April 06, 2007

Cooking to Combat Cancer-Cooking for Staying Healthy

I was only 20, or perhaps 21, when I first felt a sharp pain in my breast and I was about to take the final exams at the college. I remember that when I had to go to the doctor, she gave me a jar of tablets to take for a month. She said I had to take it to make sure if it was actually a tumor. When it was not growing bigger, then it's just a lump, so I could just forget about it.

Unfortunately, the lump became bigger and sharper and more painful than when the first time I felt it. It grew from one small mung-bean size into a meatball size. My hair was fallen out furiously and I wasn't feeling much better. So I dropped the tablets and went to see the doctor again. This time, my father was with me.

And, I didn't come home. I was scheduled to be on the surgery table in another few days. I was thinking about my exams, my friends, my bulletins I organized, my basketball team, and my activities in the organizations at the college. My father told me that he would go tell the director of the college that I wouldn't be able to attend the classes for the rest of the weeks, before the exams began. He brought my books for me, but not my friends. I knew if ever he told my friends, they would have come to support me, but at that time, a disease like breast tumor was not to be announced. It was shameful, I guess, but I never pitied myself. It just happened.

My grandmother from my mother's side had died of lungs cancer which grew everywhere in her body. It was stuck on my mind for years and I was terrified. My mother had had breast cancer removed twice in her life. And I had once. No one wants to inherit this, not even me. I don't want to be sick. I hate it. But this kind of thing can happen to anybody, so I have nothing to do but to stay as healthy as possible. I don't want it to grow in me anymore. I was lucky though that I discovered it earlier. I think everyone of us should be aware of this and will be wise to do a regular check for it.

Since that very day, I have promised me that I have to look after myself. My father is very understanding and supporting my needs of a healthy diet. He was the one who introduced me to green tea which the memory I've written last time. You can read it here.

I do believe that eating healthy means eating more fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, cooking with the freshest ingredients as possible, and drinking plenty of water. Exercise regularly is important. I always avoid using any sachets or jars of seasoning powder or sauces. I'd rather cook from scratch, that will minimize the intake of MSG, preservatives, or additives which your body may not want or causes hard to digest. I love my body, so I have to treat it well.

Eating junk food isn't the best way to look after my body, so we never buy them. What helps us is that we're far from the nearest town, so we're not tempted to go to any takeaways or drive-thru outlets. We grow our own vegetables, fruits and herbs, so that we will have plenty of fresh supplies whenever we need them. We don't use pesticides or insecticides and by that we can eat our fruits or vegetables freshly picked.

I always start my day with a glass of water, then a bowl of fresh fruit salad with organic yogurt. The thing about fresh fruit is that they will taste much better and crunchy when freshly picked. A bowl of fruit salad will always give me a fresh start of the day, which means neither too full nor too empty. I can always follow it by making toasts or pancakes afterwards to give me more energy, but for a half of the day a bowl of fruit salad will be enough for me.

I believe that cooking and taking plenty of vegetables will balance our needs. As an Indonesian, I was taught and conditioned to eat more vegetables than meat. I was a vegetarian for almost 5 years before I moved to New Zealand which then I happened to get iron deficiency everytime I was pregnant. Therefore, I had to eat meat to help me lifting up my iron level. Still, I will choose plenty of peas rather than a big chop of meat.

I have recipes of tofu balls, fried tempeh, fried tempeh with sweet soy sauce, most of my Indonesian Style cooking (are made from scratch), and other gluten-free produce which may give you some ideas what to cook when you don't feel like cooking meat. And most of my Indonesian Style cooking are made from scratch.

Sometimes when it's in season, I am quite happy to nibble a plate of this ong choy salad rather than a plate of biscuits. Would you like to try it? Here's the recipe. This is my entry for Cooking to Combat Cancer, hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte.

Ong Choy Salad

When you buy ong choy, you should cook them as soon as possible, otherwise they will become wilted quickly. If you like a hotter version, simply add chillies. My mother told me that when cooking for a hotter version, I should include other root herbs like fresh galangal, ginger, and bay leaf. She also sometimes adds a teaspoon of shrimp paste, dried anchovies, dried shrimps, or fried tempeh cubes.

1 packet of fresh ong choy, 4 tomato cherries, halves, ½ cup mung bean sprouts, 1 medium onion, finely chopped, 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, salt, sugar, 1 Tbs rice bran oil

Trim the ong choy, remove the base stalks. If you can't snap the stalks, then the stalks will be hard to chew, so take the three stems of leaves from the tip. Blanched the trimmed ong choy for a minute then drained. Heat the oil, cook the onions until soft. Add in the chopped garlic, cook until fragrant. Add in the blanched ong choy, cook for 1 minute, then add in the mung bean sprouts. Cook another 2 minutes. Add in the tomato cherries, cook another 1 minute or until the tomatoes are cooked but still firm. Remove from the stove. Serve warm.

Stay healthy everyone!


Chris said...

Arfi, I cannot thank you enought for participating in the event. But even more, thank you for sharing your very personal battle/story. This recipe, with all your other amazing recipes, will help many get on the road to healthy eating.

Arfi Binsted said...

Dear Chris, we all get through this and I'm just hoping we are strong enough to battle. Yes, we have to be strong. Staying healthy is one weapon of another. I'm happy to share. Thanks again to host this event. Cheers and hugs.

Barbara said...

It is good to share your story as it may save someone elses life. You are brave to share it Arfi when it was a subject not to be talked about at the time. I hope nowdays it is different in Indonesia and peeople are made aware. I buy ong choy all the time at Takapuna markets but didn't know it was clled that. I just cll it water spinach. I make soup with it or sometimes quickly stir fry it with garlic and add oyster sauce.

Arfi Binsted said...

yes, I would be thinking the same way. Some people in Indonesia are aware of cancer but many are not. I am hoping there's an organization will help raising awareness there. I'd like to do it when I am there. Perhaps writing this will then give a message to them. I just can hope.

Lia said...

Pih, was it really a cancer? wasn't it just a tumor? dont meant to untrust but i do hope you always be healthy throughout your lifetime. think you have to check your health intensively per 2 or 3 years. Thanx for sharing honey, insyaAllah Allah bless you for always ;) -hugsss-

Arfi Binsted said...

i was too ignorant at that time to check if it was a tumor or a cancer. as soon as that nasty thing removed the better. i didn't forget it though, only i don't come upfront. yes, i am taking care of myself. thank you, sis!

Rebecca said...

Thanks for sharing your story-I'm glad your here to share it! I can't wait to try the tofu recipes-sounds great!

Arfi Binsted said...

Rebecca-Yes, tofu is a low-fat diet, and it's safe. I'm glad we all can share these stories and I'm happy that I am as healthy as I am today. Thanks for visiting! Cheers.

Veda Murthy said...

Hi Arfi,

I like ur blog a lot......but u have brought a change in me today....especially reading this post has helped me understand how important it is to be in check with our health and also create more awareness in my family about eating fresh produce....thanks for such an enlightening article.....

You surely have created that awareness in me and i wont say from tommorrow...but i will say starting from today i will make changes in my diet n lifestyle and also inculcate the same to my family!