Emailing Shamans, Critical Thinking, and Retrieving Souls

On Tuesday I emailed a shaman. That is a very bizarre sentence, when I say it aloud to myself I can’t help but chuckle, but the 21st Century is a very bizarre time and you can indeed contact them through that medium. I was interested in doing a soul retrieval, something I had first read about in Elena Avila’s bestseller Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health. The basic idea is that when you suffer a trauma or susto (fright) a part of your soul leaves your body leaving you disconnected or lost. This is very similar to psychotherapy’s concept of disassociation, but the difference is in therapy the focus is why and in soul retrieval it is where. Both interpretations seem valid, but from personal experience in psychotherapy, the constant rehashing of wounds and wrong doings can become rather self-indulgent. It seems that the shamanic practice is less concerned with why and focuses more on the practicality of bringing those pieces back together. It is difficult to say if analyzing the hell out of why we are dysfunctional facilitates the process. I don’t think in my case it hurt, but I also feel that most people who seek out therapy have a fairly good idea of why their lives are falling apart and maybe a soul retrieval would save a lot of time and grief. Continue reading

To Quinoa or not to Quinoa

I’m alive!! I have spent the last several days in bed with what I am guessing was the flu. Boy was it horrible, I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so sick. I considered writing a post about herbal remedies, but none were really Latin American influenced and the best cure for the flu is really just rest, nourshing yet simple foods, and proper hydration. I didn’t take anything except a few drops of eucalyptus oil in a hot bath and it cleared up on its own.

While I was bed bound I spent some time thinking about my diet and health journey. There are a lot of things I can’t eat now and a lot of things I’ve had to limit because they irritate my gut (ex. coffee and spicy foods. So sad!). It often feels like I am re-learning to eat. At this point I can say it has mostly been a positive experience. I feel more in control, sleep better, and have more energy, but at times it seems very tricky and a little overwhelming. It becomes even trickier because I am a bit picky, on a limited budget, and am trying very hard to make ethical food choices.

Quinoa is a beautiful plant

Quinoa is a beautiful plant

Quinoa at first glance seems to be the perfect food; it is high in protein, relatively affordable, and goes down nicely. For awhile it was a fairly regular part of my diet, but there is a huge catch to this super food. Vegetarians and vegans often say that they chose their diets because they are against cruelty which I can respect, but if that is the case then I think we have to examine what we are eating even more closely. Much of the foods and especially health foods we eat are imported from the “global south” which has a very long history of exploitation from Europe and the United States. When we eat these imported foods we do not know under what kinds of conditions they were grown, but can assume that there are often human right’s violations and environmental degradation involved (such as with cultivation of asparagus in Peru or bananas/avocados in the tropics). We really have to look at the consequences of our appetites  on the rest of the world and quinoa is a perfect example.

Since quinoa became trendy the cost of it world-wide has gone up. This means that fewer people in the Andes (where the crop originates) can afford it. This is troubling especially for a poor country like Bolivia where malnutrition is a serious issue. This ancient sacred grain is being replaced by cheap processed food a la USA which is a double whammy punch of colonization. First we drive their prices up and then we sell them cheap processed food, the result has been a dual nutritional burden of stunted growth and obesity. No wonder the USA is so beloved in Bolivia!

I am not writing this post to make anyone feel guilty because I know how difficult eating has become. There are so many things to consider that it is hard not to have some sort of food hang-up. I’ve considered this issue for quite some time and am just really starting to address it. When I was in Ecuador this summer I asked one of our program directors who is Ecuadorian, but has lived in the USA for quite some time if she ate quinoa and what she thought about all this. She basically told me that it was complicated, but she felt you should eat the things your “people” were meant to eat. In her case that meant quinoa in mine… well..I’m still working on that.

It isn’t Lunch Without Soup

I realize that all of my recipes so far have been liquid-based. I do chew dear readers, but since I have some stomach issues I’m a sucker for anything that can be slurped. Which brings me to today’s post: bone broth! Broth made of bones is essential in traditional food preparation for much of the world and is loaded with vitamins and minerals.  It also happens to be incredibly easy to make and affordable. In our house it is definately becoming a staple! Continue reading

12 Grapes

Excuse my silence I’ve been…indisposed. If you are anything like me you are probably feeling pretty rough this morning. Perhaps, it was all the holiday food and booze or the fact that the season is over and you now find yourself more out of shape and broke. I accidently ate gluten on several occassions because it is hidden in everything and sometimes I don’t think to ask until later. Whatever, it was worth it and I’m learning. I’m lucky to work primarily with Mexicans which means that I get to ease back into work until Monday because Sunday is El día de los reyes magos  (Magical King’s Day), which marks the official end of the season. This is an interesting holiday where three kings come and leave presents in or by your shoes and you eat a cake with little plastic baby Jesuses (is that the plural of Jesus?) hidden inside,  whoever finds the Jesus(es) gets to throw a party…or chokes to death. I never really celebrated this holiday, but usually somebody in my family had the Jesus cake so we would go over to their house to partake, but by that point it did not matter who found the baby Jesus because there would be no more parties for awhile as everyone was exhausted and sick of each other. Continue reading

Canelazo de Sotol

What is Sotol you ask? My mother thinks it tastes like fermented rope, but it is actually a liquor distilled from the Dasylirion wheeleri (also called Desert Spoon) plant common to the Chihuahuan desert. I have heard it referred to as “Tequila’s Northern Cousin” and it is beginning to gain a following in trendy Texan bars. Due to the holidays I find myself back in my childhood home which is just one mile north of the state of Chihuahua where the stuff is most widely produced. I personally don’t mind the taste which I would describe as grassy and a little smoky, but it is definately not for everyone.  My parents were given a bottle and it has been sitting in the kitchen collecting dust as no one seems to know what to do with it. Continue reading

Decolonized gut?

I don’t have the best record with this blogging thing. I’ve started several and always seem to abandon them after a week, but I have a feeling 2013 is going to be my year so I’ll give it another go. Some big things have happened in the last six months: I graduated from university, began working with an amazing non-profit, moved home for a spell to be with my father as he went through chemotherapy and radiation (and beat cancer!), and finally have decided to take my own health seriously.

This is why I decided to come back to blogging…I have some serious changes to make. As many a  24 year-old  in the 21st century living in the United States of America I’ve done some hard living. Long nights, stress, unhealthy food choices, and too many substances combined with a distrust of most doctors (and crappy insurance) is starting to catch up with me.

I’m lucky to live in Austin where there are plenty of alternatives in terms of approaches to health and wellness and found an integrative practice that focuses on nutrition and treating causes of poor-health rather than just masking symptoms.  After over an hour and a half with the doctor it was recommended I take several blood tests and avoid dairy and gluten for the time being. I was also perscribed some multivitamins and given tips on breathing exercises. Quite different from my other experiences with doctors! I walked out feeling pretty empowered, but later on the reality of these dietary changes began to sink in. It didn’t help that this news came two weeks before Christmas and I have been travelling non-stop since. It has been pretty terrible actually…everyone around me is munching on holiday food and drinking egg-nog while I eat dry vegetables and meat because it seems that everything contains gluten or dairy. A lot of this is just bad timing. Travelling means a lot of eating out and I am sure things will get easier with time. Right now though I am dreaming of  this…


And I know there are some gluten-free, dairy-free alternatives to this, but it just isn’t the same.

I still plan to include Latin-American recipes using as many local and seasonal ingredientsas possible, but now I am going to have to be extra creative. I’ve enrolled in an intensive herbalism course that begins in January so I also hope to include some of that information. Afterall, my interest in herbal medicine comes from the older Mexican women in my life and only intensified through my travels.

I haven’t been this excited for a new year in a long time! I knew the world wasn’t going to end (more on that later…)!