Making food magic: fresh from Andy Weil’s new cookbook!

Am I lucky! I have made amazing culinary friends in my life, from my adopted Italian nona to a delightful array of cooks and chefs. One of my most cherished cooking buddies is Andrew Weil, he of integrative medicine fame, who has just come out with a new cookbook, Fast Food, Good Food, that you MUST know about. (And not only because I helped!)

Fun with my cooking buddy

You may know Andy as an iconic doctor in the integrative medicine movement, educator and author of many books that have served as trusted resources for years. But did you know that he was a botanist first before he became a physician? That he’s a food connoisseur? That he grows and cooks his own food, simply and beautifully, year round?

We first met when I was called in to wrangle the menu for his large annual nutrition conference (and yes, it is wrangling to coax healthy food from hotel kitchens). But we didn’t bond until several years later when I sat next to him at a pre-conference faculty dinner, and talked about a shared love of food, cooking, dark chocolate and our canines. Of course, from then on, we were fast friends.

We’ve taught together since at venues ranging from a fundraiser with 38 people in a not-too-big  kitchen (see Andy and I above with Victoria Maizes) to on a big stage under the lights for audiences of 600+. We always have a blast, bouncing off each other and demonstrating in our shared cook’s language the ease and joy of cooking flavorful, healthy food.

So when Andy asked me to lend a hand on this new book manuscript, I didn’t even think twice. A plane, a train, an automobile and a ferry delivered me to Andy’s summer home on Cortes Island off the coast of British Columbia where we cooked from his garden for 3 days straight.

The biggest gift I received? Cooking and eating with Andy and friends. We sat out on the deck… the sun was gorgeous… And I was so transported by the taste and flavors, I felt like I was back in Italy during my first visit in my 30’s -- sitting at a table with others, forgetting about nutritional content, just being transported by the simplest, freshest ingredients, prepared with so much integrity.

And, of course, I became fast friends with Ajax, his Rhodesian Ridgeback.

An exercise in practical magic

From Andy’s introduction to Fast Food,Good Food:

“Popular Food Network shows portray cooking as competitive. I’d rather it be contemplative. That’s why I got into it when I was a medical student. I discovered that imagining a wonderful meal and then making it for myself was the perfect way to get my mind back in balance after long stretches of working in depressing hospital wards where the only available food was wretched. Chopping vegetables became a welcome meditation. Getting a meal to come as close as possible to the way I imagined it was an exercise in practical magic.”

I thought you might enjoy trying some magic! A couple of Andy’s very simple, very bright and delicious recipes: Broccoli with Wasabi Butter or Miso Butter and Diana’s Sugar Snap Peas with Olive Oil and Mint. So fresh!

Connecting the dots: You’re a magician, too. We’re all magicians.

Here’s the deal: our lives are really crowded and it may seem hard to make time to cook. But you can! Stop being a voyeur of food shows and blogs, and get into the kitchen. Be that person. Do it the fresh, simple, easeful way. After your hard day, be a magician, be contemplative, creating foods to nourish your body. That’s the power of food.