You can tame stress one care-full chop at a time!

I was in my early twenties when my friend Ronda entered the City of Hope for Cancer treatment. I think of her often, but for some reason, I’m not sure why, she has been particularly on my mind recently.  It might simply be recent attention towards the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure, and every time I hear something encouraging about Cancer research or I hear of someone who quite literally beat the odds I think of Ronda who died more than 30 years ago, and wonder what her prognosis might have been if diagnosed with Leukemia in 2011.

Ronda was the first person to seriously talk to me about the relationship between stress and illness.  I would take root beer popsicles to her hospital room and we’d visit while she enjoyed the treat. I can still hear her earnest conviction that several years of accumulated stress (divorce, bad car accident, legal issues) had contributed to her Cancer.  At that time this wasn’t a commonly held belief, but whenever I read or hear new research supporting the connection between stress and illness and disease I immediately think of my friend and what she somehow just knew to be true for her.

Stress is part of life, and in my life, it is stress not STRESS, yet rather than let it get out of hand, I do try to look it squarely in the eye, and when I can, tame it! I was making soup the other day and recognized how methodically, slowly chopping bowls-full of root vegetables (potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, carrots and onions) was a thoughtful, stress-releasing ritual.  It took some time! And to do it well, making the bites small enough to cook evenly and produce a tempting result, required considerable concentration. Simply making soup with slow, rhythmic motion was a very relaxing and de-stressing occupation.  The soup turned out to be good, too.

Sophia and Karina are with me today and we’re going to make applesauce. I’ve found more of those wonderful Honeycrisps (this time they were smaller) and another new-to-me Washington apple, Ambrosia.  I’ll also add some California Granny Smith and Fuji apples.  I don’t have a particular recipe to follow and think we’ll taste it as it goes along. I can do the chopping, and they can do some of the tasting!  The girls like apples, but I’m not sure how they’ll respond to an end-product that will be chunkier than the applesauce they’re accustomed to eating.

Just Beautiful!

And while I’m talking apples, let me get in a few good nutritional plugs!  I buy organic when I can, but if that’s not possible, be sure to wash your apples very well.  The skin is where the pesticides and potentially harmful bacteria reside, so bear that in mind when organic is available–a few cents more seems worth it to me!  The skin on fresh apples is also full of nutrition you don’t want to waste!  Quercetin—a common flavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties– is found only in the skins of apples, and not in the fruit itself.  A skinless apple is only about half as powerful!

Fall is good soup and stew weather.  And apple season ushers in a wealth of baking opportunities.  Perhaps the next time you get in the kitchen to prepare some of your own favorites you’ll tune in to how your rhythms synch to the chopping and care-full rituals directly connected to food preparation. Cooking and baking can be excellent ways to reduce STRESS and dial it back to just plain, every day stress.  Let’s try to keep it at the small “s” level!

What are you chopping and cooking this fall? I’d love to hear how you think cooking or baking enhances your personal well-being!

…Debra

14 thoughts on “You can tame stress one care-full chop at a time!

  1. This might seem like a silly question, but how do you wash your apples? It seems like soap would be necessary to truly get rid of the pesticides, but I don’t want my apples tasting like Dawn. I do try to buy organic apples, but sometimes they’re not available at my store.

    That’s nice that you’re remembering your friend 30 years later. It’s scary how devastating stress can be, but I guess we CAN do something about it. Sometimes it’s just hard to figure out what–but worth it.

    • It’s not at all a silly question, Andrea. I’ve had to look it up more than once through the years. From what I have learned water alone is fine. The recommendation is that they be washed under running water and maybe just buffed a bit with a paper towel. I think that I’m naturally a bit dubious about this being 100% effective, but I’m enough of a realist to accept that we can only do so much! I have found some produce-wash products in the past, but I’m usually too lazy to use them, so go figure!! :-) Debra

  2. Love this de-stressing technique. I think my invitation got lost in the USPS…the one where I get to be part of the tasting efforts for those soups, stews OR simply a nicely brewed pot o’ tea with a friend. There is a definite soothing effect to baking & slowing down to prepare any of these things. I appreciate the reminder. Enjoy your cooking day with your girls.

    • I have heard of an apple soup, too, but don’t think I’ve seen a particular recipe. It might be worth looking into. The applesauce is cooking right now and the whole house smells good. As for the apple skin, I think it’s wonderful that nature doesn’t waste a thing! I can’t quite figure out the purpose of arsenic in peach pits, but maybe I could find an answer if I looked! With the rain you described, Kate, I would think baked apples would indeed sound comforting and warm! Debra

      • Chez Panisse makes an ice cream of peach and apricot pits steeped in cream — I’ve never tried it but it’s supposed to have a bitter almond flavor. The chemicals in the pits may discourage some pests.

      • I have never been to Chez Panisse, but love the cookbooks. It sounds interesting…I wonder if I could get past all the years of hearing “don’t suck on the peach pit” from parents! Your thought about the chemicals possibly discouraging pests does make some sense to me! Thank you!

    • That’s so interesting, Sharyn, because although I do have a food processor I don’t often use it, and hadn’t stopped to consider why I find it a bother, Perhaps this really is why! And I love the reference to the “zen” of it…I think that’s about perfect! I’m very pleased to have your input. Thank you! Debra

  3. There is something rhythmic in the dicing of fruits and vegetables and the sense of accomplishment when all it done. I love a good pot of soup, especially now as the weather changes and gets colder. I made a cabbage soup last week and this past weekend we had potato soup. I love soup the first day, but, even more as leftovers.

    Peach pits were actually used in WWI in the gas masks of soldiers. Something to counteract the gas.

    • Thank you, Penny! Now you really do know some interesting and what I’d consider obscure information. Ha! I like that! And I don’t think I’ve ever had cabbage soup, although I love cabbage. So there’s my next soup treat!! D

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