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My Grandmother's Love For Food

26 Oct
This article was featured in the Holistic Moms Network Magazine, 

As a young girl, I would look forward to seeing the look on my Chinese grandmother’s face at meal times.  I could eat seven bowls of salted fish fried rice and one whole order of sweet and sour pork (yes, including the last bits of peppers and pineapples) in one sitting.  ‘Mama’ would beam at me.  That look she gave me made me feel proud because it was the one thing I did that pleased her.  My older cousin Snow White was her favourite, with her white complexion, dark thick hair and red lips.  Her second favourite was my younger brother because he too was fair and well… he is a boy, the favoured gender for the Chinese.  Snow White’s younger sister, Tomboy, and I were at the bottom of Mama’s fave list – probably because we were the darker ones of the brood.  Still, I did make Mama proud when I ate a meal for three!  And I loved to please her.

Then I went off the college.  I gained my freshman 30, turned vegetarian and while trying to lose weight, I started dreading meal times with Mama.  I dreaded sitting next to her the most because that meant having to eat everything she put on my plate, non-vegetarian items included. She would pile my plate high with food.  And when dessert came and I declined, she would say: “Why?  It’s good for you!”   My college I-know-it-all attitude would speak up “THAT is good for me? Are you kidding? I don’t think so!  I need to lose weight! Besides, I don’t eat meat or fish.” Mama wouldn’t beam at me anymore.  Her looks across the table (I’d choose to sit far away) would be a contorted grimace my way.  Sigh.  I was definitely at the bottom of her list now.

Recently, my husband, son and I visited my grandmother.  She is quieter and more timid these days, but food still is the most important part of her day.  Food brings her closer to others.  It is during mealtimes that she takes pleasure in sharing experiences and thoughts and feelings with friends and family.  It also pleases her to watch others enjoy food.  During our first dinner together while visiting Mama, my son was sound asleep.  Mama fretted that he wouldn’t have enough food to eat afterward.  Then, just as we were about to leave the restaurant, my 3 year old son woke up and devoured the leftover pineapple slices on the table and quickly asked “More please!”  From  the corner of my eye, I saw Mama’s body suddenly come alive.  I glanced at her and saw her face transform into that familiar beam.  Was it to me?  Or was that beam for my son?  I’m not sure.  I watched as Mama’s smile seemed to grow wider every second as she watched my son eat four more orders of pineapple slices.  She was obviously so proud of watching her great grandson enjoy his food.

Mama and I may have very different views on nutrition.  Although she has accepted that I am a raw foodie, I don’t think she would ever agree with my diet choice.  She loves canned Vienna Sausage, candy and fried pork rinds too much.  But when I see my grandmother’s eyes sparkle, her cheeks glowing full of pride and her whole body bursting with energy and delight at watching my son eat pineapple, I realize we are more alike than I thought.

(Hmmm, now I wonder if having a son who loves to eat increases my ranking power with Mama?)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Recently, our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) gave us a pound of peanuts.  I don’t like raw peanuts, so I cooked them – just the way Mama used to eat peanuts when I was growing up.  She would  sometimes sit at the table in the late afternoon, shelling and eating boiled peanuts.

Although boiled peanuts are clearly not raw, they are a local, in-season, unprocessed and unrefined cooked food.  Yesterday, my son asked to eat cake for breakfast instead of the usual raw fare (we were at a sugar filled birthday party the night before).  He stopped asking for cake as soon as I brought out these boiled peanuts.  I don’t know about you, but I would prefer my son to eat this than a piece of  processed cake!  This recipe is simple, easy and truly addictive.  Enjoy!

Place in the slow cooker on high for at least 8 hours until tender:
1 pound raw unshelled peanuts, clean well
1/4 cup sea salt
4 cups water
Keep checking water level to make sure there is enough to just cover the peanuts.  Serve hot or cold.

Peanut Butter Anyone?

14 Apr

“Let’s go have lunch.   We’re having Peanut Butter Jelly sandwiches today!” I tell my son who is dilly dallying in the public toilet.  My son smiles and eagerly makes his way to the exit.  His friend overhears us and says exuberantly “We are having Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches too!!!!”  He also hurries to head out for his lunch.  Yes, kids love their all American PBJ!  All the children in our playgroup have PBJs for lunch when we meet twice a week.  But with allergies to peanuts increasing and schools banning anything with peanuts and other tree nuts, I want to know if peanut butter is healthy for those who can eat them.  Am I offering my son a healthy lunch twice a week?

Mainstream Perspective
The Good: 
– high in monounsaturated fat
– high in polyphenols and antioxidants
– high in Vitamins A, C, E
– helps prevent cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, lose weight

– more from World’s Healthiest Foods: Peanuts 

Ayurveda Perspective

In Ayurveda, organic peanuts in their shells are considered a nutritious food especially for Vata types (characteristics of Vata children: thin, dry skin, gassy, difficulty gaining weight).  It is particularly helpful to eat them when one is weak, when getting better from an illness, for cleaning out the red blood cells, for skin diseases, for diabetes and during lactation.  It must be avoided however if there is any allergy, congestion, autoimmune disorder, yeast infection and cancer.  Peanut butter is considered too heavy and oily for Kapha types (characteristics of Kapha children: thick lustrous hair, fair/pale complexion, oily skin, gains weight easily, slower in movement than other kids). Is my child Vata, Pitta or Kapha type?
Natural Health/Alternative Perspective

The Bad: from Mercola
– one of the most pesticide laden foods
– heavy in omega 6, which distorts the proper omega 3:6 ratio
– often contaminated with carcinogen aflatoxin

What to do? also from Mercola
– buy organic (pesticide free)
– throw top oil out and stir in olive oil or macadamia nut oil instead (so you don’t distort your child’s omega ratio)
– buy Arrowhead Mills Organic Peanut Butter.  (They are produced with Valencia peanuts in New Mexico, where there is apparently no mold due to their dry weather conditions.)

Raw Perspective
– buy raw, organic peanuts – these can be sprouted or blended to make butter, but I hear it does not taste so good
– eat raw nut and seed butters instead, there are so many like Raw Almond Butter, Tahini, Pecan, Coconut, Macadamia, Pumpkin and Cashew.  Raw Almond Butter tastes most like peanut butter.  Sometimes, for children who don’t particularly like the taste, they will eat it if there is some coconut and honey with it.

Raw Chocolate Fudge: one of our son’s favourite snacks

Mix together:
1 tbsp raw almond butter
1 tbsp raw coconut oil
1 tbsp local organic honey
1 tbsp of raw cacao powder or carob powder

Serve with banana or other fruit.