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On Your Mark, Get Set: Happy Healthy Holiday Beets

2010 December 7

by Sarah A. Maine

Chioggia BeetsI think about food all the time, I’m not sure if it’s possible for me to think about it more, but if there was ever a time to do so it is the holiday season.  Along with cooking and eating at home there are parties to consider, complete with cookies, snacks and more.  Knowing what lies ahead (I attended my first party last night with several more sprinkled throughout the month), my thoughts have been turning to the healing properties of food and how I can infuse those properties into my holiday eating.

I recently finished reading a book called The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller, MD.  The author surveys five indigenous diets from around the world that have been shown to prevent some of the most pernicious diseases suffered in the world today. The concepts covered in the book are not necessarily new but the delivery is clear and simple, each chapter ending with a summary of steps to take to capture the benefits of a specific indigenous diet. There are also recipes in the back providing a helpful road map for healthy eating.  I don’t suffer from any of the conditions described in the book but I still found relevant information in every chapter to inform my cooking and eating habits.  Actually I found too much information; I have had to back up and and gradually introduce some of the principles into my daily routine.  It was interesting to see where my food instincts align with healthy practices and where they diverge – and what I am not willing to give up!

The Jungle Effect was my first foray into learning about food as medicine and it is something I want to continue to learn about.  I feel very connected to food on an instinctual level, but those instincts can be easily overwhelmed by the volume of choices available in food markets and by habits that have been honed over a lifetime.  One of the reasons I liked this book is because it doesn’t promote an extreme method and Dr. Miller is very conscious of the need for comfort and enjoyment in the realm of food.  The balance between pleasure, health, and practicality is exactly what we try to explore here at RecipeRelay, which brings us back to the task at hand – this week’s recipe…

Holiday food is often painted with the broad brush of overindulgence and excess but it doesn’t have to be that way; I wanted to use my recipe this week to create a dish that has both festive and healing attributes.  Taking beets as my inspiration from Brianna’s Punta Mona Spring Rolls (and Andrew’s Copper cocktail!), I’m embarking on borscht.  I picked up a bunch of Chioggia beets at the Norwich Meadows farm stand at the Union Square farmer’s market – their striped flesh will add some holiday zest to a traditionally earthy dish.  A big pot of delicious, vibrantly colored, vitamin and anti-oxidant rich soup should be a welcome addition to any holiday table – it can also serve as a restorative post-party antidote!  Check back for the final recipe on Thursday, in the mean time – happy holiday partying!

-Sarah