Whew! How quickly a week races by, am I right? Here we are again, darling Celebrationists.
With so many positive things happening in my life at the moment, for me, this past week has been about wrestling with some sneaky Upper Limiting Problems! If you’re not familiar with this term, as I wasn’t until fairly recently, check out this short but potent Daily OM article: http://www.dailyom.com/library/000/001/000001907.html – I PROMISE it’s worth your read. I’m not going to expand very much because we’ve got a LOT to cover today, but let me just say – this treasure of an article is my personal gift to you for the week. You’ll be glad you read it. And if you’re feeling super generous with yourself? Pick up a copy of that book.
Ok! I’m going to share my 3 statements of gratitude and then cut right to chase, because we’ve got another exciting GBD to meet!
1. I am grateful for my friend Kevin Gilmartin who took me to a wonderful play, And I and Silence, at Signature Theatre, last night.
2. I am grateful to have laundry in my new building! My first-ever New York apartment to have it!
3. I am grateful for this morning’s affirmation in my “I Can Do It 2014 Calendar: 365 Daily Affirmations,” by Louise Hay. It reads “Forgiveness is a gift to myself. It is easy and rewarding to forgive.”
All right, friends. This is the tenacious, talented, and taste-bud-tantalizing Jacqueline Raposo.
(photo by the talented Kym Fajardo)
Jax is an article-writing, story-telling, dog-snuggling, play-acting, treat-making lady with a wonderful story of her own. Jacqueline has been dealing with Lyme Disease for a significant part of her life. A disease which makes physical pain, digestive issues, (and and more that we’ll get to in just a moment) a big part of every day life. Since being diagnosed, Jacqueline has explored a variety of natural and holistic methods of healing – which she shares in the most generous of ways. Her creations, discoveries, and insights can delight and inspire people who are coping with chronic illness, or folks who are just seeking a healthier and more enlightened lifestyle!
As a vegan who is fascinated by natural healing and home remedies, I’m particularly fond of Jacqueline’s view about “food as medicine.” Read on, to hear more…
Can you share with the folks out there who may not be so clear about it – what is Lyme Disease like? When were you diagnosed?
JR: Generally, Lyme affects people neurologically (headaches, confusion, memory problems, overstimulation by sound and light) and in the joints, producing swelling and a lot of pain. There are over 300 documented symptoms, so it’s a bit of a mess.
I was first diagnosed when I was twelve, and again when I was nineteen. When first diagnosed I had excruciating pain in my legs, so I was in a wheelchair for a while. In college it was more about my spine, making me blackout in class and wearing down my vertebrae. I had another really bad flair in my mid-twenties, which was mostly all-over body pain and a complete lack of appetite; I was lucky if I forced 500 calories in my body a day, and dropped thirty pounds. Also: severe adrenal fatigue, and pretty delicate digestive issues; I’ve been off cow-dairy, gluten, corn, soy, sugar, eggs, beef and a plethora of other things at varying points since that diagnosis. I’ve also had sleep issues, blood sugar issues, liver issues, nutrient absorption issues… lots of issues. But I still consider myself a very happy, fortunate woman!
On your blog you mention using food as medicine – when did you start experimenting this way, and how has it evolved?
JR: My first semester in college I started eating like your typical collegiate: pizza, beer, mac and cheese…. I remember having such a severe migraine by Halloween that I had to skip parties and stay home during class. By second semester, I was cooking all meals myself in my dorm room or at friends’ apartments. It was the first time I really got how food makes such a huge difference for my health. Finding locally ground cashew butter or devouring brown rice and steamed broccoli was the first step towards my real relationship with food that would keep me as healthy as possible.
When I moved to New York, things changed significantly. All of a sudden there was more temptation, but also cuisines of varying ethnicities that I could explore: rice noodles, steamed dishes, curries with coconut and no dairy, cuisines that never used dairy!!! I made a choice that I’d either have to actively explore how to cook and bake well for myself, or I was going to continue to love/hate that simply sautéed chicken and steamed broccoli.
If you’re having a day where you feel under the weather, what are your go-to power foods? Do you have any, and do they change?
JR: Food is always changing for me, since my body has lived with Lyme for so long and is constantly evolving; there have been periods I’ve felt relatively “healthy” and been virtually pain free (!), and times (like now) where I can live “pristinely” and still find myself at the whim of my body’s hour-to-hour needs.
So right now my power foods are about reducing inflammation and soothing my spirit. Here are a few:
- Raw almonds: they’re awesome for protein, and the sort of bland, salt-free aspect makes me feel they’re absorbing some of the stress in my stomach. That’s what I impose upon them spiritually, anyway! There’s a huge difference in how we digest raw versus roasted/salted nuts, and I keep raw almonds on me almost always; if my blood sugar is at a dangerous point, they’re a great stabilizer and smooth things out safely without the threat of poor digestion or too much sodium.
- Carrot/ginger soup: I have this in my freezer a lot, ready for a day when everything feels on fire. It’s loaded with turmeric, ginger and cinnamon, all which help inflammation, and it’s really gentle on my stomach.
(Find this delight at http://thedustybaker.com/2014/09/08/battle-inflammation-carrot-ginger-soup/)
- Coconut water: I don’t do sports drinks, ever, and this gives me a boost of potassium physically and is yummy, so it makes my head and heart happy, too. I know there are a lot of conflicting stories out there about the benefits, but when you have a compromised immune system and a limited diet, things like unsweetened coconut water are your dear friends.
- Organic, low-sodium chicken broth from the best company I can find: there are some days when things just go wrong, and I have to stay in bed. At home in NYC, I always have a container of organic chicken broth to warm up, as it gives my body something and is extremely soothing. If in Connecticut with my family, I usually ask them to grab me the chicken broth and some all-fruit popsicles. For some reason those two things make a sick day so much brighter!
- Peppermint tea: I used to hate herbal teas, since I’d been drinking them since childhood. But peppermint is so helpful for my headaches and stomachaches. I very much rely on mint oils, tea tree, and soothing herbs like chamomile and lavender to work my body and spirit.
- Lemon water: every morning I drink sixteen ounces of water with a lot of freshly squeezed lemon. I use organic lemons when I can, since they produce much better juice and actually taste far less acidic. This balances out the acid in my stomach from sleeping and sorta washes my digestive tract for the day. Very important when urging the body to absorb nutrients and let go of toxins, which I’m constantly struggling with.
Do you have a favorite ingredient, recipe or type of dish that you are especially enamored with, at this moment? Do tell : )
JR: Oddly enough, this relationship with food led me to a point where my job now is writing about chefs, farmers and food artisans, and I’m around food I can’t eat all the time! So more than a specific dish or ingredient, I’m really psyched to get cookbooks by chefs I’ve worked with and adapt something so that I can eat it. I just started a series where I’ll be adapting a recipe on my baking site www.thedustybaker.com, and link it to either a book review or a full version of an interview I’ve done with the chef on my writing site http://wordsfoodart.com It’s making me push myself to get out of my carrot soup and roasted vegetables on salad greens box and have fun with food again. So that’s really what I’m mostly enamored with right now; being so lucky that I’m being able to speak with professionals about their food and get suggestions for how I can adapt.
My next one up is Chef Jamie Bissonnette’s chicken liver mousse from his upcoming The New Charcuterie Cookbook http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Charcuterie-Cookbook-Exceptional/dp/1624140467 , out September 16th. The book is gorgeous, and I’m particularly excited because my docs have been telling me to eat more liver for years (I’ve never been fond of cooking it at home) and Jamie gave me a brilliant adaptation that I never would have known to do to replace the milk in the recipe. Can’t wait to get that one up.
But a short list of things I’d really not want to have to cook / bake without?
- Organic full-fat coconut milk and coconut cream; they’re the closest to mimicking the fat content in milk, and it makes adapting recipes really easy. Organic just tastes better, and low-fat anything has zero purpose in my book, as healthy fats are my friends.
- Coconut palm sugar: I don’t use stevia or any chemically altered. I’m not afraid of white sugar, and generally my recipes are not that sweet (except those done for a group thing, like my gluten and dairy-free Milk Bar adaptations, http://thedustybaker.com/category/recipes/milk-bar-mondays/ But when I have some extra cash or am making something for a special occasion I’ll want to eat with less worry, I trust coconut palm sugar to not threaten my blood sugar levels as aggressively as other sweeteners.
- Eggs! Organic, free-range, large eggs are my lovers! They’re magical! I had to cut down on eating them every single day because that’s the fastest way to developing a negative reaction to a food, but I love to make custards, crèmes, whipped meringue frostings, puff pastry… they’re just really delightful.
- Really yummy olive oil: if you’re a New Yorker, get thee to Fairway and sample their olive oils and really take the time to taste and enjoy and choose one you particularly like. Olive oil is like wine (which I also love); it’s so telling of where it came from and how it was made. Having a little really good olive oil (doesn’t have to be expensive) on hand makes a simple meal special, and it’s another healthy fat I adore.
- Raw honey: Honey from a small apiary is a completely different being than that “Grade A Amber” stuff you see on grocery shelves, which is blended and mixed and reduced so that the good stuff is boiled out of it. Raw honey has pollen, so it’s great for fighting allergies and inflammation, for building up immunity to air-born allergens, and it’s go SO MANY flavor possibilities depending on the flowers around where it’s made from. I’m obsessed with it; I’m on the second of a three-part series for one of my clients about it http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/07/how-honey-gets-made-bees.html
Besides using food as medicine, are there other practices in your life that re-energize you when you’re feeling low on fuel – physically, mentally, or spiritually?
JR: So many! My entire life now is focused around keeping my stress levels low. Here are a few that help the most:
- Giving thanks throughout the day: I have a Muslim call to prayer app on my phone, and when it goes off I say immediately what’s in front of me that I’m thankful for. It’s the difference of sitting at my desk in pain and frustrated that my brain’s not helping me get through a piece, or being happy at my sleeping dog at my feet, the tulips on my desk, the sunshine, the quiet, the tea in front of me. There’s so much to be thankful for, and keeping that in mind helps me focus on the good and not the pain.
- Flotation tanks and bathtubs: Constantly battling inflammation, I take Epsom salt baths daily in cooler weather, and one of my little indulgences is really good bubble bath (the lavender-patchouli-vanilla from Sabon is my running fav). I discovered flotation tanks years ago in Ireland through a friend with crippling bone issues; you delightfully settle into a bathtub or tank with so much salt that you float without effort, and so your weightless body doesn’t need your muscles to do any work for you. It’s also pitch black, and the hour in silence and darkness is so uber rejuvenating and restoring. I go to La Casa Day Spa in New York http://www.lacasaspa.com/spa-services/floatation/; it’s an affordable deal with a really calming space / staff. I’m trying oxygen therapy with them next time, too.
- When I can afford them, acupuncture and massage: I used to see my massage therapist, Denise Williams of Much Kneaded Massage http://www.muchkneadedmassage.com, twice weekly during that really bad period a few years ago; I wouldn’t have been able to move without her, truly. I’m currently trying to figure out how to budget to see her once a month; I’ve been seeing her for over ten years and couldn’t trust a massage therapist more.
- Meditation: During that same particularly bad period, I found meditation at Integral Yoga http://iyiny.com. My body was attacking itself so violently that my brain couldn’t keep up, and I had a really hard time having any control of my thoughts. They do free twice-daily group meditation, and I started going several times a week and took a quick workshop. I credit it for helping reduce my physical and mental stress to a point that my body could take a breath and work at healing itself. Meditation is my grounding point, and I try it from all sources.
Now, you’ve done a lot of food writing, too – and not just on your blog. Can you give us some hi-lights?
JR: A personal highlight was wrapping up my 2+ year chef interview column for Serious Eats http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2014/04/what-interviewing-nyc-chefs-taught-me.html?ref=title. That column really helped me find my niche, writing about passionate people and learning more about a craft I admire. I did a final piece on five life lessons from some of from them on my site http://wordsfoodart.com/2014/04/29/5-life-lessons-from-my-ending-we-chat-with-column/.
Another really fun one was documenting the experience of flying to an island in the Caribbean to make a wedding cake for a friend, when I’d never made a wedding cake before! I had three of NYC’s finest chefs help me, and it made for a really fun series http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/06/how-to-make-wedding-cake-nyc-pastry-chef-part-4.html!
How can non-chronically-ill people help their friends who have to struggle with their health?
JR: Ask them how they’re feeling, and then really listen to them. A lot of illnesses are invisible, so people forget to ask a loved one often in pain how they are. It means so much when someone who knows of my illness asks how I’m feeling, and then doesn’t tune out or say something general back. Alongside the blessings and positivity are a lot of pain and feelings of isolation; my life is more solitary when I have to budget time for all that medicine and cooking and meditating and floating. So a friend really caring enough to know what living in my body is like and letting me know that they see how hard and rewarding it is…. that’s special. I’m getting choked up just thinking about that.
For example, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a beautiful thing. But I encourage people to not just make donations and post things on social media. If you have a friend with an illness, just dropping an email, sending a card, making a real phone call, sending flowers for no reason or stopping by for a visit is a huge mitzvah. When someone goes through something surgical or major, those things abound. But months and years of illness are often harder. Someone taking a little time to reach out is truly, truly, a HUGE bit of good!
What is another organization you believe to be doing Little Bits of Good?
JR: A woman with Lyme disease, Allie Cashel (who happens to live only one block from me!), is writing a book on living with chronic Lyme called Suffering the Silence http://sufferingthesilence.com/ ,out next year. She started an online community (along with a friend, Erica, who has Lupus) for those of us with chronic illness to share our stories. I met the two ladies recently at our local coffee shop and there is nothing more soul-filling than speaking with similarly positive, hard-working people who battle health issues with strength, humor and hope. Their project is just getting off the ground, but meeting them really made me feel a bit less alone in this body.
They asked me to write about my experience for their site [http://sufferingthesilence.com/jacqueline/#sthash.VI09w63D.dpbs], and the emails I got in response from people in my life was overwhelmingly beautiful; some confided illnesses in me that they don’t largely speak about, and others told me how much it helped them or someone they love who’s also living with Lyme. Community is so important, and what Allie and Erica do makes it easier to find that camaraderie.
What is the best thing that happened to you today?
JR: I got a beautiful bunch of tulips in my grocery delivery this morning that are sparkling in the sunshine on my desk! I try to surround my workspace with things that make me happy, and these are making my soul sing right now.
Also, writing this. I battle with making sure that my writing skills / time / whatever do something good for the world as often as I can, rather than just writing about caring for honeybees http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/08/how-to-raise-bees-honey-beekeeping-introduction.html?ref=title or to make herb jam http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/national/17762/A_North_African_herb_jam_that_goes_on_everything.htm (which I really love doing, too!). So writing about an experience for Allie and Erica and you is really soul-filling. Thank you!
Thank you so much, Jax! Best wishes as you keep sharing your knowledge, beautiful spirit, and thoughtful insights! And once again, be sure to check out Jacqueline’s website http://thedustybaker.com
Have a great week everyone! And check back next week for more Little Bits of Good!