In the past decade we’ve placed SO much emphasis on whole foods, clean foods, paleo vs. vegan, gluten-free, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant... I think we’re there already, don’t you? We know what healthy eating is. ENOUGH ALREADY! I want to move beyond the research, the data, the shoulds, the restrictions (and the ensuing guilt), and plant my flag right here: are you really being nourished by what you eat?
What is nourishment?
I’ll always remember the first retreat I cooked for at the Commonweal Cancer Help Program in Bolinas, California in 2000. With transient taste changes and discomfort resulting from treatment, people with cancer may eat so little they become malnourished. My challenge was to provide appealing, healing, tasty food. (In fact, this became a centerpiece of my culinary work.) It wasn’t just about nutrition; it was about comfort and nourishing these beautiful people on a very deep level. I rose to the occasion, and watching their faces as they took tentative bites and responded with closed eyes and blissful expressions was unforgettable! That’s nourishment. Deep comfort and delight. I’ve been signing my books “nourishing thoughts” ever since.
Julie Burford, my beloved Soup Sister and neighbor about whom I’ve frequently written (watch us making soup together here) is always on the frontline of cooking for people in need. She’s the Florence Nightingale of the kitchen, the one in our neighborhood who absolutely shows up with something nourishing or comforting or both when someone is sick or struggling. Her husband Stan says, “She’s the edible therapist!”
There have been a flood of people in her world who have been ill lately, including five people this week. Granted Julie’s 74 and has a bit more time on her hands now that she’s not running a non-profit, but she. Steps. Up. Every time. For her friend diagnosed with Parkinson’s... or for friends of friends... or friends of friends of friends! “Oh, I got home early from dinner tonight,” she says breezily. “I can whip up a batch of butternut squash soup.”
She has her tentacles out for who needs what when, and an extraordinary capacity to nourish. Without any compensation. I mean, don’t even think about it! She cooks for a woman who has chronic leukemia every week.