Some organic farmer friends of mine at Agape Gardens in Perth Canada asked if I could write a blog post about food down south as we continue our time here in Peru. So here we go!
“Ola Doctor, my son has been very sick.”
My brother and husband waited with me as I pleadingly looked at this man. He began to do the standard check. Lab coat, and glasses, in the busy clinic.
“Look, he has been sick for weeks now. He has a horrible rash, a fever and a cough.” I said almost with tears in my eyes.
“How long has he been sick did you say?”
“At least 3 weeks, I am wondering if we might need to give him antibiotics.”
My husband looked at me shocked.
“Antibiotics. Are you crazy. “He just turned a year old.” he mumbled
I was a sleep deprived, irritable new mom with a sick baby in a foreign country and I was getting desperate.
The man in the lab coat and glasses smiled a big toothy grin.
“I think he has giardia. Lets hold out on the antibiotics. Here is a cream for his rash, you can give him some giardia medication and I am going to give you a recipe for a really good chicken soup my grandmother used to make!”
He began to list all the many ingredients for his grandmas soup.
“You need to make sure the carrots are cut very thin.” His face dead serious as my brother furiously wrote down the recipe.
So we went home, disappointed and a little hopeful and made chicken soup. But who would have guessed it. After every homeopathic, and natural remedy known to man that I had tried. That chicken soup got my little toddler smiling in the morning.
Here in the south, as well as many places that have not fallen onto the ship of modernization, see food as medicine. But even taking it a step further. Food, the plants, vegetables and meat that we eat, still are seen for its spirit.
In most native indigenous societies there is a deep understanding that all life is full of spirit, so of course this would apply to our food. life’s essence moving through its DNA. A circle ebbing and flowing like waves on the oceans sand.
I have recently been working with this amazing plant called Oje. My friends have made fun of me because I sound like an infomercial promoting the stuff.
The native people in the Amazon have used it for hundreds, likely thousands of years. It’s a tree that grows in cloud rain forests and it is the most effective treatment I have found for treating parasites. (a necessity for gypsy families!) They use it to treat spiritual parasites too. Energies in your field that are sucking your life force.
I know that if I mentioned this to a couple of my friends up north, they would politely smile at me and secretly wonder if I was on medication. But here, everyone nods their head and understands easily that as human beings we are multifaceted creatures, and that the state of our spirit and heart is integral to our physical health.
Ancient cultures around the world see the body as a whole. Our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our being are all intertwined with one another.
If you speak to a vegetalista, a plant doctor. Most plants will have a variety of properties that will work on different aspects of your body. One might work on your anxiety while also working on your stomach and internal organs.
When I first got to the jungle years ago, I walked down the jungle paths, and as I walked along the smells and tastes of beyond time, i could hear the plants speaking. There they were shimmering in the wind. Singing, murmuring, full of information. I could not believe how loud they were!
I remembered being at a university party and having a group of people laugh at me because I said I spoke to my plants. “Your such a hippie.” They laughed. Oh the word I despise being described as, “Hippie.” But will likely follow me around my entire life. And yet here I was so-called hippy-ing it up in the basin of the amazon where plant wisdom was the foundation for the entire culture.Where humans listened to their songs. Where plants and human beings lived in a symbiotic relationship with one another, fastened together in the wings of grace and respect.
Like the pagan ancestral cultures, here today in the south you see much of these teachings weaved into the web of life. The top of every chicha, a local fermented corn drink is offered to the earth and the Apus or mountain spirits. An offering of gratitude for all the gifts. There are songs to the quinoa. There are songs to the healing plants. Up in the mountains, Carnival, the biggest day of the year, revolves around the harvesting of the corn. A celebratory journey of life and the spiral of creation.
Genetically modified food does not exist. Monsanto is banned from the country. Taxi drivers will pull up on the side of the road to pick some herbs for their grandmas.
Dinner time conversations on dirt kitchen floors with fuzzy guinea pigs running over your feet are not uncommon. Then roasted for special occasions at a later time. Permaculture without dreadlocks, flowing into the fabric of the everyday.
All that said, it is not perfect. And there is most definitely the shadow lurking. All over the world traditional eating and diet, is being replaced by modern unhealthy processed foods. Pesticides, cornsyrup, Fried food, White Sugar. You name it it’s here and its everywhere. Creating never before health issues.
This carnival, Some native Quechua women came down from the high mountains who did not speak a word of spanish. In their sweet colorful wool embroidered skirts and top hats, They set up shop amongst 25 other food vendors who were serving fried food on plastic plates. We ate a feast of greens, salads, and roasted vegetables and guinea pig, out of handmade bowls. Cooked on fire in clay pots and sunshine. it was the most delicious meal I had in a long time. Not only was their food healthy and amazing. I could tell it was honored, respected and I actually could taste love. I laughed with these beauties as I ate and felt a deep hope in my heart that the world could be restored if everyone just ate these women’s food.
These women reminded me of how full life can be when life is honored. And beyond any culture or place, country, or region, inside each of us there is the understanding deeply woven into us as human beings, that the earth is our mother. She is alive with beauty and bounty and is so incredibly generous to us. Her spirit permeates everything.This relationship and inner knowing is in our bones and our blood. Its in the stories of our ancestors and whispers of our grandmothers grandmothers.
But we as a whole. South, East, North, West, have become very forgetful. And have forgotten how to honor her. And it really is about time we start remembering. Coming back into the rituals of our culture as human beings and healing our relationship with the land. Woven through breaths of prayers, gratitude and acknowledgment of the other worlds, and the spirit of all we eat.
I really do believe, As we come back into right relationship with the spirit of food and the spirit of Gaya, naturally our choices will change and reflect a more balanced life.
And as our southern brothers and sisters remind us, it comes back to the everyday rituals. So if your drinking wine in paris in a circle of sisters, offer a little to the ground and say thank you. During family feasts, and community potlucks, Make a spirit plate to feed the spirits, as the ancestors of north America taught. Or just find your way, your way to walk with the great mother, sing to her, give thanks and know inside your heart that she is listening.
Like a mother with her children who have moved away from home and always forget to call. Just pick up the phone and say hello. Because it is with these small rituals that create relationship. A new and yet ancient culture rooted in a deep love and respect for what is real.
With a mouthful of gratitude and our feet in the dirt, in the garden, or in the grocery store. We give thanks to Pachamama, our mother earth. We listen to her songs, her stories in the wind, and try to walk as best we can with grace in our footsteps.