Adventure Tales: Desert Yin & Middle Eastern Food

21 January 2010 1 comments

The world -- our world -- is divided into and balanced as yin and yang. 

 Yin is the shady side of the slope, the moist, the feminine, the moon, the stream, the rain.   Yang is the sunny side of the slope: the brightness, the active, the hot, the masculine and the desert.

We were so lucky to have an early morning rainbow -- supreme Yin -- over the arid Yang of the (Machdesh) Ramon Crater in the Negev.    Everything in life, everywhere you see, Yin and Yang find a way to balance themselves.

This is especially apparent in food -- my favorite subject -- and in the way that nature makes exactly those foods available to us that we need at especially the correct time of year -- and for the correct climate.    

In the place where we were visiting, the environment is rugged, tough.  Dry.   Hot, direct sun.   Of course with all those Yang conditions a person would need to eat foods very Yin in nature to help their body to be able to weather those conditions -- i.e. how watermelon, which has the medicinal quality of cooling the body is available really only in the hottest part of the summer.

In my Chinese herbal pharmacy there is an herb which is called Fu Zi (Aconite Root).   This herb warms the body on a very deep level...and it is said that it grows on the top of the highest mountains in a very cold environment.   This cold environment causes the plant to build up "interior warming" qualities which then apply themselves to our bodies when boiled into tea for certain conditions.

While on our adventure, I was not surprised to find the that the foods most abundant in this region were those which were very, very Yin in nature:  tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, avocadoes.   These vegetables are so Yin, in fact, that in normal circumstances I don't recommend that people eat them year-round....and certainly for patients with "cold" and "damp" conditions these are almost never suggested.

According to Traditional Chinese dietary medicine, Yin foods such as tomatoes and cucumbers would never be eaten in the cold of winter or with a weak spleen....and yet in the dryness of the desert...and to my appetite...these felt like the exact correct foods to eat.   

Plus, olive oil, normally not consumed in my family in large volume, disappeared under our hands (and our pitas) by the pint in the desert.    When faced with Yang conditions, we needed Yin.  We craved it.

Chickpeas fried into falafel were also perfect to eat under these conditions.

For a few days, we ventured up into the mountains...where it was cold, cold, cold and damp...and suddenly cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers were served but did not feel right.

We had plenty of hot cocoa...which fit the bill, I can tell you.  And Bedouin Tea of course (see January 20th post).   The Dan River trout was the perfect and nourishing Yang food to eat in this Yin climate.

Then back to the desert...and fountains of Yin and oil.    Okay, not really "fountains"...but you get the picture.

As we learn the medicinal qualities of food and how they can balance our environment -- and our conditions -- we can keep ourselves healthy.   Our overall health -- and our long term health really does depend on our ability to keep our bodies in season with our environments, on balancing Yin and Yang, on our hopeful attitudes -- 

--and on having a few adventures along the way.



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