Since the beginning of our existence, we have been eating so many different dishes in so many different ways, and applying creativity to the way we prepare and experience our foods.
Knowing and respecting the origin of every ingredient we ingest – or as some may put it: the biography of each food – allows us to make conscious choices and cease to delegate the holding space of health and wellbeing to others.
When we shop for food, here are some of the questions we would love to have answers for, about the ingredients we will eventually ingest:
- Is this food alive and full of nutrients we are able to make use of?
- Is this food organic (grown in adequate conditions without having been exposed to pesticides, hormones or other life damaging chemicals)?
- Is this food contributing to soil regeneration for future crops?
- Has this food grown considering the sustainable management of water?
- Which label includes this information – legible and clear, so that everyone may understand?
Relevant Facts and Figures:
Did you know that Portugal is the world’s largest producer (26% of the world’s production) and consumer of the superfood Carob? Carob tastes like chocolate, contains virtually no fat, is gluten-free, high in antioxidants and fiber. Carob helps your heart, your nervous system and improves muscle function. Portugal grows and consumes Carob since the Moors inhabited the Iberian peninsula.
FOOD AS MEDICINE
Joana lived her teenage years without a pimple on her skin and, all at once, at age 23, her whole body and face were covered in pimples and cysts. She went to 3 different dermatologists, did all the tests they prescribed, took a lot of medication but nothing seemed to help.
One day, when she asked the third dermatologist “Is there any explanation for what is happening to me?”, the doctor replied “This is life, dear… Some people have skin problems, others don’t. Some have problems later in life, some earlier. Some have more severe symptoms, some less. We really don’t know why this is”.
At this point Joana decided to try something different: Chinese medicine. The Chinese doctor told her “Your biggest problem is that you eat very poorly and your body just can’t take it anymore. You have a lazy spleen that is not cleaning your blood of all the bad things you eat and that why you have pimples.
“Really? Is that it?!”
After only 1 month of acupuncture, phytotherapy and a change in her eating habits Joana was “pimple free”. She then realized there are a lot of people who don’t know how to live healthily, who don’t have access to places to eat healthy food and who don’t know whom to ask for advice.
These insights motivated Joana to develop and launch The Therapist in 2017 (7 years later) with its first location in LxFactory – Lisboa.
Switzerland’s Ernst Götsch studied and worked in several countries focusing in the area of genetic improvement (?) until in the 80’s he moved to Brazil to become an agricultural researcher and farmer.
He bought cheap land and gave it a frightening name: Farm of Dry Land, a 500-hectare deforested area that previously served as a cassava plantation and pig-breeding farm before it was abandoned. The problem: the land had no water.
Götsch began to experiment on his farm with various techniques that resulted in the development of a new cultivation process called synthropic agriculture, or agroforestry in its more evolved state. The new technique achieved high productivity across a wide variety of plant species, especially cocoa and banana.
Götsch is now a producer of one of the best cacao in the world. He is able to feed his family and at the same time earn an income from the land.
Götsch also reforested 410 hectares within his farm, allowing the native Atlantic Forest to grow wild once more with its unique flora and fauna. Since then, 14 springs have reemerged, prompting Götsch to change the farm’s name to “Farm of the Water Springs”.
SOIL AND PEACE
A while ago I received an email from a professor working in a university in India asking me the following: “Is it possible that urban violence has its roots in soil decay? Please let me know what you think.”
This question left me quite perplexed: “Are these Indian professors meditating a little too much? How would anyone otherwise come up with such unusual questions?”
But it did trigger my thinking: decaying soil is sick soil, and sick soils produce sick plants. And sick plants have low immunity, which is why they become more susceptible to pests and diseases, therefore needing more protection – hence the pesticides. For instance, it is common for grape farmers along the São Francisco River in Brazil to spray their crops 120 + times a year with pesticides to protect them from diseases. During some seasons they even spray the crops twice in the same day.
These sick plants carry low nutrients and therefore they don’t provide the people who consume them with the relevant nutrients. People who are not adequately fed become ill – physically and mentally. Some people can become depressed or in some extreme cases violent as a result of their food’s low nutritional value. Research from Brazilian psychiatrist Juarez Callegaro shows that violent people have excess levels of lead, cadmium and other toxic heavy metals stored in their bodies. If you have low zinc levels combined with high copper levels in your body, toxicity rises and this can trigger violence. Furthermore, altered levels of Manganese in the body has been linked with epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia and violence.
To cut a very long story short, the fact is that incorrect and unstable balances of relevant elements in your body can severely influence your behaviour. Therefore, the answer to the Indian professor’s question I now know is simple and clear: “Yes, it is possible that urban violence has its roots in soil decay”.
The question I would like to pose to all of you: “How may you contribute to ensure urban soil is regenerated and therefore contribute to reducing urban violence?”
VISITING A MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN OF HONOUR
Slipping into Marrakech, my heart did that drop down deep feeling, smiling thing, like when you see a long lost loved one. I love Morocco. It has its own uniqueness that is like no other place I have ever been. The pink adobe walls graced with roses and orange trees are a welcome sight to any traveller.
The ancient medina mixed with bo chic style and genuine hospitality and warmth, relaxes me instantly. The call to prayer five times a day brings attention to an otherworldliness that infuses the air along with the scent of jasmine and orange blossoms in the springtime.
Our journey begins at Jnane Tamsna, one of the most beautiful private guest houses in the Palmeraie of Marrakech. Settling in takes no time as the place is not only easy on the eyes, but on the spirit. Meryanne Loum Martin’s personal style creates a pleasing atmosphere that soothes the aesthetic soul. A walk out into ethnobotonist Gary Martin’s landscaped gardens full of olive trees, orange and lemon trees, succulents, herbs, vegetables, roots, asparagus, artichoke, lemongrass, and forgotten fruits of yore. This is a reason for our coming. A garden of honour. Sitting down for lunch in the midst of this paradise, we are served aromatic dishes that further play on our senses: exquisite traditional dishes like lamb and fig tagine, seven vegetable barley couscous, pastilla, kefta and ras al hanout pears to the table, we get our hands in the making of them. The sun is warm and a glass of wine in hand, puts where you have come from far away. We are far away and that’s the point. To discover a new land and gather some tangible know-how to take back home. One that not only offers exquisite tastes in every way, but a culture that has its root in the heart of the indigenous Berber.
(If you wish to find out more about Mediterranean food culture, visit Peggy Markel‘s website.)