A Healing Cuisine
Chinese cuisine is widely known and enjoyed in all four corners of the world. Who could not confess to longing for a favorite Chinese dish? But there is one interesting concept concerning Chinese food which is almost unheard of in the West, and which is becoming increasingly ignored by the youth of the East—the ancient custom of “tonic food.”
Tonic food is food which is consumed to improve one’s well-being, or stave off sickness, particularly at times when one is more prone to illness. For instance, it was once the custom for new mothers to eat a sesame- oil hot pot every day for the first month after giving birth. It was believed that this dish would benefit the muscles, reduce pain, improve circulation, stimulate sweating, and warm the body.
In fact, these Chinese beliefs parallel some Western theories of health, although each takes a different path toward the very same goal. Western medicine actually recommends some of the exact same ingredients that make up the chicken hot pot dish. Sesame oil has been found to promote contraction of the womb while providing lots of calories, and chicken meat is particularly high in protein. Any Western doctor should be happy to suggest such a Chinese dish after childbirth.
The elderly, weak, and young can also benefit greatly from tonic foods, especially during the winter. Some foods, such as goat meat and spinach, are seen as “hot,” while others, such as Chinese cabbage and radish, are seen as “cold.” One should be careful not to eat too much of either “hot” or “cold” food. However, how much “hot” or “cold” food one should eat depends on the time of the year, how the food is prepared and what it is prepared with, and the individual’s health.
“Warm” or “cool” tonic foods are strongly recommended. The choices for “warm” and “cool” foods range from simple sea cucumber to the delicacy of bird’s nest soup, depending on the individual’s economic circumstances.
The concept of tonic food is far from losing credibility, either with Westerners or practitioners of modern medicine. For example, up until two years ago, tonic foods were added to the meals served at a renowned hospital.
The custom of prescribing tonic foods for a healthier life also spills over into the catering industry. Although tonic foods themselves are losing popularity among the younger generation, Chinese herbal medicines, such as wolfberry fruit, can be found on many a restaurant menu, either added to fruit tea or as a beneficial addition to a dish. These herbs attract customers, such as over-worked office staff, in need of a modest pick-me-up.
So, whether you need to boost your masculinity with a large helping of bull penis, or increase your mental powers with a serving of pig’s brain soup, you may find that this ancient Chinese custom could be just the tonic you were looking for.