The pictures above are of my last meal of 2015 and my first meal of 2016. I ate them alone. My husband is out of town tending to his ill mother. I ate them slowly and contemplatively at my home in the woods, in the presence of snow and trees, squirrels and deer, cats and birds.
My meal on the 31st was venison. Mat Hanson pulled it out of his pocket when he stopped by the office that day. He told the story of being called by a neighbor to dispatch a deer that had been struck by a car. He described what he found. A broken leg had pierced the lungs and heart, killing it instantly. The deer was in perfect condition. He had finished dressing it just before he arrived. The ziplock bag he handed me was full of perfect, crimson tenderloin. Interestingly that morning I’d found my bird feeder trashed. The buck who had helped himself left one of his antlers, in exchange for his meal. So on the eve of the New Year, after giving thanks, I sautéed the venison in garlic and mushrooms and ate it with broccoli and wild rice. Garlic and rice were gifts from patients. I had a glass of red wine to celebrate the old year.
My meal on the 1st was fresh eggs. I gathered them warm from the nest. Fifteen minutes later they were frying in the pan. Larry, my husband, is the egg man. Young chickens, a mild winter, and a beautiful new chicken coop have kept them laying. He dedicated their coop to peace. I enjoyed them with canned raspberries and seed bread, both gifts from patients. The tea I purchased locally at Holly Howes’ Tea and Gift Shoppe. What beautiful, healthy, local, nourishing meals!
When I went to medical school I learned that food was energy and building blocks for the body. Beyond the recommended daily allowance of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals there was nothing. Like many harried and sleep deprived students I wolfed down industrial food at cafeterias and fast food restaurants on my way to doing something more important, never thinking much about it. Integrative and functional medicine have opened my eyes to a more nuanced and complex understanding of food. I’ve learned how most of our modern chronic illnesses have nutritional roots. I love to quote Hippocrates “Let thy food be thy medicine” and if you consult with me you will leave with recommendations for a food plan that includes a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. I will wax poetic on the benefits of phytonutrients and how they can turn on and off genes that promote health or disease. I’ve come to understand food as not only fuel, but information. Information that tells our bodies how to heal, how to move, how to live.
Not too long ago, as I was reflecting on these things, I had an ahah moment. If food is information, there is communication going on, and if there is communication there must be relationship! Ultimately eating is relationship! Relationship to the source of all foo
d: our planet, the Creator, those who grow and gather and cook it, the plants and animals, soil and rain, lake and sun. To the ones we share it with. All our relations.Then this white, scientifically trained, slow to learn doctor who has been working with Ojibwe people for 30 years realized that this is precisely the native teaching.
Dan and Tallie Devault gave me a copy of Nando-gikenimindwaa Nindinawemaagnidog Getting to Know All of creation, a publication of the Leech Lake Tribal College. In it is the story of how an Anishinaabeg elder dies in the woods and is reborn a fawn. He learns the ways of the waawaashkeshiwag and is told that when they are killed their spirits are lost, hissing and traveling forever. This is because the hunters do not offer tobacco. If things continue this way the spirits will not be reborn in spring and eventually there will be no more deer . The elder matures into a full grown buck and an Anishinaabeg kills him with two arrows. When the hunter approaches he finds the old man in human form pierced by arrows, in pain, and dying. He cries out in remorse. The elder gives the teaching he learned from the waawaashkeshiwag about offering tobacco, asema, for respect for all life, not just the deer. This is what insures the continuation of abundance for all our relations.
So, all my relations, I found my meals deeply nourishing and satisfying. Not only were they full of the nutrients my body needs, they were full of all my relationships. Full of respect, love, and gratitude. What would happen to our health if we paid as much attention to our minimum daily requirement for gratitude as we do for protein and vitamins? Offer your tobacco, say your prayers, respect the planet, express your thanks to those around you and let’s find out! All the best in the new year.