I have been reading Nancy N. Chen’s Food, Medicine and the Quest for Good Health.   Chen grew up in a home where her mother used Chinese Nutritional Therapies and as a medical anthropologist has come full circle in her study of healing across cultures.  She is a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Chen explores the intersection of food and medicine historically and culturally, suggesting that the categories of “food” and “medicine” be reimagined, rethought.   How are – and which – cultural norms and political institutions are privileged in a society which keeps these categories separate and distinct?  Is there something to learn from cultures where the boundaries between the two are blurred?

Drawing on historical medical texts, food therapy practices of the Chinese, Greek and Islamic traditions, the historical cultural development of the spice trade, and current biotechnology in the areas of food, medicine and nutraceuticals, Chen weaves connections and poses questions.  She considers these issues against the backdrop of a growing diet industry as a step toward framing diet not only as individual practice but also as social prescription and political formation.

The book does not provide depth of discussion.  It does, however, create platforms for thought, for asking further questions and for rethinking food and medicine linkages.  It is a good book to pique new, or give shape to vague, interests related to nutritional literacy, healing practices and cultural practices.

soothing ginger garlic tea

Chen proffers a small number of healing recipes.  As I am currently sporting a harsh, bronchial cough and some congestion I was quick to try her Ginger Garlic Tea with Lime and Honey which she says is healing and restorative for colds and flu.

I went to bed with a steaming mug of it last night and had another upon rising today.

  • Boil sliced fresh ginger and smashed garlic cloves in a pot of water.
  • Inhale the steam as the pot boils to enhance breathing – if one’s nasal passage is stuffy – or to loosen phlegm.
  • After boiling for about 20 minutes, pour into cup and add fresh lime or lemon juice and honey to taste.

I’m taking the supplies along to the studio today so I can enjoy the soothing properties of this tea during the day.