Following my retreat in May 2012, I purged our pantry and freezer of all flours, pastas, whole grains (including oats and rice) and sugars, and I cleared off shelves to make room for seaweeds, dried mung beans, Job’s tears, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and other staples. I didn’t renew our share in a local meat CSA, because the only meats allowed on my new diet are duck and pork. We donated most of the meat in our freezer (lamb, beef, chicken) to a food pantry. Almost all of our spices and herbs moved to a high shelf, out of my reach.
(By early fall, rice and some other grains were back in the kitchen, mostly for John, but, I confess, sometimes I need a little rice–brown/black/wild–along with the usual beans or lentils to liven up my steamed vegetables and pork/duck/fish.)
I stored the coffee maker and grinder (to use when we have company) and got a single cup machine for John’s breakfast.
Next, I replaced all our plastic food containers with glass storage jars and dishes. Even BPA free plastics can leach out chemicals, so why risk it? Three years ago, before my diagnosis, we bought a Sodastream carbonator so we could make sparkling water in glass carafes, mostly to reduce environmental waste, but also because I think of water in plastic bottles as “hormone water.”
Twice a week I cook up large quantities of mung beans and Job’s tears and refrigerate them in glass containers. I also store all our dried foods in either glass or ceramic jars or in stainless steel canisters. Of course, most non-fresh foods are sold in plastic containers, so I’m sure there’s going to be some chemical contamination. (By the way, those carbonless receipt copies that you get from ATMs, restaurants and cash registers are loaded with BPA–avoid prolonged contact with them and don’t recycle them. See http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/plastic.)
I didn’t have to upgrade our cookware. Herbalists just don’t use aluminum or non-stick pans for cooking, since those surfaces can react with herbs and food, altering taste and efficacy while adding toxins. All my pots and pans are stainless steel, glass, or ceramic.
I am consciously trying to let food be my medicine, using my newly organized kitchen as a compounding pharmacy.
This whole dietary endeavor isn’t as cheerless as it sounds, though. I often enjoy the alchemical challenge of transforming a narrow range of ingredients into a variety of dishes. The condiments, herbs, and spices that support my treatment goals, though quite limited, add enough zest to stave off total boredom.
John gallantly offered to eat only what I eat–to show solidarity with this restricted diet–but I let him off the hook. My diet targets specific and shifting internal conditions in my body. John and I follow a plan that has worked for more than a year. For most breakfasts we prepare our own very different foods (I have Job’s tears and asparagus), except for a shared bacon (local, nitrate free) and eggs breakfast two or three times a month (he gets toast and honey). John has whatever he wants for lunch (at work), while I have mung beans, seaweed, and shiitake mushrooms. Dinner at home together follows my diet but he augments his meal with bread, cheese and sometimes wine.
I’d like to report that I follow this diet all the time. Not so! When we travel or eat in restaurants with friends I try to stick as close to Daoist dietary principles as possible. But, for all my braggadocio about kitchen alchemy and the intellectual challenge of whipping up enticing meals of steamed vegetables and legumes, I occasionally cheat–sometimes outrageously, but always joyously. Food really is medicine, and sometimes sharing an apple galette with friends is just what the doctor ordered.