I was vegetarian for 7 years. It wasn’t due to a streak of animal rights, or because I was so in tune with the various healthy cuisines out there. I was too young, too punk, and too mohawked to care, at the time. But, it was mainly due to my body’s refusal to digest meat. It just felt too heavy in my stomach, and after a certain while, if I ate any meat, it just came back up. Case in point, I actually had a hankering for peking duck one day, and savored some in Chinatown. That didn’t last in my system very long.
Growing up as a mixed blood Asian-Latina girl, with Filipino traditions and cuisine, there was lots of meat to be had! Beef, chicken, pork, goat, concocted into some delicious, vinegary, tamarind-y, sour dish, you name it! So imagine the hellish experience of being vegetarian and traveling to the Philippines. I could barely eat anything! I was surrounded by beautiful, luscious roasted chickens that were served on palm leaves, in dark, wooden, carved plates, and I couldn’t (and didn’t really want to) sample a single one, knowing the consequences. And all that lechon (roast suckling pig!) Thank God for sinigang and other hearty vegetable soups I could pick from (at least I still ate things with meat broth.) Yes, to say the least, I lost a few pounds by the time I got back Stateside.
There was a part of me that was starting to crave red meat again. Yet, I was so used to the vegetarian lifestyle, I didn’t really entertain altering my cuisine to include meat again. Then my brother took me to dinner at a Brazilian rotisserie here in Manhattan, where the waitstaff surround you with gigantic slabs of perfectly cooked beef, chicken, pork, etc. in succession, ready to carve from it and serve to you with their barbecue forks. When that happened, vegetarian life as I knew it, was all over. Everything fell away, and it was just me and the meat. Cherubs were playing their lyres in the sky, world peace was attained, and all was right in the world again. That was when I discovered: you can take the meat away from a Filipina, but you can never keep the Filipina away from the meat. Case closed!
That said, I do enjoy everything in moderation, from my meat, to my kale, to my vegan gluten-free brownies, and all dishes in between. I truly believe that peoples’ diets change as their needs change. There is a place for many diets out there, and people generally have a good sense of what their body needs. I know many Chinese Medicine practitioners who are meat eaters, and many others who are vegetarian or vegan. I am definitely one of those who would consider herself a meat-eater. And for the purposes of this post, I would like to share my love for beef.
Chinese Medicine includes beef as a beneficial food. It has a naturally warming nature, it’s flavor is sweet, and it strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Another big thing it does is build the Blood and Qi. So, it is not coincidence that many women crave red meat at the time of their period, since on a physical level, we are losing Blood and Qi and need to replenish it. It also strengthens the sinews and bones and can also be used for general weakness, low backache, and weak knees.
This weekend, I created a beef curry dish, using a recipe from a colleague, with high-quality beef a loved one had brought over from the Italian store. All the fat had been trimmed, the meat was red, fresh, and luscious, and was cubed before it even arrived.
Using the simple recipe, which included sautéing a chopped onion, garlic, and ginger in ghee, adding the 2 lbs. of beef cubes, then 2 tablespoons curry powder mixed by eye (including cumin, coriander, garam masala, curry powder, and salt), with 1 tablespoon of tamari, I cooked the curry over a simmering flame with water for 2 hours, checking the dish every 15 minutes to make sure nothing was burning, and that a nice, thick sauce was forming. The end result? A delicious, brown, thick-sauced curry beef dish that could turn a vegetarian back to the dark side! Coupled with brown rice that had soaked over night, it made for an excellent dinner! My Spleen felt nourished, and my Blood and Qi were boosted. And when a dish is done with love, or with ingredients given to you with love, it makes that dish that much more delicious and nutrified!
There are many foods that can help boost the blood and qi. What can you incorporate in your diet this week to boost yours?
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