Feeding Your Soul

07 November 2009 3 comments

I am making my list and checking it twice...

...my grocery list, of course.  I have nineteen days until Thanksgiving and I am planning ahead.  This is one of the most important days of my year...and not just because of gratitude...

But also because of The Food.

Who among us doesn't love this holiday?  Who doesn't look forward to a moment alone in the kitchen to steal a morsel off a serving tray?  We have food rituals and we have family rituals.   We have our usual litany of complaints, quips and calls to cut the turkey.

Thanksgiving is a time of laughing and of eating.  It is a time to assemble with family and/or friends to toast good health to be able to sit at a table, good fortune to have food to eat, counting our blessings -- but not counting calories.  

Above all, Thanksgiving is a time to savor food.   So --what are you eating?

Thanksgiving foods are endemic to American Folk History.  Our predecessors ate these foods because these ingredients were what was available to them in the Late Autumn.  It is not at all coincidental that the foods we eat for Thanksgiving nourish our bodies to prepare for winter.

In fact, much of folk medicine history views food as medicine as well (dietary medicine, my passion!).   Foods have medicinal qualities -- just as watermelon is available in the heat of summer...it cools the body and can be eaten for high fever.   The very Thanksgiving dishes you eat for this ceremonial meal nourish your blood, warm your body, aid in digestion -- and basically prepared you for a season of cold -- and in years past, hardship.

Those in colder climates know that winter feels as though it ages us.  We can care for our bodies by feeding our bodies with the foods which can be medicine for what ails us.   Thanksgiving dinner is just the meal to strengthen our bodies and souls against winter's cold winds.

Most people know all about turkey...so I will focus on the side dishes.   Starting with the stuffing:   we mostly make our stuffings from bread -- wheat bread.   Wheat has the quality to nourish the heart, strengthen the blood and to calm us.

Yams, although truthfully they were never my favorite, do work to strengthen the lungs, the digestion and the blood.   It is also thought in Traditional Chinese Medicine that yams strengthen the semen.  (Hey, it's a long winter....)

Hard squashes (butternut, kambocha) are fantastic!!!  They nourish our pancreas, balancing our blood sugar.   It is not necessary to garnish with honey or brown sugar...they are already so sweet.   Sprinkle with cinnamon, which warms the muscles and strengthens us against pathogens -- or cumin, which activates blood circulation.

Cranberries have the unusual medicinal quality of helping your body to digest fats (think turkey and butter!)   Plus, when grated together with orange peel they provide a very strong digestant to protect against bloating. (Have you ever noticed that they serve orange slices after the meal in a Chinese restaurant?)

The pumpkin pie...my favorite, strengthens the blood, the lungs, the spleen and pancreas.   Eating pumpkin, in fact, helps to treat bronchial asthma.

Last but not least, hot spiced apple juice, made with cinnamon (mentioned above) and nutmeg (activates blood circulation, can relax you, especially when Aunt Gertrude starts on one of her tirades.  Apples in fact, can also relieve mental depression, aid the appetite, nourish the lungs and strengthen the blood.

For all you who cook...this is the ultimate way to nourish your family.   Cook with intent and with love.

I toast your good health.


  • MC TCM said...

    You're all hilarious.
    Did you by chance check out this week's Prairie Home Companion? A great Thanksgiving show. I especially liked the commentary on the "mysterious and merciful effects of tryptophan." You'll have to check it out in a few days when it's posted on the site (prariehome.publicradio.org).


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