A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Food as Medicine and shared my story of how this blog began as a place to record foods I made for my friends with cancer, as well as my personal journey to help feed my family healthy, delicious and beautiful food. I also shared my dream to help others learn to prepare healthy foods for themselves and their loved ones, whether they are well or ill.
In the past, some people have questioned my motive when I cook for people that I barely know who have cancer. Why would a complete stranger offer to get so intimately involved with someone who has cancer? Where did she come from…out of the blue…all of sudden, she’s her friend?
Honestly, I can’t tell you why I am drawn to people who have cancer. All I can tell you is that I believe in my heart that it is a gift that God has given me and that I need to figure out what I am supposed to do with this gift, as odd as it might seem to some people. The relationships that I have built with these women with cancer have been a blessing to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The personal emails that I receive from people I’ve never met who have cancer or other illnesses validate what I am trying to do. These women are what keep me going.
This past week, I met with a few local small businesses and non-profit folks hoping that it would lead me down some path to where I should be headed. I was so excited prior to my meetings as I couldn’t wait to offer up my services to help out. The funny thing is this…when they asked how much I was charging and I told them I would do it for free, I got almost an awkward response, certainly not the reaction I was anticipating. I thought for sure that these folks would say, “absolutely, would love to have you help us out.” Instead, I almost felt as if they thought I was up to something, that I had an ulterior motive.
My motive was simply this – to practice and share what I have learned with either a small start-up business or a non-profit organization because they are often the ones needing the most amount of help but can’t afford it. Yes, I would like to (and need to) make income to help support my family and I will endeavor to do that through different paths, but I also believe there is a need for volunteer services that I can provide.
It really bothered me that people did not value my free services. When I got home, and talked it through with my husband, it made me a bit sad to think that today’s society has produced a mindset where status quo is that you do something only if you get something in return. That anything free is probably of poor or mediocre quality. After all, aren’t the most expensive shoes the very best quality? More often than not, people are thinking, “Nothing’s for free, so there must be a catch,” “What’s in it for me,” or “What’s their angle.” I guess I am still a bit naive and an idealist, and believe that there is good in everyone. We just need to look for it.
At the dinner table, I asked my kids what they thought about the experiences I had this past week, and how they would have reacted if they were the business folks and I had offered them free services. They said they wouldn’t have thought anything of it and would have taken me up on it, which made me think that perhaps something in our culture changes our mindset so that we become less trusting of others as we grow older.
I also realized that these folks really didn’t know me, and that I hadn’t done a very good job of communicating to them about my background and true intentions. As a former financial executive who worked for a top fortune 500 company for 15 years, I had a name to stand behind me when I was in the corporate world. Today, I am simply a stay-at-home mom trying to follow my passion in an arena that I am new to where no one knows my name.
So, I have made very little progress, but am continuing on a course that follows my passion, and praying that doors will open at some point to give me more direction.
In the meantime, I am sharing a recipe for Warm Artichoke and Hearts of Palm Dip that I made this week for a small gathering of women. When I showed up to our meeting with this artichoke and hearts of palm dip and a container of vegetables, the lawyer in the group commented, “I don’t normally like vegetables, but I think I could eat this.” She actually ate more than a few pieces of vegetables, which I took as a positive sign (I might make a convert of out her ;)). Another woman was thrilled to see that I had brought something healthy to share. She had recently lost a lot of weight, and had not eaten before coming to our meeting. She purposefully did not pick up anything on the way as she knew it would probably be an unhealthy choice, so she happily indulged in this dip with the veggies. You can check out my photo of this dip on Instagram, my latest obsession.
This dip is similar to an artichoke dip I made last year for my son as a healthier mayonnaise substitute for sandwiches, but I added hearts of palm this time as I saw a recipe by Zarela Martinez for Ensalada de Palmitos (Hearts of Palm Salad) and was curious to see how it would taste. Hearts of palm don’t really have much flavor in my opinion, but similar to artichoke hearts, are a good source of fiber, protein, and vitamin C. In addition, hearts of palm are fairly high in iron.
Now, let’s get on with this week’s 50 Woman Game Changer in Food – Zarela Martinez. A group of food bloggers has been making its way through the list and we are nearing the end as Zarela Martinez is #47. So, who is Zarela Martinez?
Zarela Martinez was born in Mexico and is a New York City-based restaurateur and cookbook author. Although she had no formal training as a cook (she learned from her mother, who is a cookbook author herself), Zarela went on to make her mark in the food industry. Her career took off after she caught the attention of Paul Prudhomme while taking a cooking class, and after New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne published several of her recipes under the heading “Memorable Dishes from a Mexican Master Chef.”
In 1983, she designed a menu to be served at Ronald Reagan’s ranch in California for Queen Elizabeth II. In 1997, Zarela opened a restaurant, named after herself, Zarela, in New York (closed in 2011). Her first cookbook, Food from My Heart was nominated for best international book of the year by The James Beard Foundation.
Zarela has made it her mission to promote Mexican culture through its food and traditions, and was recently named to the board of the Mexican Cultural Institute. Her website contains lots of recipes and how-to videos on Mexican cooking techniques in addition to information on Mexican tradition, culture and travel.
“From my childhood on, cooking meant sharing and security and a way of “speaking” to people. – Zareka Martinez
Warm Artichoke and Hearts of Palm Dip
- 12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts defrosted (Trader Joe's carries these)
- 14 ounces hearts of palm rinsed and drained
- 4-6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat toaster oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium bowl, toss together artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, garlic, thyme and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place on a foil-lined or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until garlic is cooked through. Remove vegetables from oven and strip thyme leaves from branches using your fingers, mixing the leaves in with the vegetables. Discard the branches. Place vegetables in a food processor and process until mixture is almost smooth, adding olive oil through feeding tube. Continue processing until smooth.
Season to taste with pepper.
If you’re interested in joining our group as we cook our way through this list of 50 influential women in food, just ask Mary from One Perfect Bite. Please stop by and take a look at what the rest of the group made this week in celebration of Diana Kennedy:
Annie from Most Lovely Things
Linda from There and Back Again
Val from More Than Burnt Toast
Taryn from Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan from The Spice Garden
Heather from girlichef
Miranda from Mangoes and Chutney
Mary from One Perfect Bite
Sue from The View from The Great Island
Barbara from Movable Feasts
Nancy from Picadillo
Kathleen from Bake Away With Me
Veronica from My Catholic Kitchen
Mireya of My Healthy Eating Habits
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook
Alyce – More Time at the Table
Amrita – Beetle’s Kitchen Escapades
Martha – Simple Nourished Living
Jill – Saucy Cooks
Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
For more recipes from this weekly celebration, check out my 50 Women Game Changers In Food Pinterest Board as well as our group’s collaborative Pinterest Board.