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.
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!