cultural differences and the attributes that are unique to different groups around the world.  Personally, I am stimulated by travel, variety, and the exquisite foods that define the culinary expertise of peoples around the world.

My father was a meat and potatoes man and my mother was a gourmet cook who has to have been bored to tears serving meals to my father.  Eventually, I learned to shed the influences of my father but I cut my own path so did not wind up a clone of my mother either.  However, like her, I did a lot of entertaining until returning from my stints with the State Department.  I was living in Hawaii, the land of potluck dinners and food neuroses and swore I would never again go to the trouble of cooking for so many idiosyncratic individuals.  It was the height of the guru movement and people who had grown up on TV dinners were becoming vegetarians, fruitarians, and breathtarians.  Others were experimenting with mono diets, fasts, and countless extremes involving consumption or abstinence to demonstrate self-discipline, freedom from the world of the senses, or higher consciousness.  Saturn was transiting Cancer and I thought the obsessions would eventually pass, but the truth is, America was changed forever . . . and for this, I am partly grateful but also dismayed.

As I became more and more deeply involved in health, I listened to arguments and after reeling for a while tried to form my own conclusions.  For instance, I had become a vegetarian for compassionate reasons.  My mother was hurt and guilt-tripped me by saying that if while I was growing up she had fed me the way I was feeding myself, I would never have grown up.  As it was, my Swedish clansmen had nicknamed me "Shrimp" because I was a bit smaller than some of kinfolk.  The chiropractor with whom I worked for more than seven years said that I would develop mental problems due to vitamin B12 deficiencies.  I panicked and succumbed occasionally to some temptations at luaus, but each time I did so, I broke a tooth.  This was becoming quite expensive so the third time it happened, I concluded the Universe was trying to show me something, and it was time to listen.

cinnamonI reflected on my time with the State Department in India and realized that all the most erudite, well-balanced, and gracious individuals I had met in India were vegetarians.  Ergo, it must be safe to be a vegetarian; and, even tofu is not necessary.  This is important because tofu substitutes were first shown to me at a special banquet when I was the food analyst at the U.S. Trust Company.  Wall Street was being told that soy is the food of the future so "invest now."  Gandhi, however, was totally unable to get Indians to eat soy beans, and how fortunate for India that these genetically modified crops have not taken over the landscape of the subcontinent.

It's very difficult to stand back far enough to see what really happened to the generations that grew up on hot dogs and hamburgers.  I think the current melée was greatly influenced by marijuana farming because most urbanites did not learn to garden until they became interested in psychedelic plants.  Whatever one's personal history and opinions, I am certain that modern herbalism owes much to the consciousness movement and its excursions with drugs.  I confess that fascinated as I was with the trips others related, I was never curious enough to play roulette with my brain; I think I felt that if I went out on a limb, I wanted to know there was a way back.  Three decades later, I have less opinion than before; and I now believe there are political and financial reasons for criminalizing behavior that is far less dangerous than countless things that are legal.  I will not, however, go into all this because it inflames people in ways that are seldom constructive.  Suffice it to say that many green thumbs were unfolded in fields with magical plants so I am grateful there was a consciousness revolution to which we are all heirs and beneficiaries.

To understand how I got where I am, I have to tell a few more tales.  I returned from Asia in a state in which it was essential to reinvent myself.  I don't know if I ever was conventional, but by age 30, I certainly had no intention of trying to fit in anywhere but the place of my own choosing.  I was done with costumes one wears to work, done with big government and its abuse of power, done with predatory corporations and their plundering, done with mainstream medicine.  The question was:  what next?  I spent nearly a year and a half in meditation and was blessed with all sorts of clairvoyance and insights.  You must understand that the inner world was so intriguing that "reality" did not have much appeal.  Where food was concerned, I watched food frenzies in others but aside from my determination to eat harmlessly, I did not consider myself a fanatic.  Thus, when I started to have clients, I was sometimes put into a dither when they complained that when they consulted an astrologer, they expected to see someone of higher consciousness, not someone who drank coffee.  To appease them, I gave up coffee for 18 months until a little bell tinkled in my head that reminded me that some of my greatest heroines in my metaphysical explorations were famous for their coffee.

The long and the short of this is that I did not bother to find out whether coffee or anything else affected my consciousness.  In fact, I was convinced I would be exactly the same regardless of what I ate or drank.  Basically, I think this is true if you are in touch with yourself, but it is not true when you are lost.

By 1980, I was deeply involved with Ayurveda and the concept of metabolic balance through digestibility.  All the theories of Ayurveda made perfect sense to me; they interface well with astrology; and they are almost impossible to reconcile with fad diets, including the Blood Type Diet.  It worked, however, for me that each person is born with a constitutional type and therefore has specific systems of the body that are better developed than other systems.  This supported the insights into chakras that I had while meditating, and it gave me a handle on complex issues that were challenging to patients and practitioners.

The 80s were grounding for me.  I was living in Santa Fé; everything was exciting.  It felt like I imagined Paris to have been in the late 1800s.  I was sure that if Degas or Chopin or even Marie Curie were alive again, they would be living in Santa Fé.  I started to feel a little less like a quiet observer and eternal student and more like there were creative forces in me working their way to the surface.  I became interested in genius and creativity and why mathematicians and musicians discover their talents so early in life and politicians, philosophers, and doctors do their best work when their peers have retired.  My astrology teacher died at the age of 97, but I never expected to live that long so I thought I better start writing.

My first book, still unpublished, was on music therapy, but it's really about memory.  The next was on astrology and cancer, and then I began work on Kitchen Doctor.  To make this understandable to others, you have to think about what I really do in a consultation.  Normally, people begin with a need to tell their stories.  Where cancer is concerned, you can imagine that the astrologer is often one of the last people consulted, after the oncologists, food pundits, and even after the aura balancers.  By this time, many people have been around the world in search of cure and their stories take a while to tell.  I was always listening on many levels, trying to find the common denominators among those who heal and those who do not as well as therapies that work and one's that do not.

So, I had heard about adventures with the Macrobiotic diet and Gerson diet and Kelley regime and so on and so forth from patients, none of whom were well . . . because if they were well, they would have written a book telling their story and never have found the need to see a medical astrologer.

Now, if one were working in a clinic providing a number of services, including dietary guidance, I am sure the picture looks quite different from what it looked like to me, and I was fully able to appreciate that many people might benefit from diets that fail for others. As I said, what I love about Ayurveda is that one does not have to get into the one size fits all rut.  This said, books were coming out, everything from Diet for a Small Planet to books on the acid-alkaline balance.  By 1990, I found the issues of what constitutes an appropriate cancer diet inescapable.  I hired a patient to research the matter, and we wrote a book together (that was taken from my house and never returned.)

My idea was a bit theatrical.  I had a sort of visual image an oversized, misshapen character accompanied by Sherlock Holmes with his magnifying glass.  They go into the kitchen and open cupboards.  Holmes reads labels and removes everything with chemical preservatives, harmful dyes, MSG, and so on and so forth, and the giant puts the prohibited items into a big black bag.  On the way out, he grabs the microwave oven, aluminum pots, and expired vitamins.  That's just day one, but it's a good start.

There are some matters on which even the most disparate voices agree: no refined carbohydrates, no processed foods, and no cocktails.  After this, there is not all that much accord.  I think rational people would choose fresh, organic food, but there are a countless paid pundits who challenge this, but they look rabid to me; and frothing more at the mouth and shouting louder has failed to convince me that commercial foods are safe for people who are ill.  We have to keep in mind that research is channeled through big institutions that depend on grants.  These, in turn, are awarded on the basis of consensus and this consensus is sought in mainstream circles where thinking outside the box is probably not only discouraged but punished.  Ergo, there is a lot of bad "science" to sift through so it's best to rely on outcome and even some Senators are now talking about the need for outcome research because the multi-billion dollar "war on cancer" is not being won.  Guess what?  It never will be won if this means no renewal of grants.

I am not a cynic; in fact, I'm an optimist, but it's important to get out of the box in order to think clearly and see things as they are.  Then, one can get a grip on reality and do something about one's circumstances.  Every patient knows that if they go to an oncologist, there will be conventional and predictable recommendations and maybe discouraging statements made about alternatives.  Likewise, if you go to a dietitian, you will get supplements; but an herbalist will pitch the vitamins and suggest herbs.  Once you see how limited the training is, you should be able to give yourself permission to explore.  Think of it as you would other kinds of shopping.  If you have definite taste in clothes and furniture, you expect to go to several stores before finding what you want.

The patient I hired to research the cancer cookbook used to say, "I hate things that are Xeroxed."  I asked her what she meant.  She said, she didn't want to wear something that looked like what everyone else was wearing.  This is good.  It means that she didn't get stuck in a very sensitive teenage dilemma of how to gain peer approval and she went on to craft her own identity; however, you can only avoid the copies if you seek out handmade articles.  Whether one is talking about clothing or food or medicine, there is home grown food, usually found in farmer's markets, and artisan herbal tonics made in small quantities in wonderful laboratories that really know how to source good plant materials.  If you are seeking your own Path, you will find a fit if you keep looking, but you must look.

The approach I was using to the cookbook was basically Ayurvedic, and it relied on the digestibility of foods.  This was not the exclusive twist, but it was the underlying concept.  I believe that most people with cancer have slow metabolisms.  Doctors sometimes jump when I say this because the site where the tumor is located usually has excessive metabolic activity, but this is unique to that part of the body:  the digestive system is usually weak, meaning that the patient does not produce enough hydrochloric acid, enzymes, insulin, bile, etc., etc.  Balance therefore depends on eating foods that are easier to digest, or one can supplement with pills, but it is actually probably better to learn what can be readily metabolized and what produces bloating, distension, discomfort, mucus, and maybe flatulence.  For instance, meat is hard to digest but tempeh is fermented and thus predigested.  It is easy to digest.  Likewise, dairy products, especially cold milk, cheese, and ice cream, are hard to digest, but yoghurt and kefir and quark have cultures that aid digestion.  Though I have not seen studies, I suspect, that camembert is easy to digest because the hyphae have penetrated deep into the cheese and softened the cheese in preparation for delivering it to the mold.  I am not saying to eat moldy cheese; I am just suggesting that we observe food and learn what we can and cannot digest.

Alcohol is basically a sugar and is usually on the list of prohibited foods, but I think a little red wine is okay, but I always have trouble communicating correctly what "a little" means.  I think it means 2-4 glasses per week, not per night!  Most beer is dreadful, but there are flavonoids in some bitter beers like Guinness so sometimes one does not need to abstain so much as to choose carefully and wisely.

There might even be a few aperitifs that are not so bad.  In Europe, I found some wonderful ones made of black walnuts.  I actually tested them on blood parasites and I think the old monks were onto something.  The brand I found was even called L'Hermitage.  There are also some great digestive bitters.  In this country, we usually find Campari but very seldom Cynar.  We can also find Jägermeister and Gammal Dansk but rarely my personal favorite which is Appenzeller Bitter.  Explore!  Besides the familiar Angostura and Pernod, we have Unterberg, Fernet Branca, and countless other gentian-based bitters that can make it possible to remain sociable without turning cancer into a recipe for isolation.

As the days progress, I will keep adding to this introduction, but I felt I needed to start by giving some of my background.  Then, you can judge for yourself whether to pay any attention to what I write on food or whether to go with Johanna Budwig, Rudolf Breuss, or one of the other authoritative authors in the field of cancer diets.  This said, I want to say, we are not pioneers.  Hildegard of Bingen had recipes for patients . . . that was 800 years ago so we have to see that we have been really slow to connect the dots and take charge of our own wellness.

I'm always a little iconoclastic so you have to take that into account; but even in my zeal for reform, I still know how to compromise because I have found that compliance increases when diets are more congenial.  I do not think will power feels good to the subconscious so austere diets that appeal to the brain may not be nourishing to the body if the body feels that "mind over matter" is a tyrant.  I try to help facilitate a body-mind connection so if I find a way to prompt creative changes, I will stay closer to the middle lane and not so far off to the left or right.  For instance, some people will be very tough sounding on the issue of oil, but I think we should talk about the quality of oil, not the common oils that are often as not associated with free radicals and oxidative stress.

. . . to be continued


Ingrid Naiman
9 April 2006




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Taste and Elements || pH Balance

Kicharee Recipe || Lycium Berry Smoothie



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