The Cookbook Nook

By Alia Akkam / September 10, 2011

The Elements of Life

In traditional Thai culture, food is not meant to simply nourish, it is also a healing medicine. Su-Mei Yu, owner of Saffron restaurant in San Diego and founder of the cooking school Prem International in Chiang Mai, Thailand, has a new book called The Elements of Life (John Wiley & Sons). The book introduces readers to the philosophy that nature consists of four elements: earth, water, wind, and fire. By discovering which one of these holds dominion over us, we can truly be in tune with our bodies. “According to the old-timers, who you are and how you live is linked to nature. Not everyone is made up the same way,” Yu says. The Wheel, the creation of the late Dr. Pennapa Subcharoen, director of the Department of Traditional Thai Medicine in Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health, opens the book, determining your true element. Then Yu delves into the four elements’ characteristics, offering ideal recipes built around the flavors and aromas best suited to each element. For example, wind folk will relish coconut and candied ginger macaroons on a chilly evening, while spicy basil ice cream does the trick for fire souls. All the recipes promote the use of fresh ingredients. “People are beginning to understand seasonality and that locality has its merits and that you don’t have to buy chocolate from a foreign land to be happy,” shares Yu. You can match your beauty rituals to the elements, too. As such, Yu adds her recommendations for “appropriate” scrubs and massage oils.

Clean Food

When Terry Walters taught cooking classes, she whipped up vegan recipes to encourage her students to eat “nutritional heavy hitters” like dark, leafy greens, whole grains, and legumes. After compiling these recipes for her students she decided to gather them together and write the book Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You (Sterling Publishing). “It was a project I took on to give back to my students and to the community that had not only nourished me with their enthusiasm, but kept me energized with their endless support and interest in eating clean,” she explains. Clean Food’s easy recipes are divided by season. Her fall picks? Ginger Sesame Greens, Tofu Kale Lasagna, and the Three Sisters Deep Dish Pie with squash, beans, and fresh corn. To simplify the world of healthy cooking for novices, the book is also packed with helpful, detailed descriptions of cooking tools, methods, and obscure ingredients.

Alia Akkam
Alia Akkam

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