Saturday, October 28, 2006

Flower Power

Guillermo has resumed his therapeutic massage treatments with our mighty masseuse Diana. One treatment lasts a good two hours, sometimes three. Her techniques (穴位推拿按摩) are based on the ancient Chinese medical theory of our Qi flowing through our body's meridians (經絡) and acupuncture points (穴位). The modern name for it is Tui Na (推拿) which means "push" and "take/pull", probably referring to the hand movements of the masseuse.
Since our masseuse is also well versed in Chinese medicinal nourishments (調理) – a theory based on changing or supplementing our diet to enhance the flow of Qi, and hence, our health and well being. Diana, as usual, left us a "prescription" of herbs and seeds for our current conditions.
Depending on what is prescribed, I sometimes completely ignore it and rather suffer the consequences – no donkey hide thanks very much! However, we are in luck this week; Guillermo and I both have too much heat and dampness in our system and the herbs for them are quite mild.
Having too much heat is a symptom which may manifest through any of these recognisable signs: disturbed sleep, teeth grinding during sleep, bad breath, pimples, or ulcers - very similar to what we know as signs of stress.
Guillermo had not been sleeping well and when he did fall asleep he started grinding his teeth. Although he has trained himself not to take sugar in tea or coffee, the culprit of his heat is still most likely to be sugar – like most Argentines, he simply can't resist a factura (sweet pastry).
Dampness trapped in one's body is very difficult to get rid of, and some of us are more prone to retaining damp. We have been told by Diana and my dear friend and wonderful acupuncturist, Madeline, to ease up on an array of foods.
Damp inducing foods include: cold foods and drinks (we drink mineral water at room temperature and only have a small quantity of ice cream very occasionally), red meat (especially duck and fatty cuts of beef and pork), diary products (cheese is the worst as it is high in diary fats), tomatoes, coffee, food sweetened with sugar and alcohol, especially beer.
OK, calm down. If I have just listed all the major components of a typical Argentine diet, don't be too alarmed...it is about limiting intake rather than complete avoidance. Guillermo loves pasta with tomato sauce and I like wines, we are both mindful of them being damp inducing and try not to indulge too much or too often.
Heat can be rid of through a concoction of mild herbs; we have been told to make a rather pleasant tasting infusion in the mornings of barbary wolfberries (枸杞子), dwarf lilyturf tuber (麦冬), honeysuckle flowers (金银花), and chrysanthemum flowers (菊花). I just make a pot of this tea and we drink it throughout the day.
Ridding of damp, on the other hand, is more about nourishing one's spleen; the solution lies in our diet. We have been told to add certain common herbs and spices to our food; we should be eating more beta fruits and vegetables (pumpkin, carrot, papaya), mushrooms, seeds and pulses.
While I think our damp problem is actually caused by the sugar or wine in our diet rather than not consuming the right foods, it is a great excuse for a pumpkin recipe.
This pumpkin bread recipe from il cavoletto di bruxelles is extremely easy to follow and the sugar content is not very high as pumpkin is already full of natural sweetness.
200g pumpkin puree
175g plain flour
90g sugar
2 eggs
100ml olive oil
50g finely ground toasted hazelnuts
50g finely ground almond
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp ground cardamom
a pinch of salt

Mix eggs, olive oil and sugar in a bowl. Add the pumpkin puree, ground nuts and then the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Mix until combined and pour into a medium loaf tin. Bake for 45min (or until cooked) at 180C.

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