Happy New Year, all! As we continue through one of the worst cold and flu seasons in recent memory, 2020 notwithstanding, I’ll begin with a recipe.
Sweet potato congee with red dates, honey added if desired (and who won’t?):
1 large chopped sweet potato
1 cup of rice, rinsed please
8 cups of water
10-30 grams of red dates sliced open (closer to 10g if you have a “damp heat” body type or pathology—closer to 30g if you are the frail and pale type with tendency to insomnia and/or heart palpitations).
Bring to boil and simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes, or until the consistency is as above, like a porridge. In Asia most people take it a bit more watery than this, but either way is fine. Plate and drizzle honey on top to taste.
Although white rice is mostly vilified by Western dietitians, in Eastern Medicine we believe that the gentle support it provides to the internal organs is imperative for optimizing the absorption of all accompanying ingredients, also at generating the healthy stomach fluids needed for digestion. Without strong metabolism we cannot build blood or create nutrients. Without blood we cannot live—more relevant, with subjectively deficient blood all of our parasympathetic functioning may weaken and we may flirt with anemia.
If you are strongly averse to (white) rice, you can absolutely try making this with quinoa, millet, or farro. Risotto or orzo, unfortunately, will not work.
The Eastern Medical diet is somewhat diametrically opposite to that of raw vegans. Besides encouraging at least small amounts of animal protein, we believe the best way to optimize health is through low, slow, and long cooking of foods to extract all nutrients into the dish and make them easy for our guts to process. Anything cold or damp, such as ice, sugar, or alcohol should at least wait until after the food has been consumed and processed for at least 15-30 minutes whenever possible. Which means all of our mothers were correct in echoing the concept of not “spoiling our dinner” by having sweets first. The adult parallel to this might be cautioning to limit drinks before dinner.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent “tonic” for the stomach qi in Winter, and red dates are actually one of the most important herbs in all of Chinese Medicine, appearing in a large percentage of classical formulas, with the intention of protecting the healthy stomach fluids and nourishing blood of the heart. I recommend making this recipe, storing leftovers in the fridge, and eating 2-3 times a week in winter. To reheat just add plenty of water to keep consistency.
Hope all are warm and healthy!