I just got word that our community garden plot has been turned over and is ready for planting. It’s a little early here in Minnesota to put anything in the ground, but I’m excited to start digging, transplanting, and watering—not so much with the weeding. Mostly, I’m excited to start eating the abundance of vegetables that we grow in our small square of ground.
Let me be clear—I grew up as a very picky eater. Green foods were not a part of my repertoire as a kid. Over the years, I’ve acquired a taste for most vegetables, and even crave greens from time to time. I still struggle with Brussels sprouts, however. To me they taste like cabbage on steroids, and while I will eat them, it’s a stretch to say I really like them–until last year.
Last summer, we threw a half a dozen Brussels sprouts plants into the ground. In late summer, we had several bush-sized plants with large stalks of sprouts to contend with. We were able to stuff one stalk into our car trunk at a time, which we took home and picked clean of the sprouts. I found that I couldn’t get enough Brussels sprouts once they were marinated in a little olive oil and garlic, parboiled for about three minutes, and then crisped up on the grill.
Now, I agree that part of the deliciousness of those Brussels sprouts was how they were prepared. But the other part of how lovely they were is what author and doctor of Oriental Medicine Nan Lu calls the energy of food. In his book, Digesting the Universe, Dr. Lu talks about what has gone into the food we eat. He uses the example of honey, in which bees flew around taking nectar from flowers, and a beekeeper or farmer extracted the honey, bottled it, and brought it to market. The energy of that honey is a combination of the flowers in the area, the energy the bees put into making the honey, the care the farmer took, and all the processes in between. Essentially, the food you eat is much greater than a combination of nutrients, but rather a combination of actions, energy, and care that went into growing or preparing that food.
Furthermore, Dr. Lu explains that the longer it takes to produce a food, the more energy it contains. He compares the energy in lettuce, which can be grown in as little as 30 days; to that of an apple which has flowered in the spring, grown all summer, and ripened in the fall. As a result, the apple contains (and provides you with) almost five months of energy in the growing process, compared to the very short growing cycle of a leaf of lettuce.
So when I think about the wonderful Brussels sprouts on my plate, I realize that they are a combination of the time we took in planting them, watering, weeding, and discussing when we should pick them—almost a summer’s worth of growth. In addition, energetically, they are a product of the other plants growing in the area, and even the “vibe” we gave off as we weeded and schmoozed with our fellow gardeners. Compare this to store bought sprouts that were commercially grown, tended, watered, harvested, and processed using machines and technology. And brought to you triple washed in a plastic bag. Which would you rather eat? And more importantly, which energy would you rather digest?
In Digesting the Universe, Dr. Lu gives the reader much more than just an understanding of the energetics of food. He weaves the theory of Chinese medicine with modern science invoking great thinkers from Lao Tzu and Buddha to physicists Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Fritjof Capra. From atomic theory to the contemplation of the universe, Dr. Lu explains that physics and Chinese medical theory are literally one and the same. His three main themes are that:
-The unseen is more powerful than anything that we can see
-Everything is energy and is connected to everything else, and
-There are no accidents
Dr. Lu uses these ideas to go beyond what we see in everyday life and explore the invisible underpinnings of the energetic world. He ties the mind, body, spirit approach of Chinese medicine with the inseparability of the universe in order to guide readers toward better health and away from illness and disease.
I found this book a little dense, in that I had to read a little and put it down to digest the ideas I was reading. And yet, I was compelled to keep picking it up, reading more, digesting a little more, and processing. This is a recommended read whether you’re a practitioner of Chinese medicine or simply want to think about your well-being from deeper level. Like digesting good food, the process of reading this book allowed me to sift and sort the information it contained, take in what I found nourishing (most!), letting go of what I didn’t need, and processing the rest. A worthwhile read!