So what is Garlic & Lemons all about anyway?  Part recipe book, part guide to healing, part personal journal — all with the purpose of learning how to create a home filled with lots of joy, love, and laughter.

PART RECIPE BOOK   Over the years, I’ve learned to love cooking.  This is strange because I grew up thinking that cooking was for housewives — something I had no intention of ever being.  I mean, I knew the basics — put a little season salt on some chicken wings and bake, how to boil rice, fixing a bowl of cereal — but I never really put any thought into ingredients, where ingredients came from, and how certain cooking methods change the taste and texture of what I cook.  That was until I went to Togo for 2 years in 2000 as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I used cooking as a way to create variety in a place where life just seemed to move super slow — much different from the NJ/NYC life I had come from.  I learned the difference between lemons and limes — and how to make limeade instead of using Kool-Aid and Country Time.  I learned that yes, a yam and a sweet potato are 2 different things!  I learned the proper way to kill, pluck, and fry up a tough, old village chicken — and make it taste better than anything you could ever buy from a store.  I am ashamed to admit it, but during Ramadan, the Muslim holiday marked by fasting during daylight hours, while everyone else had pledged to give up pleasures of the flesh, I was in the kitchen being my most creative.  I made double helpings of my garlicky home fries topped with Heinz Ketchup (if you lived with me in my village, you would appreciate the gourmet flavor a simple bottle of Heinz Ketchup brought to a plate of crispy, velvety potatoes).  One time I got up enough nerve to buy raw cow’s milk from the local Fulani people and made an awesome bowl of spaghetti in alfredo sauce.  Ahhh, what a treat to have nothing but time on my hands to cook what I liked using simple, local, fresh, pesticide and hormone free ingredients.  And then it ended and I had to come home to my life filled with toxic food and toxic people.

PART GUIDE TO HEALING  Garlic and lemons not only taste great together, but they are ingredients often used in detox regimens meant to heal the body from the inside out.  All those years of eating processed crap had taken a toll on my health.  I struggle with obesity and suffer side effects from uterine fibroids so large, my belly looked like I was about 4 months pregnant.  Even after my surgery to remove all 8 in 2009, they continue to grow back — so I must be doing something wrong.  My mom taught me the concept of using food to heal when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39.  For 10 years after that, she experimented with all kinds of foods and natural health experiments to coincide with her radiation and chemotherapy appointments.  From her example, I learned to sincerely enjoy brown rice.  I learned that juicing beets, ginger, and carrots together into one big, frothy glass is better than any caffeine-laden coffee in the morning.  I started to pay attention to things like fat content, cutting down on processed foods, and actually enjoying exercise.  My mom’s lessons about relearning how to eat reverberate in my mind daily.  Cooking with good, wholesome ingredients is my way of connecting with her, even after her death in 2006. And then I got busy; too busy to stop and use any of the things I had learned from my mom or from my life in Togo.  And my body, mind, and spirit paid the price.

PART PERSONAL JOURNAL   It feels good to write from the top of my head.  No judgements.  No grades.  No deadlines.  Yes, I’d love for others to read and get something useful out of this blog.  But if you don’t, then I guess you won’t get this far on this page anyway.  And that’s fine.  I’m in my mid-thirties.  I’m well educated and have a great career as an advisor at a community college.  But I would like more than that.  In the spirit of change and renewal, I got rid of my husband in 2010.  Leaving that relationship behind has left me with a new space to discover what I like, not necessarily what “we” have to like because of a compromise.  Then I decided I was tired of being a student.  Okay, I guess I had been tired of being a student for a long time.  But now I’m at a point in life where I would like to trade my 1 bedroom DC apartment for a 4 to 5 bedroom house with a husband who adores me, a beautiful veggie and flower garden, and a boat load of kids.  So, you see why that $1000 per credit PhD program had to go, right?  And I want to travel more.  I want time to see some not-so-well-known musical acts.  I want more time to see some really good documentaries.  And I want to cook.  For real.  Not haphazardly slap some chicken in the oven with a bag of salad on the side.  I want to finally get rid of that big ass Bisquick box and figure out how to make pancakes from scratch, damnit!  Is that too much to ask?

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