I am so excited to share with you a much-awaited project between me and my sister Andrea. I was prompted by Andrea, a midwife with a private practice in Oakland, to put together recipe suggestions for her Xicana clients during la cuarentena. La cuarentena is a Spanish phrase in reference to the specific period of postpartum recovery of Mexican women - in which many new mamas are embracing so they can continue to carry on our family traditions. I loved the idea because I often get asked by members of my own community, here in Phoenix, for indigenous postpartum recipes. So, almost one year later, I am finally giving birth to this small piece of work as an offering to my Xicana sisters everywhere. The recipe suggestions are all based on my work in Traditional Mexican Knowledge and decolonized foods, combined with a sprinkling of my longtime training in the Indian healing art of Ayurveda.
I believe Traditional Mexican Knowledge and Ayurveda work beautifully together as both indigenous systems recognize a period of roughly 40 days of healing after childbirth. The knowledge from both systems during this healing period include the binding of the belly with a rebozo or sari, the prescription of lots of rest, the need to consume warm and easily digestible foods, and the encouragement of new mothers to drink plenty of nourishing teas and broths. During la cuarentena, women traditionally avoid foods to be too hot or too cold, acidic, gas causing, overly spicy (as in heat), or too greasy. Many foods are avoided because of the belief they may cause colic in the newborn, while other foods and herbs are encouraged to help with milk production. For this reason, I am including several Ayurvedic herbs and spices which are excellent for digestion and the support of breastmilk production if nursing.
Our Mexican grandmothers recognized the healing benefits of plants that arrived from faraway lands – herbs and spices such as anise, cinnamon, cilantro, comino, lavender, mint, and rosemary to name a few. So it is with great respect that I not only honor our abuelas indígenas with several of our ancestral foods, but also the indigenous grandmothers of India, who hold deep knowledge of their own plants, with many making their way across the sea and into our grandmother’s kitchens. I hope you enjoy the following as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
With love and healing energy,
WORDS FROM MY SISTER ANDREA
Andrea Ruizquez, CPM Oaklandpartera.com
Andrea pictured here with her daughter Amada, just-born son Feliciano, partner Marea, and an incredible network of women supporting her after her homebirth
HOT & COLD
Solo las ollas saben los hervores de su caldo
Only pots know “the boilings” of their broths
A new mama’s body is cleansing, healing, and rebuilding after birth. Everything she eats during this time should be soupy, warm, and moist to gradually restore her back to full power. The Mixtec people understood the Cycle of Life in terms of hot and cold categories - and these categories were also applied to food and medicines. The woman’s center, her womb, in its normal state is cool and moist - much like a clay olla. When she becomes pregnant, her womb becomes warm, and her olla begins the boiling so to say. It is believed that when the baby is born, the infant carries with it her bodily warmth. That is one reason warm moist foods must be given after birth, so that the woman may return to her normal state. The only common thread I have heard in listening to stories of "hot and cold" foods eaten during la cuarentena, are the idea that atoles, caldos, and warm foods are best. Some women talked of eating avocados, beans, and corn tortillas, while others stayed clear of those foods. Do your research...asking your abuelas and aunties for suggestions and do what feels right for you.
New mothers need support during la cuarentena. Her body is seen as fragile and vulnerable following childbirth. She will be dependent on the social framework of those around her - from well seasoned mothers to friends, family, and partners to help with everyday meals. Below are some general suggestions to reference when preparing meals, keeping in mind that every family and every community is different.
Cold raw foods such as leafy green salads are best eaten after the first 6 weeks as they may cause gas or cramping resulting in pressure on the perineum. If the new mother is craving something sweet or fresh, try introducing soft mango or papaya
Refined sugar has no nutritional value. Try natural sweeteners such as maple syrup or honey which offer trace minerals
Cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage may cause uncomfortable gas or instigate colic in your baby
Vegetables such as carrots, squash, and purple potatoes need to be stewed for long periods of time to ensure a soft stool, which protects against hemorrhoids
Beans are best reintroduced back into your diet the last two weeks of la cuarentena. And don’t forget to always soak your beans overnight. Soaking improves digestibility and decreases cooking time
As many Indigenous people of the Americas are lactose intolerant, I personally avoid and do not recommend the consumption of cow's milk - especially since it may cause diarrhea, gas, and cramping in those who are lactose intolerant. If it is known that the mother is lactose intolerant, try substituting cow’s milk for almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, or macadamia nut milk. Some of the following recipes do however ask for Ayurvedic ghee, which is similar to clarified butter and is virtually lactose-free. It's good for inflammation and aids in gut health
If your budget allows, buy organic, non-gmo
Use meat as medicine. With the exception of healing bone broths and blood building organ meats, meat should be limited until the end of the 40 day period as it can be difficult to digest. Once reintroduced back into your diet, use it to flavor soups and stews versus eating a big portion all at once
It’s believed that raw garlic and onions are too sharp and promote restless energy. Enjoy them cooked to season your dishes
Prepare food and beverages with happy thoughts and good intentions. Our energy is the most important ingredient
For the Mama: Test each of these dishes out to determine if you or baby have any sensitivities. Keep it simple and listen to your body. This will be the best path to take during the process of restoring balance to your entire Self.
Many of these simply seasoned recipes contain Ayurvedic galactogogues in the form of spices for their medicinal benefits as well as for added flavor. Galactogogues are substances of herbal or synthetic origin believed to aid in initiating and maintaining adequate milk production. Common foods considered to be galactogogues are almonds, dark leafy greens, garlic, ginger, and papayas. Examples of spices are comino, fennel seeds, and turmeric powder. The Ayurvedic spices used in the following recipes are most beneficial when used in small amounts - such as in cooking and teas. Do not administer any of the herbs or spices in supplemental form (gel caps, tinctures) unless advised by a qualified herbalist or healthcare provider.
La panza es primero.
The stomach comes first.
Blue corn contains anthocyanins which enhance glucose metabolism and reduce glucose absorption. Atole is one of my family’s most traditional pre-contact foods and one of my favorite comfort foods. My mother carries Tewa blood from the pueblos of northern New Mexico, where she says they also called blue corn atole chakewe.
1 cup water
1 cup of your favorite milk
8 teaspoons finely ground, toasted, *non-gmo blue cornmeal
Maple syrup to taste
Mix cold water and milk. Stir in cornmeal and continue stirring until it is blended.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly (preferably using a whisk). The atole will thicken as it nears the boiling point.
Remove from heat, let cool slightly before adding maple syrup.
*Thankfully there are more grocers selling non-gmo blue cornmeal, however, if you cannot find a grocer in your area, you can purchase it from this source: madeinnewmexico.com
Quinoa originated with the Incas in the mountains of Bolivia, Chile and Peru. It is considered to be one of the most nutritionally complete foods. Turmeric helps with digestion and helps prevent mastitis.
Special equipment, sprouting lid, mason jar
1 cup quinoa
1 quart mason jar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
In the evening: Rinse quinoa thoroughly with cold water using a fine mesh strainer. Place the quinoa in a 1 quart mason jar and fill with cold water. Soak overnight.
In the morning: Put the sprouting lid on the jar and drain the water. Find a cool place in your kitchen and set the jar upside down in a bowl to catch dripping water.
Every few hours rinse the quinoa with water, pour the water out, and put the jar upside down again over the bowl.
Once you see little sprouts emerging you know they’re done.
Transfer quinoa to a saucepan and add 1 cup water, turmeric, vegetable stock or bone broth. Simmer covered for 12-14 minutes until quinoa is cooked.
When you’re shopping for quinoa, look for companies that are Fair Trade certified or that say right on the packaging that they work closely with their farmers to make sure they are paid a living wage.
Sprouting jars can be found in most natural grocery stores or on Amazon.
Native Wild Rice is rich in iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc while cardamom supports breastmilk production. This recipe makes a rather big batch to eat throughout the week or to share with your family. Feel free to cut it in half.
1 ½ cups wild rice
3 cups water
1 cup coconut milk (or your favorite milk)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Honey or maple syrup for serving
Place wild rice, water, coconut milk, sea salt and cardamom in slow cooker. Turn heat on low and allow rice to cook for about three hours, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is creamy. Add maple syrup to taste. Serve warm.
When purchasing wild rice, be sure to look for true Native wild rice that is grown and cultivated in the Great Lakes regions such as https://www.redlakenationfoods.com/products/wild-rice-products
Like many New Mexicans, our family called women’s breasts “chi-chis” as it related to nursing, which is a variant of the Nahuatl word for breast or teat. Breastmilk naturally contains lauric acid and capric acid which have powerful anti-microbial properties to boost the immune system. Coconut fat also contains lauric acid and capric acid, so it can boost the nutritional quality of breastmilk. Fennel is a galactagogue that promotes or increases the flow of a mother's milk. Dates are an ancient food of Western Asia and Northern Africa. They are a good source of various vitamins and minerals and are naturally super sweet. Mama Chi-Chi Balls make a nice little gift and the recipe can easily be doubled.
3 large Medjool dates, pitted
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/3 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight (preferably peeled)
1/3 cup quinoa
Pinch of sea salt
Combine dates, coconut, coconut oil, fennel seeds, and pinch of sea salt in a food processor. Pulse, occasionally scraping down sides, until the mixture is sticky and holds together when pinched. Briefly pulse in almonds just until combined but chunky. Roll with damp hands into rounded tablespoon-sized balls.
Heat a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium and working in batches, toast quinoa covered until you hear it quietly popping and it smells nutty, 1 to 2 minutes (this is easiest to do if you have a glass lid). Transfer to a shallow bowl and repeat with remaining quinoa. Roll balls in cooled quinoa. Balls can be kept chilled, covered, for 4 days. Eat at room temperature as a snack or dessert.
This infusion is very delicate and nice to sip on throughout the day. Fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds are both milk producing spices.
2 quarts water
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
Boil fennel and fenugreek seeds in 2 quarts of water for 10 minutes.
Pour seed water into a thermos to keep warm. You can add a tiny amount of maple syrup for added sweetness.
You can purchase fennel and fenugreek seeds at all Indian grocers, Sprouts' spice bulk department, or online
Amaranth is a one of our most important pre-contact foods with high amounts of iron and protein. Cinnamon may be useful in alleviating excess gas, easing the digestion of heavy foods, and increasing the absorption of nutrients.
1 cup amaranth seeds
3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
One 1-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350º. In a large saucepan, bring all of the ingredients to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour into an oiled 3-quart casserole dish (coconut oil or ghee works well).
Bake for one hour, or until amaranth has absorbed the liquid and is tender. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon, serve warm. If you prefer it a little thinner, simply add a some of your favorite milk.
Nopales are rich in several immune boosting vitamins such as vitamins A and C. Well-cooked garlic supports the immune system, lactation, and digestion. Cumin and coriander seeds help balance and reset the body and mind.
6 cups vegetable broth, or your favorite broth
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small white onion, quartered
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1 lb. bag of fresh, cleaned, nopalitos
Sea salt, to taste
Bring broth, garlic, onion, and spices to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium; cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add cactus and cook until very tender, 15–20 minutes. Season soup with sea salt and serve warm.
This recipe is also great using chicken if you do not have access to our sacred deer or elk. To make the chicken stock, first roast the bird, eat the meat, and then make the stock from the carcass. The apple cider vinegar helps to extract more nutrients form the bones and cartilage.
About 4-5 pounds of elk or deer bones with marrow and joints
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 or more quarts of water
To your large slow cooker, add everything to the pot and cover the bones with the water. Turn your slow cooker on low, cover and cook for 12-24 hours checking in occasionally to make sure there is enough water to keep the bones covered.
After the broth has cooled for at least an hour, remove the bones with tongs or a large slotted spoon. Strain the broth through a fine mesh colander or strainer into a large bowl. Allow the broth to cool before pouring into wide mouth glass jars.
You can remove the fat on the top if you like. To serve, use in soups, stews, or simply warm up and drink this magic elixir.
One cup of cooked pumpkin has more potassium than a banana - which means it's good for muscle recovery. Ginger and cardamom are excellent for breastmilk production. According to Ayurveda, ingesting ghee helps you keep warm from within.
2 ½ cups pumpkin, cut into large wedges (I like to use small sugar pumpkins)
2 tablespoon melted ghee or coconut oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (a microplane is good for this)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of black pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Add all ingredients to a baking sheet. Using hands, mix the pumpkin with the ghee/oil and spices. Place wedges flesh side down. Add water to about ¼ the level of the pumpkin and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. You can finish with a little sprinkle of cinnamon. This also tastes good on top of the recipe for amaranth con leche.
Chayote has been cultivated in Mesoamerica since pre-Columbian times. This vine-climbing fruit is high in folate, which has been found to help with postpartum depression.
2 medium chayote, peeled, 1/2” dice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon olive oil or ghee
1/2 - 1 cup water
Heat olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan, add chayote. Stir for one minute, add 1/2 cup of water, turmeric powder, and a pinch of sea salt. Stir. Simmer covered on medium heat for about 10 minutes until chayote is soft adding more water if needed. Serve warm.
This aromatic beverage tinted golden-yellow with ground turmeric, supports breastmilk production. Turmeric has been shown to reduce inflammation in nursing mother’s breasts so that they can continue to breastfeed for longer durations. If this is a recipe you enjoy, you can easily multiply the spices and store them in a little jar so you can easily prepare it daily.
1 cup almond milk, or your favorite milk
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of cinnamon
Honey or maple syrup for sweetness
Warm the almond milk in a small saucepan. Heat the milk to a low boil, add the spices. Continue to heat on very low (do not boil) so the spices can marry. Lastly, add the maple syrup.
Enjoy warm in the morning.
Oats boost your milk supply and chia seeds are high in essential minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and niacin. Chia seeds are an excellent ancestral food for healing and have a texture I love when they blossom from the liquid they are soaked in.
Please note: this recipe is high in fiber, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids after eating.
1 cup of your favorite milk
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Pinch of sea salt
Honey or maple syrup to taste
Wild blueberries (optional), I purchase frozen wild blueberries from Trader Joe's
Special equipment: wide mouth glass jar(s) with lid
Add milk, oats, cardamom, chia seeds, and salt to the jar. Mix. Cover with lid and place in refrigerator. The next morning allow avena to come to room temperature and then sprinkle with cinnamon and add a few wild blueberries if you so desire. Sweeten with maple syrup and add more milk if you prefer a thinner consistency.
The word quelite comes from the Nahuatl word quilitl which simply refers to any wild, edible green. Most of the quelites eaten are wild amaranth, purslane, and lambsquarters. If you cannot get ahold of wild greens, you can substitute fresh spinach or Swiss chard. Dark leafy greens are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins, perfect for a nutrient dense dish. If you are not at the end of your la cuarentena, I suggest you omit the pinto beans and substitute with a fresh egg.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup purple onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 lbs. fresh quelites, spinach, or Swiss chard
1 cup whole, cooked pinto beans
Warm the oil over medium heat in a deep, wide skillet. Stir in the onion and sauté several minutes, until translucent. Add the greens and cumin. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for about for 5 - 10 minutes, until the greens are wilted but still deep green.
Stir in pinto beans and heat through. Add salt. Serve warm.
THIS OFFERING OF SWEET MEDICINE IS DEDICATED TO MY NEPHEW FELICIANO COLIBRI, WHO WAS BORN ON MY BIRTHDAY, INSPIRING ME TO COMPLETE THIS PIECE OF WORK.
A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO PARISA PARNIAN OF SAVAGE MUSE DESIGN STUDIO FOR YOUR LOVELY ILLUSTRATIONS CHANNELING MY IMAGINATION, AND THANK YOU TO MY FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHER NICKY HEDAYATZADEH FOR CAPTURING MY WORK FOR OVER 15 YEARS.