The Healing Power of Food—Where Delicious and Healthy Delightfully Dance Together…
As you may know, my personal health journey from debilitation to greater health
was anything but a straight line. Unfortunately, in many ways my story is not that
unique. The truth is, more and more people (maybe you too) are suffering with
unexplained symptoms that later are discovered to be related to, or made worse
by, an autoimmune disease or other inflammatory condition.
How might my life have been different if it hadn’t taken me 12 years to figure out
the role that food sensitivities had on my health? Twelve years is a very long time
to lose the opportunities to create precious memories with my daughters,
whether tubing with them on the ski slopes, walking them to school, or just
dancing with them to Fred Penner in the living room. Whatever the ailment—
whether cancer, autoimmune disease, a heart condition, or any other health
challenge or disability that you or someone you love suffers from—that results in
such losses, you know how big this grief can be.
While there is a poignancy to acknowledging
these losses, surprisingly something else arose
within me that was infused with hope. I came to
realize that before me was a treasure that
awaited to be unearthed by capturing the
essence of this emotional experience and
combining it with my professional knowledge
as a psychologist. What felt like a lemon could
be transformed into something delicious that
could serve others. Finding meaning in your
suffering is indeed a wonderful way to
change the landscape of your life.
The subsequent cascade of events—that
included, amongst many other things, attending
culinary school and a nutrition education
program with my daughter—resulted in taking
my vision of possibilities around health to all
new heights. In addition, I began to recognize
the potential power of harnessing and
redefining food as an agent for psychological
and social transformation and healing, as well
as for its inherent physical benefits.
In our society, “emotional eating” is
both glorified and pathologized.
What about the paradoxical space
between the two? Might it be
possible to strategically dance on
the tip of that needle, embracing
the delectable primitive associations
we all have developed with familiar
comfort foods, while simultaneously
finding ways to make these delights
in ways that promote health and help
prevent cancer, heart disease, and
Two of the most central agents of
change in therapy are possibility-
thinking and resourcefulness. They
were also the life-blood that pulled
me through my own darkest days.
How great that these same two tools
can similarly change your world, even if you find out that your health condition
requires that you change what you eat, eliminating foods like sugar, gluten,
dairy, and potatoes!
The following marinated mushroom recipe is one such example, bringing
together the beautiful life-giving and anticancer benefits of mushrooms,
garlic, olive oil, parsley, and cilantro.
My dear friend Rho Tuttle wanted to contribute this recipe to my book so that
readers could create this favourite authentic Italian classic in their own homes.
At the time she shared the recipe with me, Rho and I were both navigating
many dietary restrictions and were living examples of resourcefulness and
possibility-thinking as we supported and shared ideas with each other.
"I didn't think I would like it, but I really did!"
Making this irresistible classic recipe is even more special because it reminds
me of my dad. These Italian delicacies are just like the marinated mushrooms
he used to buy at Claro’s Italian Market in Upland, California, for special
Here’s what one test kitchen had to say about this insanely delicious recipe: “I
didn’t think I would like it, but I really did! I made this once and everyone liked
it so much that I made it two other times—including for the teenager’s slumber
party (and her friends usually like meat, but ate vegan). I bought pizza crust
from the store and rolled it out, and used it with the pesto sauce once and with
a vegan alfredo sauce two other times. I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty
it was on pizza. Recommend highly to friends.”
Rho’s Marinated Mushrooms
- 1½ cups apple cider vinegar or other favourite clear vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 5 cups small, or halved and quartered mushrooms (e.g. shitake,
portabellini, crimini, oyster, etc.)
- 4–6 garlic cloves, finely minced
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or cilantro
- Himalayan salt and black pepper, to taste
In a large covered saucepan, bring the vinegar and water to a full boil. Add the
mushrooms and boil for 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and
the flavour is well absorbed.
Carefully scoop the cooked mushrooms out of the pot with a slotted spoon,
and place in a strainer with a bowl under it. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes,
then put mushrooms into a bowl, and stir the garlic and oils to completely
Stir in the cilantro or parsley, and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Let the mushrooms marinate a couple of hours or more in the refrigerator to
deepen the flavour. Garnish with more cilantro and/or parsley and serve.
These marinated mushrooms are a wonderful addition to salads or wraps, as a
pizza topping, chopped and added to pasta, or as a topping to my garlic-infused
polenta. They keep very well in the refrigerator for at least 2–3 weeks.
Makes about 2 cups.
Theresa Nicassio, PhD, Psychologist
Theresa is a kindness advocate, chef, wellness educator,
and the award-winning author of YUM: Plant-Based
Recipes for a Gluten-Free Diet.