I'm currently reading a back-to-basics healthcare book, Food is Your Best Medicine, written forty-two years ago by a doctor named Henry G. Bieler. I feel the delight of having "discovered" Bieler and his maverick ideas about food and health (more maverick during his lifetime than now, but they're still fairly maverick, considering how the mainstream medical establishment continues to place most of the emphasis on pills and drugs rather than on prevention, good nutrition, fresh air, exercise, care of the soul, etc).
My delight is akin to that of a beginner poet who has just discovered William Carlos Williams, or to an amateur rock musician who has just discovered Buddy Holly.
This morning I went to see Efrem at Chinese Medicine Works and when he asked me if I had "anything new" to report, I mentioned this book to him. He knew who Henry Bieler was, of course, and asked me if I'd tried his famous "Bieler Broth." Believe it or not, I was able to say, "Yes, I just made some on Monday!"
The reason I recently made Bieler's Broth was because I had noticed the recipe for it in my now favorite Bible cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, and I made the connection between it and the author of the book I'm reading. So I asked Jack to pick up the ingredients when he was out walking Olivia on Sunday. (I would have been out walking her too, but I was holed up at home doing Writing Salon taxes).
Jack came back with parsley, celery, zucchini, string beans and a few sprigs of tarragon. I dutifully followed the cookbook recipe, which is designed to be high in potassium; this helps restore alkalinity to the body (more desirable than acidity):
1 pound string beans, ends snipped
6 medium zucchini (green), ends cut off
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 bunches parsley (cut stems, optional)
Several sprigs of tarragon or thyme, tied together
1 quart filtered water
Put all ingredients in a large pot, add water, don't freak out that it doesn't seem like anywhere near enough water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about half an hour. Take out the tarragon/thyme, pour into a blender, and puree everything into a thick soup (it will be the thickness of split pea soup). Or use a hand-held blender if you have one of those.
This is the "medicinal" recipe. Plain and bland. But Nourishing Traditions also has an "epicurean's" version of Bieler Broth, which I'm sure is tastier. I just wanted to try the basic recipe, first.
When I told Efrem how I made it, he said he'd heard that you should also add potato peels (not the whole potato, though, because you're supposed to be using only non-starchy vegetables). Today I went online looking for recipes for Bieler's Broth (just curious), and several variations popped up. None included potato peels, however, so I'm going to ask Efrem for his recipe.
In the meantime, I'm spiking my daily cup of basic Bieler's broth with homemade chicken stock and a pinch of Celtic sea salt. The recipe above made a little over two quarts, so I figure I'm gonna be Ms. Alkalinity soon... or if not that, at least I'll be neutralizing the acidity caused by my cup of morning coffee, which I'm not ready to abandon (although I recently switched to a much smaller cup, and am pleased to announce that this is a good trick to play on yourself. I feel satisfied as long as I have my "cup" of coffee, even if the cup is only half the size of my old one).
Anyway, I recommend Food is Your Best Medicine. I like Bieler's lively style of writing, his stories about great physicians of the past, and his way of explaining all the reasons he eschewed conventional medicine. Some of it is dated, but so what? It's a cheap little paperback ($6.99) that is packed with information for people like me (new explorers in the world of health and medicine and nutrition), plus I see it as a Fascinating Ode to Common Sense.
"Today...the physician is inclined to discount the natural wisdom of the body itself; to forget that the body has two small bean-shaped master chemists of its own: the kidneys, whose task is more complex than any electronic computer conceived by man. Instead, a growing number of physicians are more likely to get writer's cramp making out prescriptions for patients who are demanding them, the while forgetting the story of the physician who handed a prescription to a patient saying, "Here, have this filled quickly while it is still a remedy."
"Away back in the year 1855 (drugs were even then the chief remedy for disease) the following notice was posted by the Massachusetts Medical Society:
The Treasurer announced that he had received the sum of one hundred dollars from a member of the Society. . . .for a prize on the following theme: We would regard every approach toward the rational and successful prevention and management of disease, without the necessity of drugs, to be an advance in favor of humanity and scientific medicine."
"What I hope to do in this book is show you that both "prevention and management" of disease may be obtained without drugs. I have done it more times than I am able to count." — Henry G. Bieler