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In the News

Balance in Life Comes Through Food Choices-Food Beat, San Francisco Examiner

By Bill Citara

Sonia Gaemi has been detecting a kind of intelligence conveyed through food, what she calls "food wisdom," all her life.

Her understanding of this wisdom began to take shape in Tehran where as a 5-year old; she collected recipes from the Persian women all around her, as well as from her Russian grandmother, who used food as a healing substance.

Her formative gustatory experience there was of eating a plate of culinary greens-basil, mint, chives and dill-along with feta cheese, almonds, grapes, olives and walnuts.

"The smell, the color, the chewing, texture, and excitement of the sensual experience"-from all these sensations, says Gaemi, she realized that food possessed a remarkable capacity to bring about alimentary balance to the mind as well as the body and that women from traditional cultures understand this better than anyone.

The realization continues to influence her work as a multicultural nutritionist with a practice-Dr. Sonia's Food Therapy Clinic-in Berkeley. Gaemi, a registered dietitian with a Ph.D. in multicultural education, develops "eating plans" for her clients that integrate the cultural food wisdom she began to discover years ago with modern food science and spirituality.

To educate the public about cultural food wisdom and to garner more of this wisdom from others, especially other women, Gaemi has organized a program titled "One Day Peace and Healing with Food," which takes place next Tuesday at Xanadu, RestorAsian Cuisine restaurant in Berkeley. Xanadu executive chef Alexander Ong will be on hand as well.

"We will share a nutritional awakening where we stimulate eating mindfully and promote a healthy lifestyle by highlighting indigenous cooking lifestyles and foods," says Gaemi. Gaemi also encourages the drinking of different types of teas, breathing exercises, and the sharing and eating of colorful whole foods free of animal products. She will discuss the food wisdom in several recipes featuring healthful ingredients such as soy, olive oil, dark leafy greens, teas and herbs. These recipes emphasize the greening of springtime and are designed to aid in digestion and boost the immune system.

"The only time good health is going to take over is when you open your heart to cultural wisdom," says Gaemi. "When you open your heart, you open your kitchen also."

One Day Peace and Healing With Food will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Tuesday at Xanadu, 700 University Ave., Berkeley. The cost is $50. For reservations or more information, contact Gaemi at (510) 400- 5022. The program is sponsored by Women's Nutrition/2000 of the United Nations-East bay Chapter, Women's Health Leadership and the Chinese Cultural Congress.

To fend off fatigue, Gaemi urges the drinking of tea with combinations of culinary herbs, greens and bacteria-fighting spices. "Take the tea-drinking ritual seriously," she says. "Teas will benefit the whole body, not just alleviate the symptoms. Rituals for serving tea are used in some cultures to bring about a body-mind healing connection and a harmonizing of yin and yang in the process."

This blend is used throughout the Middle East to calm nerves and aid the digestion.

Enough for 5 to 10 cups of tea
1 teaspoon green tea
1 teaspoon dried passionflower
1 teaspoon borage flower
1 teaspoon chopped dry blackberries, cranberries or strawberries
1 teaspoon toasted brown rice
Pinch or orange zest
½ cup red clover leaves and flowers
¼ cup dried spearmint

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Use one or two tablespoons for one cup of tea.

Note: Add kelp to help you sleep or slices of ginger to aid the digestion.

Soy beans are rich in protein, bone-strengthening calcium and isoflavones, compounds unique to plant foods that scientists believe protect against common cancers.

4 to 6 servings
2 cups basmati rice
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large tortilla
1 (10-ounce) package green soybeans, without pods
3 cups fresh dill, chopped, or 4 tablespoons dried dill
¼ teaspoon saffron
4 to 6 cloves garlic, pressed

Place the rice in a fine-mesh sieve. Wash under a running faucet until the rinse water runs clear. Soak the rice in five cups lightly salted water for one to two hours. Drain. Bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add the rice. Stir to separate the grains. Return to a boil. Cook uncovered three minutes. Drain and rinse under warm water. Add salt to taste. Preheat oven to 375°. Coat the inside of a three-quart, rectangular, nonstick baking dish with half the oil. Cover the bottom of the pan with the tortilla and trim off edges that hang over the sides, if necessary. Layer as you would a lasagna. Place one-third of the rice over the bottom of the tortilla. Cover the rice with half of the soybeans, then half of the dill. Sprinkle all over with half the saffron and half the garlic. Repeat the layering process with half the remaining rice and the rest of the soybeans, dill, saffron and garlic. Now cover the casserole with the remaining rice. Sprinkle the remaining olive oil all over the top. Cover with a tightly fitting lid or foil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with baked fish and a choice of hot chutney, salsa, yogurt or assorted culinary herbs.

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Dr. Sonia celebrating Persian New Year

Sonia in front of her WCW mural

Dr. Sonia with her grandchildren

Christine Jones
Created: 2004