Saturday, January 21, 2012

“Body Be Houses - Sacred Ground of the Great Spirit”

Graphic from The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries Part II

“Virtually all involvement with our food except for chewing and eating is done for us.” Mary Farkas, RD, MS, MA – “Food Politics” in The Holy Book of Women’s Mystery

“People’s bodies be houses, sacred ground for the Great Spirit….People need to know how close they are with the Earth Mother, they need to see good foods…” No Eyes, Native American teacher and visionary in Earthway


In my family’s backyard in suburbia Cleveland, my dad had an extensive organic square foot garden and compost.  Back in the 1970’s it wasn’t about knowing where your food came from, living simply or eating organic.  Bottom line, money was tight on dad’s teacher’s salary and my mom’s part-time nursing jobs.  We grew our own food to save money.  My dad would draw out the squares; and tomatoes, beans, chard, squash and peppers would be planted uniformly.  Mom’s winter meals revolved around the available vegetables in the basement freezer.  

Back then, I was totally embarrassed that vegetables were growing in the backyard and not a nicely mowed green lawn.  I wanted to be like the kids in my neighborhood who’s Moms shopped at Krogers or Rini’s.  I wanted summers that didn’t include planting, watering the garden, pulling weeds, picking beans in the humid weather, and being part of an assembly line for blanching and freezing.  I wanted to be like the Brady Bunch and not Green Acres or Little House on the Prairie.


Two weeks ago I attended a class at one of Columbus’ local food pantries.  Sadly, I found out my beloved Ohio has managed to climb to 6th worst in the nation for hunger (US Department of Agriculture).  I was told 1 in 6 households struggled last year to get enough to eat.  Local food pantries have seen a 200% increase in usage.  As the statistics for Ohio kept being rattled off, I sat dazed.  This seemed unfathomable because one of Ohio’s big exports is food and food production.  (If you aren’t familiar with my state - we have 3 major cities and some minor cities but the majority of the state is made up of farmland).  I kept asking how we got into this mess of not being able to feed our people.  (Yes, finger pointing came to mind – corporate greed, selfishness, apathy – you fill in the blank)

The second half of the class I got to experience what it was like to shop at a food pantry.  We drew names and a story of who we’d be.  The instructor told us the descriptions were based on current clients who came to the pantry.  The stories weren’t how the media portrays food pantry consumers.  The majority were families who had lost a job or had a major health problem.  I pulled an elderly couple on a fix income.  Both had major health problems and were living off his fixed retirement.  This couple didn’t have enough money to pay for their medication and food.     

I immediately looked at my food choices (i.e. ingredients) on a first walk through.  I learned that my approach in shopping was much different from the normal clients and my fellow classmates.  I drew out a meal plan for the week and created meals with the ingredients.  I also felt I could possibly make my food choices stretch over two weeks.   The instructor told me people usually come and take the quantities of the food they like and don’t see it as making meals.  She said some the choices were based on stress and guilt of living with poverty.  However, she felt it also had to do a lot not having the skills to cook or know how to plan a meal by choosing ingredients. 

She showed me the crates of heirloom tomatoes and dried red peppers mainly undisturbed.  My instructor stated that people don’t know what to do with them.  These tomatoes don’t look like the uniform red ones acquired at the groceries.  And the red peppers, people don’t realize that if you smash them up they’re the same as found in the spice section jars.


After I graduated with a degree in health education, I became interested in holistic medicine – the connection of mind, body and spirit.  My specific interests were centered on women’s health.  Most of the books I found written on this subject were either from the Native American traditions or Ayurveda medicine.    Unlike Western medicine that was starting to talk about mind and body, these traditions included spiritual health. 

Looking back three of the most influential books to me were: Mary Summer Rain’s Earthway; Z. Budapest’s Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries and Diane Stein’s: All Women are Healers.  These books talked about how we've become disconnected from Mother Earth and the food she provides us.  We had become wrapped up with convience and ease that our food was becoming very processed.  In Rain's book, No Eyes discussed how you need to use the whole potato - skin and all to recieve the health benefits from Mother Earth and the Great Spirit (Rain, 46-94).  The whole food is what keeps us healthy and functioning and allows us to do spiritual work. 

All three books discussed daily spiritual practice as having autonomy and knowing how to care for yourself.  Their three key points being: know where your food comes from, know how to cook and eat only the whole foods which promotes health.  For me, their whole foods lists didn't include my favorite treats Jeni's ice cream, Little Debbie's oatmeal cookies and German dark chocolates, and Anthony Thomas chocolate mints.    The books encouraged people to touch the earth by laying in the grass, grow herbs in a window box, go to a farmer’s market, or dig up your backyard and plant a square foot garden.  And those treats I mentioned were to be eaten in moderation.

At the time I was living in an apartment complex.  At my back stoop there as a 2 foot (.61m) by 2 foot patch of dirt that I ask the manager to use - if I recall his response was 'yea whatever.'  I went out and bought a shovel and two tomato plants, 4 marigolds and 1 basil plant.  Digging down a foot, I pulled out pieces of concrete and an aluminum can.  Immediately, I realized that dirt would not support those plants (Green Acre experience as a child).  I went to a garden shop and bought a bag of manure.  Back at the plot, I layered the dirt and manure, then planted.  The whole summer I played in the dirt and took care of those plants.  And, if you haven't experienced a sun ripened tomato  - they're like German dark chocolates - nature's candy eaten as you picked.  For me, when I was out there just looking at the plants or watering them - time seemed to stand still.  I felt connected to something bigger.


Recipe for fresh pesto

4 cups of fresh basil leaves
6 sprigs of parsley
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/2 cup of fresh graded Parmesan

(In a blender/food processor place garlic and onion and pulse till chopped.  Add basil, parsley and olive oil and blend till chopped fine.) * Place pine nuts in a heated pan and toast lightly.  Add basil mixture.  Dump on pasta of your choice.  Add cheese

*I freeze this basil mixture in plastic containers.  I take them out and thaw; using them in soups, my tomato sauce, and as pesto over pasta.



Learn how to read a food label

Cooking on a budget - one of my favorite cooking blogs shares ideas - Simply Recipe.  I also like this UK site called Student Cook.

There are many weekly meal planning tools out on the web.  I use it because I work full time, go to school and a Mom.  Mainly, it is one less thing I have to think about.  One site - Meal Planning Made Simple.

Check out seed catalogs - especially if it is snowy outside.  Nice dream of summer activity.

Go to a local farmer's market.

Plant a basil plant in a pot.  Depending on the size of the pot - you can get a basil bush.  When it begins to flower cut it back.  You can use the flowers to make the pesto too.

Watch a kitchen witch/kitchen goddess/food deva on the food network.  Teach yourself and your children how to cook meals with whole foods.


  1. I'm loving this post ... hehe ... hard not to when you echo so many of the things the family (and friends) have heard me rant about over the years. I get into so much trouble when I state that, in my opinion, the woman's lib movement served us up a raw deal ... oh sure, I can go to work if I wish to (or these days, because the family cannot afford me not to), but it also taught generations of women that there was nothing important about taking proper hearth-tending and cooking real/whole foods to ensure the health of all who eat it.
    I'm working on trying to set up a window garden system ( for this spring so I can have the benefit of fresh grown herbs and other fruits/veggies.
    Thank you also for the pesto recipe ... I will be making good use of that ^_^.

    1. I read an article about the 60s you had Julia Child in the kitchen telling women "we are taking over men's domain of French cooking" and Betty Friedan telling us to get out of the kitchen. This was the feminist movement I grew up on. Plus the whole mess of "diet" rather than eating healthy whole foods was and is still going on. No wonder women and girls have a bad body image. We don't know what we are suppose to look like.

      Yes - I too need to work because my family can't afford me not too - if it wasn't for my life long partner I don't know how I'd be able to put whole foods onto the table.

      I'm going to check out your site.

    2. Not my site ... but a community of window gardeners where you can either order to buy ready made hydroponic window gardens, OR (and here's the reason I posted the url) get the plans and instructions to make your own.
      The more we can bring the garden back into our lives, the healthier we'll all be, methinks. And this is a good substitute for those folk (like me) who don't have any room for a traditional one. ^_^

  2. Loved every word of your blog!

    I grew up on a farm and we raised our own beef, pigs, had chickens for eggs and fresh milk, cream, butter and ice cream as well as fresh fruits and veggies from our gardens as well as herbs. I got away from eating healthy for a long time and my weight soared. Now, I went back to eating only what I myself could cook from scratch, and what I can't, I check the labels to make sure that it has few ingredients, and easily pronounced. My motto is if I can't pronounce it I won't eat it.

  3. I can relate to everything you said.. I grew up on a farm.. and we raised our own poultry, beef, pork, mutton(yuck), had a huge garden (which I hated weeding and loved plowing under in the fall)...

    I've shopped the food pantries, been on food stamps, and I've even worked for the state as a welfare interviewer, who administered the policies and decided who qualified for food stamps and who didn't...

    I've always been an advocate of teaching people on the Food stamp program how to shop and cook meals.... Even grow their own... I think you can still buy food seeds with food stamp funds... I know you used to be able to...

    I haven't planted a garden in several years, but this year I will... I don't have a regular day job and my fiance's work as a landscaper has been very sporadic this winter...

    I hope my daughter and son will help me tend the garden, but... I'm sure my son will find other things to do, and my daughter will help... but hate it, as I did as a kid...LOL

    Anyway.. I'm rambling... I've decided to get back to nature so to speak... I've always shopped as you do, I buy things that make meals, no junk food for us.. sooo my next logical step is to put my hands to work and grow some of our own...

  4. I loved reading this post, and can relate to your Green Acres in the back yard as a kid.. My Dad had a huge garden and often when tending my wee plot these days, I think back to what he may have done. And you know.. I would rather bite into a sun ripened tomato straight of the vine than chocolate any day..pure joy and food of the Gods/Goddesses.


Hi all - I really like your comments, but have had a change of heart regarding anonymous comments. My CCWWW beliefs are that you need to stand behind what you say and what you do. Peace out.