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I’ll Take My Flu Shot in a Bowl With a Spoon

9 Nov

Lately, I can’t seem to drive more than a few miles through town without seeing advertisements for flu shots at drug stores and supermarkets.  Walk-ins welcome!  $20, administered by a pharmacy technician — no prescription (in other words, no consultation with a doctor needed in order to make this medical decision).

I am no expert on vaccinations, but I must admit I am wary of them in the same way that I am wary of just about any health advice that carries a strong backing from a U.S. government body and/or pharmaceutical group.  Why?  Well, let’s not forget these are the same groups telling us it is OK, and even nutritious to consume meat and dairy — precisely the foods that cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, several auto-immune and digestive disorders in addition to being foods contaminated with pathogens such as salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli, and other bacteria (coming from the feces of the animal that inevitably gets on the flesh, milk, and eggs).  What do these groups recommend?  Useless and equally troublesome “moderation” diets as well as prescription drugs for the chronic diseases, and cooking at high temperature to kill the fecal bacteria that cause infectious diseases.

Furthermore, with the global community we have now via the Internet, it surprises me to see news articles from other countries in which health organizations exercise a lot more caution in testing and administering vaccines, and have raised their food safety standards much higher than ours.  For example, in Australia, the Swine Flu vaccine was found to cause serious problems in children, and so it has been halted.  Yet here it was immediately administered in schools!

Again, I am not a doctor, so I am only describing my experience.  Also, I can attest to the fact that as a former teacher, I have been exposed to countless sniffles from children who sneeze all over the place, in schools that had no budget for supplying tissues.  Yet, since becoming a health-conscious vegan, I stopped catching all the bugs the students brought in the classroom.  Typically, when people near me start to get sick, I increase my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, including fresh juices and smoothies, as well as soups loaded with vegetables and clear broths.  Last year, my school district had a quite a blow on its attendance due to the Swine Flu.  Hundreds of students were absent, and I spent about a week with less than a dozen students in my classes.  One of my co-teachers who spent three hours per day with me fell victim to it and was absent for nine days, but I was fine.  I began coming to school with a one-liter water bottle filled with fresh juice with every vegetable I had in the fridge — carrots, collard greens, dandelion leaves, lots of red peppers, parsnips, and kale, along with lemons and oranges.  The juice came out a very gross brown color, but I didn’t care.  My students saw it and thought it was disgusting, but I assured them it was my medicine — my way to avoid the Swine Flu — and it worked.  Food was my medicine, not some vaccine that isn’t even effective — again, from my teaching experience I witnessed a lot of students get sick despite (or perhaps because of??) a flu shot.  Bottom line:  not every cold or flu virus is destined to get a person ill as if it were some unstoppable Ebola virus.  We touch, breathe, and swallow germs all day long, but we’re not sick every day.  The fact is that the germs from these illness only affect people with compromised immune systems.  A poor diet, lack of exercise, and high stress can compromise an immune system.

Perhaps when U.S. health groups begin acknowledging that we are what we eat and our food can both cause our problems and reverse them, perhaps I’ll start listening.  So with that said, I will step off my soap box and describe my recent flu prevention strategy.

Soup!  I worked with just the vegetables I had today in my refrigerator, so there really is no right or wrong way to make this soup.  I was happy to see that I had a red pepper, which has 8 times the amount of vitamin C as an orange, as well as parsnips, which are known to be beneficial to the respiratory system.  I also had carrots, which have plenty of vitamins and minerals as well.

I began by sharpening my knife, because I knew I was going to depend on it!

I also began boiling a large stock pot full of water.  Since I did not have any homemade or store-bought liquid vegetable broth, I used two products I enjoy for their natural flavors and less-than-astronomical sodium levels. One is Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon, which comes in a cube shape, and the second one is Gayelord Hauser’s Vegetable Broth.  The latter of the two comes in a loose powder form, which is also good for putting into Follow Your Heart Vegenaise for an excellent ranch-like vegetable dip.

With water working toward a boil and my knife sharpened, I washed and cut the ends off my vegetables.  I did not peel them because all of these pictured are organic, but I did scrub them to remove any dirt particles.  Finally, I was ready to begin the meditative process of chopping vegetables!  I enjoy the process because I find it relaxing to concentrate on the cuts and utilize geometry to work around the curvature of the vegetables.  With each one, I find ways to make lines, flat surfaces, narrow strips, and small squares using parallel and perpendicular slices.

As a I plan what to cut and when, I start with the thickest, hardest vegetables, as these will need to cook longer.  The parsnips were the hardest, and also have an awkward shape.  First I cut the wide thick tops away from the skinny bottoms.  Then I slice the skinny bottoms lengthwise to make two halves, each with a flat bottom.  I then cut these halves lengthwise into strips, then turn my knife perpendicular to cut the strips into tiny squares.  For the thick bottoms, I set them vertically on the cutting board and slice them to make several flat panels as shown in the picture.  Then I cut these panels into strips as well, and proceed to cutting the strips into squares.  I did not wait for the water to finish boiling, because it doesn’t matter — I just threw the parsnips in as soon as they were ready.

Next I cut the carrots, following a similar strategy as the parsnips:  cut the thicker parts away from the thinner parts, cut into strips, then cut into tiny squares, and throw them into the pot.

Now it was time for cutting the pepper, which can be a bit of a pain with all those seeds sticking to everything.  What I do is stand the pepper up on the cutting board and cut downward around the four sides of the stem.  Usually all the seeds stay attached to the stem core and the mess is minimized.  I then use a smaller knife to cut out the white parts, since these tend to make the pepper bitter, and I even rinse the pepper chunks again if there are any seeds clinging to them.  And once again, I cut the peppers into strips and then small squares.

Celery!  With celery I also cut it lengthwise into either two or three strips and then turn my knife perpendicular and chop away.  Notice I have included the celery leaves as well.  There’s no reason to throw them away — they have nutritious value too.  Chop them up!

Lastly, I chopped the zucchini, since it was the softest vegetable.  By now my broth, along with the parsnips, carrots, peppers, and celery was at a decent boil, and so I proceeded once again with the same strategy:  cut in half lengthwise, cut lengthwise into strips, turn the knife perpendicular, and cut into squares.

Every time I added vegetables to the pot, the boil would disappear, but it would come back fairly soon.

I probably should have added these sooner, but I forgot:  dried mushrooms and kombu.  I started buying these dried mushrooms and keeping them in my pantry because it seemed as though fresh mushrooms in my fridge would go bad pretty quickly unless I was using them in my salads every day.  The kombu is a great choice for adding flavor to the broth that is not necessarily that “fishy” taste that comes from some seaweed.  In addition, it contains valuable trace minerals that add even more flu-fighting power to the soup.

Just for fun — I added some animal-shaped pasta to the soup, hoping to put a smile on my husband’s face, since it has been cold outside and he’s feeling a bit under the weather.  This product, Orgran Gluten-free Farm Animal Vegetable Pasta, was in a gluten-free aisle at Haars, a local health food store in my area.  I’ve been using gluten-free pasta for about two years now, in an effort to reduce my exposure to gluten and vary my grains, especially since I learned that close to 40% of people of European descent have a wheat and/or gluten intolerance.  I’ll probably blog about this in the future — stay tuned.

As the soup was just about finished — all the vegetables were soft and the pasta was al dente — I added several handfuls of spinach, and let it wilt and heat up in the soup for about a minute.  That’s all it needed.

The final result:

A bowl of this soup every day for a week, and those nasty, invasive flu germs won’t stand a chance in my body!