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Romance, health and the tantra of food.

Incense, flowers, wine and candles all evoke images of romance and warmth. In "Sacred Pleasure," author Riane Eisler describes her epiphany when she realized that all celebrations--romantic, religious or pagan--involved one of the same elements: food. Somewhere along the history and development of civilization, though, the concept of suffering usurped the place of pleasure. The same seems to have happened to "healthy" food. Somewhere in the mind, we separate "good food" (not so fun) for serf-discipline and "bad" food (a lot of fun) for celebration. Are health and pleasure really so far apart? St. Valentine's day offers a good test. Let's suppose you want to make a dinner that would celebrate, enhance or begin a relationship. What would be your guidelines in preparation of such a meal? Obviously, foods that titillate the senses and open up the sensory chakras; foods that taste good and leave us with enough energy to partake in more intimate pleasures if so desired. Regardless, you still want foods that help create harmony between two souls and promote easy and enjoyable communication.

Aphrodisiacs: Researching aphrodisiacs is like entering a jungle: everything has been deemed an aphrodisiac at one time or another. What surfaces in the end is that many foods end up making the aphrodisiac list either because of their suggestive shape (asparagus, oysters, bananas), sweet fragrance or taste (vanilla, rose, cinammon), stimulant quality (coffee, Chocolate, wine) or simply because of an unconscious recognition of their nutritive qualities and high vitamin content. Obviously, love does require some basic health and energy. You do not want your food to make you feel heavy or dull your senses. You want foods that are as light as a feather's touch, tingling the palate and senses, not overwhelming in scent or heavy, which may block the energy flow.

Foods and smell: If kisses are on the menu, flagrant breath should be a definite consideration. Obviously, garlic and onions are not the best allies. But for those who cannot do without them, the imperative should be that both partners eat the same thing. Even so, the smell of garlic and onion on the breath may inhibit romance and delicacy. It's an interesting point since, according to Ayurvedic tradition, onions and garlic are on the "avoid" list because they dull the more delicate senses. Ah! Health and romance are starting to meet! Seen in that light, cheese, fish and meat do not seem like top choices either. A "rare" steak is more suggestive of fighting and war than it is of love and romance. While we might enjoy them, foods like fish, cheese, cabbage and sauerkraut do not make for the most erotic kisses. So what does it leave? We still have plenty of vegetables, fruits and grains that are mild and aromatic, and fruit doesn't often present a problem. As for grains, jasmine rice, with its subtle flavor and aroma and its sweetness and lightness could be a top choice. With regard to vegetables that are mild in flavor and light in taste, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, carrots and more exotic vegetables like lotus root and burdock, are all safe bets.

Foods and aesthetics For romance, appearance is important ... both for the lovers and for the food. Digestion does not begin in the stomach;

it begins from the moment we look and smell. Anticipation is as important as the meal itself. Even a simple dish can be made appetizing by paying attention to its colors. A few sprigs of parsley on a bowl of squash soup can make our rather proletarian vegetable take on airs of aristocratic cuisine. A simple dish of sauteed vegetables may take just a few minutes to prepare and yet look deliciously tantalizing through the judicious use of colors; the green of kale or watercress, the orange of carrots cut into matchsticks, or the red of thinly sliced radishes, spiced up with a bit a soy sauce and grated ginger ... and voila!

Now what about DESSERTS? What about sugar? What about chocolate? What about wine?

We all know from experience that sugar might be pleasant to taste at first but then after a quick buzz, it tends to make you feel sluggish and drowsy. Preschool teachers in particular are usually very aware that within minutes of consuming sugar, kids can become quarrelsome, throw tantrums and become altogether unmanageable. For all of our adult sophistication, we are not that different. A high intake of sugar (the same applies to alcohol) may sabotage an otherwise nice conversation, make you feel either hyper or sluggish, or too rushed or too slow. So for a more "attuned" spirit, it is better to turn to low-glycemic sweeteners such as rice syrup, agave, and barley or rice malt. Amazake, in particular, is a lovely rice grain- based sweetener that may be used as a basis for creams, puddings and mousses.

Chocolate: Is it really an aphrodisiac? Some swear by it. "The "tradition" of chocolate and St. Valentine is foremost a hyperbolized, modern commercial event. So are strawberries, though not exactly a seasonal fruit in our climate. Chocolate is very hard on the liver and digestive system, and is better left alone if you have a tendency toward irritability, feelings of being "high strung," or are prone to headaches. There are wonderful alternatives to chocolate and sugary desserts. But if you cannot go without it in your "lover's dinner," add some cocoa to desserts with low-glycemic sweeteners to at least cut the overall load of both sugar and chocolate. Some cocoa added to amazake, for example, can make a delicious and relatively healthy chocolate mousse.

Alcohol: In moderation, alcohol can help break down inhibitions. As stressed in The Yellow Emperor, the 2,500-year-old classical text of Chinese Medicine, sex and alcohol are not a good combination. The reasoning is very simple: when having sex, you want the energy to flow down to the kidney and sexual areas. Wine and alcohol go to the head and actually pull the energy upward. Mixing the two, says our friend The Yellow Emperor, is especially damaging to male kidneys since their sexual energy requirements are more taxing. So, if sexual activity is part of the encounter, it is much better to enjoy just one glass and leave the rest for" an "after" celebration. It is also possible to prepare very light liquors or "punch" versions either with a small amount of alcohol, or without it entirely. Nonetheless, just make sure to pair up foods and wines appropriately; a general rule of thumb is that red goes best with cheeses and meats while white. (even champagne) best suits poultry and fish.

Warmth, warmth, and more warmth. In Oriental medicine, sexual vitality is linked to the kidney. The warmth and "fire" of the kidney has a direct correlation with one's sexual appetite. This concept is tangentially known in the West to describe one who is "frigid," and has a lack of sexual appetite. In terms of foods, it means that it is best to avoid cold foods, which include ice cream, too much salad, raw food or tropical fruit in the winter; they are all bound to cool the kidneys, and are best left for summer fare. Some "warm" flavors that are beneficial to the kidneys include cinnamon, cloves and vanilla.

In the end, it is interesting to note that if we place real sensual enjoyment at the center of food choices, we naturally gravitate towards "healthy" foods that intersect with long-held spiritual traditions and diet recommendations. For a warm body, warm heart and warm evening, health is still the best bet!

With the above comments in mind, here are a few ideas for "lover's" dinners:

Light drinks: Warm apple cider with aromas to "spice" up the kidneys such as cinnamon, cloves, vanilla or even a few drops of brandy or cognac.

Desserts: Amazake (fermented sweet rice): add some "mock" coffee (Roma[TM] and Caffix[R] are two brands available at health food stores) or some good quality cocoa to turn it into a mousse. While the available from macrobiotic distributors.

Dr. Liliane Papin, Phi), D.O.M, Lic Ac, is an herbalist and teacher of Chinese Medicine at AUCM and Daoist Traditions. In her private practice, Kwin Yin Medicine, she specializes and women's health care and food therapy. Please call 828-350-8505 or 828-225-8550 for more information.
Poires Belle-Helen
a warm pear dessert

2 cups barley or "mock" coffee"
1 cup black raisins
1 tbs barley malt, rice syrup
or agave
1 tbs kudzu or arrowroot
2 ripe pears
2 tbs hazelnut or almond
puree (if not available, use
either hazelnut or almond
extract instead)

Peel the pears, leaving the tail on and put in a double boiler over
"coffee" juice for five to ten minutes until pears are tender (but not
so long that they lose their shape). Place the pears in nice-looking
glasses or containers. Sauce: add salt, raisins, malt and hazelnut or
almond puree to the "coffee," Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Cook for about 10 minutes and puree in a blender. Pour back into
pan and bring to a simmer again. Dilute arrowroot or kudzu into a
tablespoon of cold water and slowly add it to the raisin mixture until
it thickens. Pour over the pears and serve.

* This dessert is especially nice if sewed warm. You might want to prepare everything and heat at the last minute.
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Title Annotation:soul kitchen
Author:Papin, Liliane
Publication:New Life Journal
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Feb 1, 2007
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