It isn’t often that I wave the white flag and hang my head in submission to an overwhelmed system brought down by surfeit. It was the beans- circus colored pectin pumped sugar coated chews in vibrant flavors of a tropical fruit bowl. Had I stepped away from the jellies like good sense counseled, I would have been brought to a completely different turn in the road and I might now be discussing the virtues of oat bran. But with caution and reason thrown to the wind, I am now buried in the sugary residue of Easter past: glittery Peeps, Cadbury Cream Eggs, speckled mini eggs, foiled chocolates, jellybeans and bunny pops- a glut of goodies all crammed into my ever widening maw these past ten days. Trying to regain composure whilst ignoring the mounting jeers from the confectionary rabbits who have escaped a rapacious demise, I am working towards absolution. If the body is a temple, mine is a sugar shack.
Noticing the ebb and flow of appetite has been my way to stay in close contact with my animal self. While I trust my appetite to point me towards that which nourishes me, this information can occasionally still send me off kilter. For example this Easter with my basket aflutter with merriment, I completely gave in to the bright mirth filled colors and sweet innocence of the season. Over and over I was delighted by the gritty crunch of sugar against teeth as I bit into more jellybeans that I thought possible to eat. But the mounting jittery peak and crash of sugar levels, the high expectations and dashed hopes of mediocre meals, and various other trials and tribulations culinary and otherwise finally had me searching for my reboot button. Filled with crapulous insult and energetic fatigue from over stimulation brought on by mindless consumption, I found myself wanting to dissolve into the quiet of things and settle back into myself.
“We are entering a new era. The old categories are dead and gone, for we have passed over into a different world- a world in which I suggest we sensitize ourselves to what Levi-Strauss calls ‘entropology’ (as opposed to anthropology)- the notion of a people recognizing and exploring its own disorientation, its own disintegration, its own running down, and then finally, perhaps, its own possibilities.” T.C. McLuhan from The Way of the Earth
In spite of my internally frenzied state I was able to ferret out a thin appetite for something bland, smooth and voluminously nourishing. Jook, congee or rice porridge is a food which has grounded, nurtured and restored me in times of imbalance. Valued in Chinese medicine as being a simple healing food, the recipe can be tailored to suit the individual’s needs. Essentially rice and water are cooked for hours until most of the grain’s structural integrity dissolves into a starchy puddle. The nurture and nutrition of rice warms and fills the empty places within. With the help of a Chinese herbalist or mother, the medicinal value can be fortified with the addition of varied ingredients such as dried scallops, ginger, scallion, astragalus root, and jujube dates. For me, this expert was my acupuncturist who first helped orient me inward with the heightened awareness of a tracker. Slowly I began to pay attention to my body, discover the continuum and play of balance and even locate my own sources of nourishment and healing. Jook was one of those fundamental recipes ever bubbling within my pressure cooker in those early years. Today thankfully I can recognize this barren land of depletion and finally let go of the candy bowl, chocolate bunnies aside. It is time to re-establish connections neglected and lost- which includes the memory of this old recipe. The making and eating of jook is a ritual for me, a time honored intention to listen and participate with the quiet-loud world within.
Just Jook makes about 7 servings: This is a time to leave the MSG bouillons aside. We are including only the “cleanest” ingredients for this soothing porridge. The long cooking time makes for a food which when eaten allows the nutrition to be absorbed easily without requiring the body to work hard to digest it. I read on Rebecca Wood’s website that a minimum of three hours is needed to balance out the yin and yang energies of the ingredients. Consult a Chinese herbalist (I found this site to have interesting information about jook) if more information about the body’s energetic system is needed.
1 ½ C long grain brown rice
2 dried Shitake Mushroom
4 slices of ginger root
5 dried shrimp
3 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
1 large daikon radish grated
3 scallions finely chopped
Toasted sesame oil
Braggs Liquid Amino/ tamari
A grate of ginger root
Directions: Place turkey carcass/ bones and cover over with cold water. Cook over medium-high heat to get a soft rolling boil and lower the temperature to medium-low. Skim off scum and cook for at least an hour (depending on time constraints and/or richness desired). Strain bones and impurities out and put the stock back into an ample sized heavy stock pot. The stock should equal at least 9 cups. Rinse the rice in cold water and pick through for stones and floating grains. Add the rice, mushrooms, ginger, shrimp, garlic, daikon, and salt in the stockpot and cook over low heat covered for at least 3 hours, but as long as 6-8. Alternately one can use a pressure cooker for about an hour. Add water as needed to maintain a medium thin gruel consistency. In this case, forget that gruel can be cruel. Pull out mushroom caps, remove and discard stems (they can be reserved for a future stock) and slice thin. When the grain is practically dissolved, serve in bowls with the garnishes as desired: reserved scallions, toasted sesame oil, Braggs/tamari, a grate of ginger root, pickled turnip. It is easy to go overboard by adding more condiments to pump up the flavor, but for me this is one time to hold back and allow the interior to reset. Good appetite.