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Hot body, cool head and all the turmeric I can eat

“Turmeric, and lots of it.”

I’m on the phone with my oldest daughter, Aurora. She is barking out orders like a Marine DI.

“Turmeric. A natural antibiotic. Plenty of health benefits. Put it in, or on everything, starting now!”

Since she found out I have a tumor growing inside my head, Aurora has been in full-race mode.

When I was searching for a neurosurgeon to scoop this rascal out, it was Aurora who got in touch with her friend, a prominent surgeon in Virginia, and through him I found my way to the guy who is going to root around in the my noggin and, at least in theory, take care of my problem.

Now, the ayurvedic princess is preparing me for the tussle. She is very much like her mother; when she sets her sights on a goal, she is like a pit bull that has hold of the mailman’s leg.

“Don’t be afraid of adding a couple teaspoons of turmeric to just about anything you eat. Start now!”

“OK.”

“Oh, and I am sending you some (insert indecipherable Indian-sounding word here). The minute you get it, read the directions, use it, and keep using it. It will clean out your intestinal tract in a hurry. You want a clean intestinal tract before you undergo surgery.”

You bet I do.

“And I don’t want you pulling any of your cynical stuff with my suggestions. You might think it’s funny, but you are on the verge of pretty traumatic events; you need to be serious, and you need to be ready.”

Well, yes, I do.

And I am getting ready.

On the spiritual front, for example, I’ve become a temporary Episcopalian.

After all, you gotta hedge your bets.

The folks on my mother’s side of the family were Episcopalians, straight from the old world – the Lake Country of northern England direct to Central City, Colorado, a couple decades before the turn of the 20th century. They never stopped being thoroughly English. As a result, at the behest of my maternal grandmother, I was spirited away as a wee thing and christened at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Central City— the oldest such church in the state.

Since I‘m a “cradle Episcopalian” the current move seems fitting.

When I was a kid, I was also sent to a private boys’ school that, but for perhaps two of us students, was hard-core Church of England. I tried to resist, but some of the material stuck, like lint on a cheap sweater.

While I can’t remember many of the words, I can still hum the tune to “God the Omnipotent,” (a regular fave at morning chapel services) and I remember that Episcopalians throw in a “forever and ever” right before the “amen” at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. That’s a nice touch.

Furthermore, I like fancy vestments.

I have been doing core exercises in preparation for lots of kneeling … just in case.

I don’t anticipate I’ll make it to church over at St. Pat’s any time soon, but Doug Neel and I are buying a load of great everyday drinker French wines, so I think there’s a good chance we might end up quaffing some. Tossing a couple back with an Episcopal priest is as good as attending a service, isn’t it? Maybe better.

I am ready on the spiritual front. Now, for bodily sustenance.

The question arises, “Should I put turmeric in my wine?”

While Aurora would, no doubt, think a teaspoon or two is appropriate, I will restrain myself. Turmeric and a fine Cotes du Rhone are not a feasible pairing.

But, in terms of the proposed addition of the spice to many of the elements in my diet, let’s face it: If I am willing to become a temporary Episcopalian, how resolute in my ways am I? What could keep me from going along with Aurora’s plan?

Nothing.

So, I will add turmeric to some foods, as much because I like the spice for it’s flavor as for its purported health benefits. Turmeric is slightly bitter, somewhat like horseradish, a bit like mustard. It is, in fact, added to many commercial, prepared mustards.

I will make the additions ever mindful of the fact that the stuff has incredible tinctorial strength, i.e. it can stain just about anything yellow — hands, clothing, the robes of Buddhist monks, even countertops.

I am a curry freak, a lover of a number of Middle Eastern cuisines and various Southeast Asian delights, so I am no stranger to turmeric. Used in moderation, the spice is a major and often vital component in many of my favorite treats.

So, what can I cook that highlights turmeric?

I go to the Internet and launch a search for turmeric-centric recipes.

I find quite a few that look great and will be welcome additions to my repertoire. The spice can be used in all sorts of pickles, relishes and soups, but most of the recipes that attract my attention are main dishes of Arabic, Indian or Pakistani origin.

I find an Iraqi stew that includes lamb, onions, turmeric, pepper. The stew is cooked then covered with rounds of fried eggplant. On top of the eggplant rounds go thin slices of tomato and the stack is finished with a bit of lemon juice, sugar and tomato juice. The dish is simmered for a half hour or so and served with rice.

How about a major dose of Indian-style potatoes?

Cube some white potatoes and parboil until barely fork tender. Fry the potato cubes in oil, with a bit of onion added when the spuds are nearly done (crispy and golden brown). Season with salt and equal amounts of ground turmeric and red chile powder. Put a lid on the pan and let the flavors meld for a few minutes before eating.

Turmeric and rice? Natch.

Perhaps a chicken with rice dish, the chicken browned in the pot then removed. Rice, onion, garlic, basil added and cooked for a few minutes, broth added, along with turmeric, bay leaf, salt, pepper. A little lemon or lime juice, tomatoes, the chicken back in, the pot brought to a boil, the heat reduced to low, the pot covered, the ingredients cooked until the rice is done. Toss in some frozen peas, adjust seasonings, put a lid on and keep warm until the peas are done. Eat.

Chicken pot pie, with turmeric as one of the spices? Sounds doable.

Brown rice, cooked then stir fried with vegetables (you pick ‘em — any will do) that have been par-cooked where necessary, the mix seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, cilantro, turmeric, lemon juice.

A Middle Eastern chicken stew – the bird hunks browned then stewed in broth, with turmeric, cinnamon, onion, garlic, chile pequin, green pepper, carrots, a few whole cloves and a bay leaf — a mess of cooked garbanzo beans added during the last ten minutes or so. The recipe I find recommends ladling the stew over rice then sprinkling the mix with slivered almonds and raisins.

There are plenty of options out there, and they all sound good, so I will try some of them before I go under the knife.

And I should have no trouble digesting them with my sparkly-clean intestinal tract.

The cell phone beeps.

I have a text message.

“Dad. Steam baths, dips in the geothermal waters. Get your body really hot, but avoid getting your head to a high temperature. When you take a shower — hot water on your body, cool water on your head. This is critically important. Do it, now!”

OK.

Enough turmeric to tint my skin yellow, a hot body, a cool head.

Call the surgeon, I’m ready.