Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nourishing Jing Essence

In Chinese medicine, the winter season is governed by the Water element. The associated organs are the Kidneys and the Bladder. It is within the Kidneys that our Jing or Essence resides. I view our Essence as our true nature and the supreme residence of our life force. 
I have returned once again to the Claude Larre and Elisath Rochat de la Valee translation of the Su Wen. I love these texts with all of my heart. Each season I dive into their wisdom and discover something new that I had not read before. The texts are poetic descriptions of our intimate relationships with the cycles of nature. 
It is during this time that Yin predominates, we move more slowly and we go deeper inside of ourselves as the darkness of Winter settles upon us.
While reading these beautiful words I have been taking great care to nourish my own Essence by researching, and preparing delicious and warming foods. My dishes have included ginger, beets, zucchini, artichokes, squash, pumpkin and a variety of beans and warming spices. 

The Su Wen chapter 2 states that in the winter season, heaven and earth are like strangers without any communication between the two. The direction of the North is the season of the cold. Water and soil are separated, it is the period to keep seed safe for germination. During this time, there is an underlying understanding that we are suppose to return to the energy of the North, the true unity of the heavens. 
During this time, we may reconnect with our spiritual practices at a deeper level by going inward.
We may also feel the need to live more in retreat, at home, by the fire or preparing nourishing foods with friends and family members.

Root vegetables, meats, bone marrow broth, onions, chicken, saltier, bitter and heavier foods that require longer periods of preparation and digestion are suggested during this time. 
The Kidneys govern the lower parts of the body and are responsible for warming the system. They represent the state of Yin and Yang in the body. 
The color associated with the Kidneys is black, the number six and the sound is a groaning. When there is a separation of the Yin and Yang energies of the Kidneys, there may also be the emotion of fear. 
While considering foods that nourish Jing, I have been studying how each food may support and provide longevity and productivity while also nourishing the Earth element and digestion. We need a strong capacity to digest nutrients so that they may intern feed the Kidneys as well as nourish the blood.


This soup above was made from beets and other root vegetables. It was topped with creme fraiche and crushed pistachios and the remaining frozen parsley from the garden. I have also made beet soups with other roasted vegetables. The soup below was made with carrots, onions, garlic, a potato and topped with creme fraiche again and fresh dill.

 Each batch is unique and feels fortifying and warming to the core. Beets, as all red foods in Chinese dietary medicine, nourish the blood.

The soup below was made with kidney beans. Between the soaking and simmering, this soup took almost two days to make. In the end, this was worth every second. There is the following philosophy in Chinese food preparation and cooking, that the longer it may take to create, the more potent the medicine of the food. 

Much of my Winter cooking and food choices have been inspired by Stefanie Sack's MS, CNS, CDN new book What the Fork Are you Eating  published by Tarcher/Penguin. This is one of the most insightful books that I have ever read. She includes important information that we all need to be aware of, not only as consumers but also with regards to our nutritional choices. 
Stefanie has included pages of meaningful resources that simplify definitions and terms that are used in the regulations of the food industry.
Great care and attention to detail was given to this important book. We want to take the time to nourish ourselves with the best ingredients possible but this can often be confusing in a world with so many choices. Stefanie graciously presents us with many truths and alternatives in our day to day culinary choices.

I especially love Stefanie's recipes. The zucchini latkes above were inspired by her recipe found in the book. I have made them several times and they are always easy and delicious. 
To learn more about Stefanie and her amazing work please visit her site:

Thank you Stefanie!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Winter Beauty From Accabonac Harbor

Winter is upon us and it has brought a familiar chill and simple austere beauty. 

This January morning, I took these pictures as the Old Squaw sea ducks sang their unusual songs in the channel of the harbor.

Two beautiful swans also appeared, gracing us with their presence. 

I have been creating little collages from treasures that I find on my morning walks, cooking rich and warming foods, resting as much as possible between sessions with patients and nourishing Essence through stillness as the days slowly grow longer but are cold and windy. 

Winter beauties.

My next post will include my latest creations of beautiful foods that nourish Jing as also known as the Yuan Qi or Essence to the Kidneys in Chinese medicine.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Season of the Metal Element

   Autumn is approaching as the sun casts longer shadows and the quality of the light is growing more golden in color. The transition is now from the earth element to metal element in Chinese medicine. 
It is a time for gathering Qi, harvesting the bounty of the Summer and preparing for colder weather. 
This week I gathered small dried flowers from my garden and made this collage. A dried rose, Angelica seeds, Agastache, Nicotiana pods, Tithonia diversifolia, and Lantana seeds.
 The collage feels like Autumn so I went to my favorite series of books on Chinese medicine and began reviewing the Claude Larre and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee translations of the Su Wen. 
The Huangdi Neijing of the Yellow Emeperor's Inner Canon is an ancient medical text that has been referenced, studied and used in Chinese medicine for over two thousand years. 

                                                       According to the Su Wen, Chapter 5 

                                                   The western quarter gives rise to dryness,
dryness gives rise to metal,
metal gives rise to the acrid taste,
the acrid taste gives rise to the lung,
the lungs give rise to the skin and body hair,
the skin and body hair give rise to the kidneys,
the lung masters the nose. 

In heaven it is dryness, on earth it is metal
Among parts of the body it is the skin and body hair.
among the sang it is the lung,
among the colors it is white,
among notes it is shang,
among sounds it is sobbing,
among movements which react to change it is to cough,
among the orifices it is the nose,
among the tastes it is acrid,
among expressions of willpower it is grief.

Grief injures the lung,
joyful excitement prevails over grief.

Above is the Ideogram for the lung. Also known as 'fei'.

It is during this time that the lungs and large intestine are in their peak time of year.
I really like this description of the seasons and their relationship to internal organs by Ms. Rochat.
"In the the seasons we can see the unfolding and progress of time, and time is nothing other than a succession and movement of different qualities of qi. And the same succession and movement of qi occurs inside the human body in order to organize and maintain life."

Wishing everyone a fruitful Autumn.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Great South Channel

This past week I traveled to the Great South Channel to visit the whales. It was one of the most magical experiences of my life. Upon boarding the Viking Starship in Montauk, we traveled out to the channel at night via Martha's Vineyard. The invitation to join the CRESLI trip came through Dr. Carl Safina of the Safina Center.
We left the dock as the glowing full moon began to rise.

 After a sleepless night I went on deck to see the super moon setting and first light revealing itself after a misty night. The water was glassy, the pelagic birds were flying with grace across the flat ocean surface and the smell of coffee filled the air. Dreamy eyes emerged from sleeping bags and met the amazing glow of sunrise.

In the early morning hours I met a beautiful mer friend at the bow of the boat who sat upon coiled rope. She told me about what the day might bring… she advised me to be prepared… for the magic of the moment when the whales would begin to breach. She suggested that I have everything in place beforehand… extra snacks, cameras, clothing... because when we meet the whales we will not be able to leave the deck of the boat.
And she was right.

First, the Minke whales showed up, they are elusive and very mysterious. Fast. One passed under the boat, in the blink of an eye. Then the Fin whales and finally we met the majestic Humpbacks.

The great South Channel lies between Nantucket and the Georges Bank. The waters are filled with nutrients and sea life that provide whales with great quantities of food for them during their feeding season. They may consume up to one and a half tons of food per day which is necessary for their long journeys. They may travel as far as 1,000 miles per month during migration season.
Humpback whales can grow to 16-17 meters in length. Their average lifespan is 45-50 years of age. They were originally named by naturalist Georg Borowski in 1781 as Megaptera novaeangliae, meaning 'big wing of New England'.

Breaching, bubbles, floating calves, tail slaps, and the sounds of deep breaths followed by watery rainbows greeted us at the edge of the canyon.
We all were absorbed by the magic of the Atlantic Humpbacks.

Thank you CRESLI, your wonderful volunteers, the crew of the Viking, amazing Captains, Dr. Safina.  and all of the fellow nature lovers for making this such a special trip.