|03 The Magic Begins! The Character and Energy of different Fruits and Vegetables
by Katriona Forrester & Marlise Binetti-Kupper
|(Ed: Before (or after) reading this article you may want to read the article called Contemplate the Universe : Mother Nature's Counsel, as it came before The Magic Begins! in the original. It is in the links below.)
The Magic Begins
You are going to have to help with this. (That's how real magic always works, you know.) Squint your mind's eye and take a journey to a place you know of where you are surrounded by colourful, healthy, happy produce. It may be an open-air market, a garden you know well (perhaps the one your grandmother tended), or it could be the produce section of a supermarket. In any case, wherever you are, just take some time to look around you and notice the different types of fruits and vegetables. Try to feel or see each one's particular character or energy. Each plant has its own personality and some people say they even see the diva or fairy spirits of plants. I haven't actually seen any wee folk yet, but I declare I once saw a red radish smile at me... in fact, the whole bunch seemed a bit giggly...
Now don't go rolling your eyes and thinking "That's weird", I know you have also seen shapely carrots with long green hair that look like prima donnas from a Verdi opera, and I wouldn't doubt at all if you've met a potato or two that reminded you of your Uncle Bud. There are crowds of friends and relations out there, just waiting for you to notice them and ever so eager to do everything they can to make you feel good.
Ask a radish what it lives for and it will get all excited and jump up and down and say something like "Oh,I just love to wake people up, make their eyes smart and noses run, get some of that stuffupedness out of them. I just love it when they turn red in the face, gasp for breath and shout, 'WOW, that's HOT!". Then I know I've done my job well." Radishes are like that.
Ask sweet pumpkins and squashes the same question and in their golden-mellow voices they answer, "It is a rough world out there, humans let themselves get so tense and overworked. They even forget in all their rushing around how important it is to get hugged sometimes. We'd like to be everyone's grandmother, bake them pies, cook creamy soups and fill their bellies with warm sweet food against the cold harsh elements...and get them to settle down, relax, enjoy life a little."
Kale and collard greens pipe up, "Yeah, we'd like to see more happy faces too. Even though we greens have gotten a lot of bad publicity in the past, we are really a very light-hearted crowd. After all, as every mother knows, we're the ones that help put that rosy glow on children's cheeks."
Long deep roots will tell you they are good for building strength and 'backbone', while onions, turnips, and cabbages will cluck over you like little old aunts. Soon the whole rabble seems to be chattering on all sides.
If you go and stand in a field of grain you'll hear other kinds of voices. There is a regular percussion going on in the tall, rustling field of corn. Corn is upbeat, toe-tapping food. Rice in comparison seems more whispering, centred, meditative. Wheat, millet, rye, oats, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa each has its own sound, character, flavour, purpose, and spirit.
The world of food starts to become very interesting. Each type of food has it's own slightly different character, its own type of chi energy. It is as though food were alive, and, in fact, it is. Food is alive (it's just that some foods are more alive than others).
These personalities we've been talking about tell us something about the kind of energy and level of aliveness we receive when we eat a particular food. So if you eat some bubbly, hot radishes, you will become a little bit like that. And if you eat a lot of mellowed out vegetables, with time, you will become more like that. Food affects us that way. I guess you've already heard "you are what you eat", right?
One way to get a grasp on this whole picture of different personalities, and types of energy is by putting it into a framework of categorization.
Fortunately many wise people in various cultures have gone before us and did a lot of observing in nature. They found out that if you watch long enough, you'll start to notice that just about everything pretty much fits into varying degrees of two basic categories.
They found out that things are either more soft or more hard, more dark or more light, more active or more passive, more expansive or more contractive, and so on.
In the orient, the ancients who made these observations called these two forces yin and yang and they used them to explain a lot of things about life, including the turn of the seasons, the cycles of night and day, even social interactions, emotions, political manoeuvres, medicine, and the movement of the stars.
In terms of personality (whether of food, people, or whatever), yin describes more relaxed, easy-going types. Yin plants, for example, tend to thrive in warm climates and at warmer times of the year like spring and summer. A yin plant grows predominantly upwards, branching or bushing out in generous foliage. Compared to a yang plant it grows larger, higher, and faster. It is softer, juicier, more watery, more fragrant, and more perishable. The expansive quality of yin foods produces a cooling and relaxing effect.
Yang characters are the more weighty, concentrated, directed types. Yang plants grow or ripen in colder seasons and climates. They grow predominantly downwards, under ground, are more rooted, pointed, and solid . Yang plants grow more slowly, they are smaller, compacter, harder, dryer, and more mineral rich. They store well, retaining their vitality long after harvest. They are warming, concentrating foods.
For our purposes, it is not so important what we call them, it's more important to realize that this explanation or interpretation of how the world works can be a very helpful tool. First of all it can help us get an idea of the character of a particular food; is it more relaxing, weakening, yin?, or is it more stimulating, strengthening, yang?. Out of that you can start to predict what kind of effect it might have on you. And then what you can do is look at yourself, at your own character, and observe,"Hmm, I'm pretty tense today, maybe if I take something that's kind of opposite of that - sort of yin and laid back- it'll make me feel more relaxed." And a lot of times it will really work for you. The next step, as we will see later, has to do with the actual preparation of foods, taking their original characters, and changing them through the magic of cooking to suit your needs of the moment.
Here are some food types and personalities which are arranged on a scale according to whether they are more yin or more yang as compared with each other.
If you study this approach you'll see, for example, that a carrot is a little more yang than a turnip, but fish is a LOT more yang than a carrot. Grains appear in the mid-balance area between the 'heavy weight' yangies and the 'lighter' yinnies.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, sweeteners, and beverages lie on the more yin side of the scale. The 'heavy weights' on the yang side include all the salt or mineral rich foods. These are sea vegetables, foods from animal origin, salt, seasalt, miso, shoyu, and salty condiments.
Yin and yang provide a key to recognising and understanding the "personalities" of the foods we eat, as well as our own personality, condition, and needs. They offer a key to choosing appropriate food for ourselves and a way to change or enhance the character of our food through cooking.
So once you have the ideas that
1) foods are alive
2) they do have an effect on us, and
3) you can modify those effects through cooking,
you will be absolutely free to create in a way that was not possible before. Now THAT is magic!
FOOTNOTE: Another word about food energetics and yin and yang ~ if you wish to go into the study of yin/yang and energetics more in depth , please refer to literature on Five Transformations, and Chinese medicine. The purpose of our book and these articles on the website is to provide a more general understanding of energy in food, for which yin and yang are very sufficient, but they can be described in more ordinary language.
© Copyright Katriona Forrester & Marlise Binetti-Kupper 2002
|picture= Sydney, Australia. Picture Credit Chrissie Conlon
This Section first uploaded on 31st March 2002. Please send feedback about this article. It makes great and total sense to me. Food is the one area that we still have most choice about on a daily basis. How about you? Does it make sense to you?
John Morley, Editor, Head of Health Information