SPICE OF LIFE: A Medicinal Cuisine Cookbook


IMG_9435.jpg

In China, the knowledge of food as medicine has been passed down through the generations. It is a common sense that we could use it to treat ourselves in our daily diet, especially when we combine food with spices. "For example, when the weather is getting cold, my mom always makes ginger soup for me to prevent a cold," offers Ailun Sai, designer of "The Spice of Life" project. "When I had the problem of hair loss, she made me a black bean and sesame porridge for a month and it got better." These experiences made a big impression on Sai, and she wondered about the secrets behind those foods, using her studies at Products of Design to delve deeper. 

 

While there are hundreds of different spices used in Chinese medicine—including popular spices like ginseng, ginkgo, and wolfberry (goji berry)—many of them are the same spices and herbs found in the spice racks of western cultures: cinnamon (cassia), ginger, clove, star anise, and nutmeg are good examples.

 

The inspiration for The Spice of Life comes from the spice racks in a traditional Chinese kitchen. In China, ailments are both prevented and treated through the daily use of spices, which provide both nutrients and medicinal benefits. This may be a combination of spices boiled with chicken and served as a soup during dinner every night, for example, a simple mix of spices steeped for a cup of soothing tea, or even a hot dessert.

While there are hundreds of different spices used in Chinese medicine—including popular spices like ginseng, ginkgo, and wolfberry (goji berry)—many of them are the same spices and herbs found in the spice racks of western cultures: cinnamon (cassia), ginger, clove, star anise, and nutmeg are good examples.

 

Chinese medicine teaches that eating certain flavors can help the function of the five organs to balance one's health, to treat disease, and to recover from illness—"Sour can calm the body," argues Sai—so she captured a lot of the recipes (or prescriptions!) into a book form. "In this book, after a short brief introduction, I use the simplest ways to tell readers how the five flavors work in your body. Each of the flavors is covered individually, and also includes a tear-out recipe card which readers can follow to cook their own Medicinal Cuisine." Sai hopes the work will raise awareness of how food-as-medicine has been used for millenia in other parts of the world, and how western cultures may benefit from this kind of reframe.