Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Tradition: Sending Flowers for the Dead

I went to church to attend a weekday mass, last Thursday evening. To my delight, there were flowers all over the place, beautiful arrangements here and there. The parish priest explained to me that there had been a funeral mass earlier.

I started to wonder about the origins of sending flowers for the dead. Seeing the flowers seemed to brighten and beautify the church. These flowers were not any different from other arrangements that we may have for other occasions. This particular mass was a special occasion, to celebrate the death into life of someone dear.

These first three arrangements consisted of roses and lilies. These two flowers are considered to be among some of the very fragrant flowers. In the olden days, when there was no embalming of the dead, fragrant flowers were used to mask the odor of the decomposing corpse. This practice started some centuries ago. 

These last three arrangements - made up of daisies, mimosas, baby's breath, mums, roses, poppies, tulips, and paper roses - were more ornamental, with very little scent coming from them.

Now a days, we send flowers to express our sentiments of condolence for the passing of someone. That someone may be a relative, a close friend, or a business associate. It is a way of honoring the dead. It is also a way of expressing to the living that we share in their loss. It is an expression of our love, sympathy and support at this difficult time.

Among Catholics, sending a Mass card is now becoming a popular practice. Information is given in the card about mass offerings for the eternal repose of the soul of the deceased. Prayers and masses for the dead are also comforting to the family members as they face the reality of sending off a love one on their final journey.

Having flowers at the wake, the funeral mass or service, and at the internment add beauty and warmth to the setting. I remember the beautiful wreaths and spray arrangements that we received when my father died, and after two years my mother. My siblings and I read the cards and were touched by the messages. The flowers were beautiful to behold, and some of them brought us memories of our mother's love for plants and flowers.

Among some of the Jewish sects' members sending flowers for the dead is not customary. They have other practices and customs to show their support for the grieving party.

From looking up this tradition, I ended up reading about the religious practices of other people. It reminded me of the burial ceremony I witnessed in Varanasi, India, on the Ganges River. That was a unique experience, so different from what I am accustomed to. If you are interested, here is a link on world religions and their funeral customs.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Healing our Bodies: Part 1 - Choosing Organic Food

For most of my life, I have been eating and feeding my family with food that comes from the regular food chain, that ends in the market, whether that be a town/city market or a super market. Alarm set in in the last decade when problems arose, when food recalls became more frequent due to contamination, causing people to get sick and some dying from it.

At the beginning of the 21st century, mad cow disease made a splash in the headlines. Cows were infected from the feed that was given them, and to our shock we found out that they were eating diseased, dead animal carcass and bone meal. The spread of this disease went global, to include other animals, and the cause was mostly traceable to their feed products. Health alerts were issued, bans came into effect, and standards and guidelines  were reset about animal feed. Still, today,  this problem exist. Just early this year, Germany was caught in the midst of a toxic-animal-feed scandal that has affected the country's poultry industry.

For some, the solution is to go on a vegetarian diet. There are different types of vegetarians. Among them are the pescatarians -   fish is the only meat included in their diet; flexitarians - occasional meat eaters; lacto-ovo vegetarians - dairy products and eggs are part of the diet; vegan - the strictest form of vegetarianism where the food is free of any ingredient that may originate from any animal source; raw vegans - raw-food dieters of fresh fruits and vegetables; macrobiotic - includes unprocessd foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and eating fish from time to time, and a good deal of Asian vegetables like dikon and sea weeds.

With the onset of my diagnosed diseases - chronic-pinched sciatic nerve (causing numbness in my leg and toes), osteoarthritis ( pain from the neck down), cysts (in different parts of my body), severe allergy, plantar fasciitis and bone spurs on my achilles tendon, I went to the doctors and believed everything they said. The tradtional doctors had told me that there was no cure for them but they could be managed with pain killers, medication and vitamin/mineral supplements, and in the case of my foot problems - steroid shots. For awhile I went along with these treatment protocols, but realized I was not getting any better, for the long term.

When I heard that Shaquille O'Neal was addicted to pain killers, I stopped taking them and lived with the pain. Pain killers affect our livers and our brains. I also limited my consumption of other medications and resorted to alternative healing treatments. I was consuming supplements from A-Z, and my pain level was still increasing because of more diseases taking over my body. As my orthopedist had told me, it was all a function of aging. That was not a pleasant thing to hear, to be sentenced to a miserable life of pain and illness, just because I am aging.

My parents lived into their 90s. When I asked my mother, who was then in her seventies and I was in my forties, how she was managing her pain level, her reply shocked me - she said she had no pain. She and my father played tennis into their seventies . For half of their lives they were eating a healthier diet until the processed-food products hit the market.

My pain level started in my late twenties and escalated with each child I bore. In the last couple of years, I have been looking and trying out different means to heal myself. The most effective is the major dietary change I embarked on.  I have become a vegetarian of all types, giving major consideration to  where my food is sourced from.

How our food is produced and where they are coming from have become a major concern. With the alarming rate of so many people getting sick, even just among my family and friends, I began to question how do our bodies get weak and sick? It is the toxins that enter the food system, and eventually passed on to us - the consumers, that wreak havoc in our bodies. They affect the health of our cells and cause them to mutate. From my research, the worthwhile conclusion was to eat organic food, free of toxic substances. This conclusion was confirmed by my readings and further research about the Gerson Diet for healing cancer and other chronic diseases. The Gerson Diet is mainly a vegetarian raw-food diet.

To see how doable this was, I went to see what organic food supplies were in the market. To my surprise, I found a wide range - from fresh, dried, to processed and packaged foods. 

Here are some fresh organic produce - fruits and vegetables - they are not always perfect looking 
and they have a much shorter shelf-life. Their flavors are more intense 
and they are richer in nutrients. 
The packaged foods shown are honey, eggs, rice, beans. and oats.
The processed foods made from only organic ingredients are:  
cheese, yogurt, cookies, pasta, cookies, milk, and smoked salmon.

For the carnivores, there are special stores to get your supply of free-range chicken and beef products from grass-fed cows. They are considerably more expensive. The decision to buy organic food will be based on wether the health benefits from eating these will be all worth it to you or not.

I consider eating organic foods as an investment - investing in the present and future of my health. It is more costly, almost double in price. The end result is I will be in healthy shape in due time and will have little medical bills to worry about. I am convinced of this as I can see this happening now. I have become a mainstream organic foodie and what a difference it has made in my life. 

It is from organic fresh produce that we get the most of the much needed vitamins and minerals that have been missing from our regular diets. To make up for the depleted or low levels, juicing is a major part of my diet. Still, this may not be enough. There are supplements derived from real food to get the supplemental nutrients we need. If your vitamins have ingredients other than names of real food, those could be synthetic or chemicals and will not be as effective as the trace elements you get from food.

After months of starting on an organic food diet, I am determined to continue as I am beginning to feel much better. This is an indication that I am doing something right. This is my route to digress from developing any serious chronic disease. 

I wish that you, too, will find the health path that will be best for you. Be well. Keep healthy.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

In the Kitchen: Black Olive Butter a l'Affriolé

All week I have been engaged in obsessive thinking about my recent dining experience at the l'Affriolé French Bistro.

Specifically, I was mentally savoring the taste of the black olive butter that came with the freshly baked bread. The moment I saw organic butter in the super market, my desire to make it peaked! 

1/8 c. black olives, chopped
1/4 c. salted butter
Baguette slices

First, seed the black olives and chop coarsely
(about 8-10 pieces to equal 1/8 c. full). 

 In a smal bowl, with a 1/2 c. capacity, assemble 1/4 c. softened butter
with the chopped olives.

 Mix with a fork.

 Transfer olive-butter mixture into a small ramekin, level the top 
and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

 In the meantime, slice some pieces from the baguette 
and toast at broil temperatures for 1 1/2 minutes or so.
Plate your olive butter with your bread pieces.

 This was my dinner last night:
Black Olive Butter with toasted baguette slices
Tomato-Avocado Salad with vinegar (ACV) and oil (EVOO)
Dynamic Trio beverage (freshly juiced green apple, broccoli, carrots)

It turned out perfect! 


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