I use a lot of spices in my recipes. One day, I learned that using a lot of spices was characteristic of cooking in the Middle Ages. I got curious, so I bought the first cookbook ever written. The book is called On Right Pleasure and Good Health: On Food, Health and the Physical Pleasures and was published in 1470. The book was written by Platina, a humanist, and it was read and loved by Leonardo Da Vinci, an artist who loved the subject of health.
It’s been fascinating to dive into the recipes of the Middle Ages and I’ve noticed that in this book, along with research I did on Hippocrates (the father of medicine), there was a real focus on food as medicine.
Spices are the Heroes of Health and Flavor
When you look at using food as medicine, spices are incredible heroes of health and flavor. They are higher in antioxidants than food many times their size (1 teaspoon of cinnamon has the same antioxidants as 1/2 cup blueberries).
In Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, spices allow us to balance dishes across the 5 or 6 tastes. This brings balance to the body, mind and spirit. It helps to reduce cravings and allows our bodies to feel grounded so we can get on with our goals for the day.
For me, spices were part of my healing journey. When I make a recipe, I add spices, taste the recipe, and add others to bring balance. I started doing this by smelling the spices and just going with whatever smelled right. Then I’d taste the recipe for balance. What I learned, is that my body is so sensitive energetically and that includes to the food I put in it.
When I eat at a restaurant, I can tell whether something “not right” is happening in the kitchen based on how my body feels when I eat (I bet many of you reading this are energetically sensitive like this too!). When I make a recipe, I’m making it to bring balance to the body, so that we can feel well, grounded and satisfied. So that food heals, rather than upsets. To keep energy in the hara center (center of the body) instead of buzzing around in the head, creating confusion or inability to concentrate.
In our book The Bone Broth Secret, Louise Hay and I give you guidelines on using spices, in case you want to be a Medieval cook too (hahahaha)… actually, so you can learn how spices create balance in your own body, your own way, since we are all unique. We even have a “Great Chocolate Experiment,” where you can do a taste test of various layers of spices, to see what brings balance for you.
Let’s Look at Rosemary
I thought you might like to see what Platina had to say about one of my favorite herbs, rosemary:
“Those who are accustomed to being rather elegant and wholesome make a seasoned dish from flowers of rosemary. The leaves give out an odor of incense. If its root is put on wounds while still green, it heals bodies. The juice of shrub and root drives out jaundice, sharpens the vision of the eyes, and its seed is given in a drink to remove long-standing ills of the chest. Its flowers are gathered in the morning and not washed so that they do not wholly lose their force. Seasoned with well-ground salt, oil and vinegar, they make for pleasure and healthfulness, for they also warm the stomach, take away catarrhs, and help asthmatics.”
Today, studies show us that rosemary is great for alleviating stress, anxiety, depression, gout and arthritis; preventing cancer, treating diabetes (type 2) and urinary tract infections, aiding in heart health, preventing stroke and protects against the sun’s UV rays, preventing wrinkles and melanoma. I like to think of rosemary as the mood and memory herb.
Rosemary is easy to use in cooking, smoothies or sprinkled on salads. It pairs beautifully with thyme, basil, sage, sea salt and pepper. It’s also wonderful with turmeric and paprika. It can even go well with cinnamon and I’ve been known to sneak it into desserts to bring the pungent taste (one of the 6 tastes in Ayurvedic medicine) into a dish.
Louise’s favorite way to use rosemary is to grind the dried leaves. Ever since she taught me to do this, I’ve been grinding it and finding even more uses than I previously did with the whole leaves.
What is your favorite herb or spice? Do you like using them? Are you intrigued and want to know more? I’d love to share ideas and tips with each other!
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