The Art of Healthful Cooking (for Sophie)

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The Life Theme of HEALTH is very appropriate for a January focus. So many of us make our New Years resolutions around our health issues, whether it is about improving our diets for weight and related issues or about eliminating unhealthy habits in our lives.

I’d like to share with regard to the HEALTH Theme about what I have been learning recently as I am now cooking 100% of my dog Sophie’s ‘diabetic diet.’

Dog diabetes is a daunting condition, as any of you know who have dealt with this.  Apparently almost all dogs who are beset by diabetes develop Type 1 such that the pancreas can no longer produce insulin. Many also develop cataracts that leads to blindness. And the first six months are the most dangerous for getting the condition under control and developing a good management program to maintain glucose level stability.

So Sophie and I are dealing with this big time. She is just 6 1/2 years old.  I have shifted her diet almost 100% to home cooked food and we are exercising 3-4 times per day plus I give her insulin–I call it “bacon boosts” because it is developed in pigs–twice a day.  Our excellent vet is a very caring person and we are trying to get the glucose down to a good level, though we have yet to achieve that in a stable way so far as I can tell after about 6 weeks.  We are down to an allowable range but are still working on all the right doses, etc.

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Cooking for Sophie truly is an art as well as a science.  With a good friend helping me at first to develop the right portions and ingredients, we now use about 1/3 three complex carbs per cup that I rotate with more that 1/3 pureed, low glycemic but high protein and/or high fiber veggies, and a little more than 1/4 cup of either chicken with liver, turkey with liver and beef with liver. The carbs are either low carb oatmeal or quinoa in the morning and, so far, pearled barley for dinner. I also give her one mid-afternoon treat usually without the complex carbs in that. We have the insulin after the morning and dinner meals and go for a walk after all three meals, at least.  In addition I give her a multi vitamin the vet gave us, plus taurine, bromelaine, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, turmeric, and Glipizide (to add a bit to the insulin force).

The veggies I use most are broccoli, zucchini, parsley, asparagus, pumpkin, celery, clover sprouts, some garbanzo beans, and green beans, occasionally adding some spinach or kale. I puree the veggies with some meat/ veggie broth and add the apple cider vinegar to the puree, the after warming everything I blend  it all together in the food processor, then add the vitamins.

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images are from pixabay.com

We see the vet next this coming Saturday: wish us good health! We are also going to an ophthalmologist the next Thursday to get a baseline on her eyes’ condition.

If anyone has advice or suggestions from your own experience, please share your Comments!

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One more note about this photo of Sophie from my previous post. Notice the stuffed animal hedgehog at her front paws. I hadn’t even realized that was there. Hedgehog is a very positive animal symbol that betokens persistence and overcoming obstacles. Go Sophie!

The Chef—Archetypal Maestro Extraordinaire

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Between Nature and Culture, as a famous chef insightfully claimed in a recent NPR interview—that is, between the Raw and the Cooked—, is food and its creative Maestro: the modern Chef. In every human society since the dawn of Culture itself, it is the cook or Chef who orchestrates the very Taste of tradition, stimulating the appetite and satisfying the palate of a people in any time or place. Whether a nursing Mother or a Michelin Star head chef, the one who transforms raw resources into the sorts of food that define a peoples’ signature cuisine is an Elder Leader of the highest magnitude.

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 In today’s globalized, multicultural pastiche of nationalities, religions, and colorful customs, the archetype of the Chef—as an Elder Leader—has taken on new layers of significance, deeper than ever before. It is the Chef who combines and harmonizes traditional foods from many sources of origin, creating haute cuisine from scraps and unifying spices that blend whole communities together in a delicious fusion of common ground.

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The recent film The Hundred Foot Journey   beautifully dramatizes this insight about the role of the Chef in today’s multinational cultural landscape. “The Chef leads,” says the young Indian protégé of his late mother’s exquisite cuisine as he boldly melds ancient continental Indian spices into classic French cuisine. The story is about more than this fusion of menus; it is about the interweaving and transformation of peoples brought together around these foods; about transcending ethnic boundaries symbolized by  their distinctive histories of food and temperament. When the Chef succeeds in overcoming all obstacles to ethnic divisions through inter-cultural romance and humble learning across the arc of international variety, then a new Fusion can emerge; a new world order of community itself can flourish.

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The Chef “makes it so!” by introducing the subtlety of change into a world once characterized mainly by sameness. “Viva la differance!” we may declare, appreciating a new tide of flavorful camaraderie. Similarly, Julie and Julia is about a blogger who celebrated Julia Child’s masterpiece cookbook that brought the rich Art of French Cooking to America shortly after WWII. The Spicer of life and forger of new cultural identities that foster peace and brotherhood is often the Chef of a new menu, n’est-ce pas?

What new items are on your changing menu of life experiences? How can you  bring about Better Endings metaphorically as the Chef of your own family meals?

 

Your Life As History

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Monday I felt I just had to go out to find the film Julie & Julia, as it is an appropriate parallel story for an enterprising author and for any blogger, of course. I streamed the movie and found the most relevant element for me to absorb was about the long process Julia Child undertook to transform American sensibilities in relation to more than just French cooking.  She was introducing a style, literally making palatable an attitude as well as a culinary revolution akin to the sexual liberation movement that developed in tandem with this European flair.

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What is a writer or an artist if not an innovator and somewhat of a provocateur? Julia’s persistence over many years of developing her talents and composing her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), served her well (not a pun! well, maybe so).  She merged American gastronomic desires for nouveaux choses with traditional rural French cuisine in a manner that freed not only the taste buds but as well the fertile imagination of Americans after WWII had already begun to open up for us new territories of European philosophical thought and literature/ culture. Spiritually I must infer this was no accident. Julia Child was the right person for the task she undertook with her grace and fortitude plus her special brand of loving, even lovably awkward humor.

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The parallel mythic aspects of Julie and Julia in relation to my own current life activity are obvious to me but that’s personal; not worth expounding here. Her perseverance and persistence despite the opposition she first encountered to a new approach that blended sensibilities rather than merely presenting one style in a didactic way offers lessons for many of us.

It was telling to see how Nora Ephron (screenwriter) drew parallel mythic connections in her screenplay between Julie Powell and Julia Child’s lives quite explicitly, fusing two historical epochs of an American in Paris from 1944-1961 with New York City in 2002, just after the 2001 Twin Towers disaster.

Our own story can merge with history itself in fundamentally useful ways. Julie Powell’s blog about cooking all of the recipes from Julia Child’s book in a year sparked the imagination of readers ready for a fresh inspiration to go beyond routine with a license to revitalize their passions. Powell actually worked for an agency helping victims from the Twin Towers attack to recover their own lives, so it is fascinating how she was led to intersect her own life and imagination with the life and times of Julia Child. Are there any accidents? I believe in co-incidence instead.

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So, where does your Life Story stand positioned in the ongoing flow of human history? I know, that’s a big question. But of course our personal life history narratives are and must be understood at some level as products of History itself.

But how to unpack this? Just a brief musing (I invite you to write your own reflections…):

Born in 1954, I experienced the 1960’s while in highschool in Lewiston, New York. I started a Human Relations Club there to honor and punctuate the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. within a mainly “Lilywhite” community. This along with a 10th grade class by one of my best early mentors (my English teacher, Mr. Scelsa)–in which for half the year we studied the Black literary Renaissance–led me to develop a sensitivity to issues of diversity in all forms. This was at a time when openness to new ideas was beginning to flourish. The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkle, and my next and lifelong mentor (who knows whom he or she is…) led me to want to be a writer, to make a contribution, to “make a difference” really in any way I might. So that led to 21 years of college, studying literature/philosophy,linguistics and cultural anthropology and then moving on to university teaching. These multidisciplinary threads and historical influences have coalesced to an interest in the interplay between cultural psychology and personal cognition, with the notion that we can free ourselves from self-limiting thoughts and behaviors, if we so choose.

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So, what about you? How does your Life Story intersect with History? What are the consequences?

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I welcome your insights and stories!