Health coach and Reiki master Laura Parisi believes food is much more than a collection of calories and nutrients. It’s also about the emotional, relational and spiritual part that connects us to our bodies and to the world around us. By using food as a pathway to understanding and self-awareness, she says, we can begin to unearth our own instinctive and intuitive ways of healing.
“Shamans are the original medicine men of the earth,” Parisi says. “They have a deep understanding of the kingdoms – the mineral kingdom, the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom. They understand how to work with the energy and flow of things. They’re able to access that part of the instinctive intelligence that lives inside of each and every one of us.”
As a food shaman, Parisi helps clients explore the dynamic nature of their relationship with food, their bodies and their health. She believes that health can be attained and maintained through basic awareness of food and self, conscious eating and energy balance. By creating awareness of our habitual patterns and what triggers them, she says, we can begin to learn how to eat not from imitation, habit or theory, but in response to the voice of instinctive intelligence. Clearing those impressions that keep us tied to old patterns and behaviors allows us to affect change and make way for new impressions to be made.
Whether it’s counseling people one-on-one and in groups, offering guided seasonal market tours or interactive Rooted Angel cooking workshops, Parisi’s intention is to show people a different way of looking at food.
“I teach them about food – how to make healthy food taste great and its healing properties. A lot of it is teaching time management, because many people think it’s going to take them way too much time to do all of this when actually, if you put certain systems into place, it really doesn’t take that much time.”
Parisi guides clients to look beyond the nutrients food provides and also consider their energetic properties and how they relate to other things.
“If you look at how food grows, you have foods that grow down into the earth and foods that grow up out of the earth. “The food that grows down into the earth (is) gathering all the minerals of the earth. That’s a very grounded material and if we eat that particular food, it has that energetic effect on us. We can feel very grounded when we eat things like burdock root or beets or carrots or radishes.
“And the foods that are growing up out of the earth, like leafy greens, they’re breathing for the trees, they’re rich in chlorophyll. So eating those things will help us with our lung system, with breathing. We’re actually helping to oxygenate the cells in our body. So it just gives a bigger picture. It’s not just, ‘I’m eating kale, because everybody says it’s healthy for me.’”
There’s no shortage of diets available today, and if there were one that was right for everyone, we’d all be on it. So for that reason, she says, it becomes an individual process.
The process began for the Old Greenwich resident 25 years ago when she became pregnant with her daughter, Nicola.
“It began a deeper inner journey for me. It got me thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a life, this is a soul and what kind of food is he or she receiving from me, not only nutritionally, but what are my thoughts doing?’” Parisi recalls thinking.
It was then that she became keenly aware of energy and health. “Things were not separate any more. They were starting to come together in a deeper awareness.”
A desire to understand the science, energy and spiritual side of food led her to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in Manhattan where she earned her degree as a holistic health counselor. She describes the experience as “one of the most profound things I’d ever done not just for myself but for my family.”
Three years ago she and her husband, Bob, started a vegetable and herb garden in her backyard, because she wanted to understand and experience the process beyond simply growing tomatoes or basil in a container.
“This is food. It becomes me. It becomes all of us. It becomes your cells, your blood, your tissue and your organs. Food becomes your thoughts, because your brain is an organ. So you’re feeding all these different parts of you and I wanted to understand the process. Because there’s something about the energy of having your own food that you grew, that you bring in that’s so different. Because you won’t find that in a packaged product.”
What’s different is that it evokes a feeling through all of our senses.
“You go through taste, smell, hearing, seeing, touch but it also gets to another sense, your sixth sense, which is intuition. So when you’re connected with something organic that’s growing, and it’s in your own space, you begin to get a sense of what these are all about. You can connect it to the seed of the plant, to the roots that go down. You can connect it to the stem that starts to come up and the first leaf that’s formed, to the flower of the plant and the seed that’s formed from that. All of those stages are in us as well. So I began to see this in relation to each thing, and that there’s an energy that comes from that.”
Passions begin to take root.
“I think the evolution of where we came from certainly shows you how things grow and develop, why you do what you do, and where your passions are leads you to a place of service.”
For Parisi, those passions where first cultivated as a young girl growing up in Southern California when she would take the bus every Saturday morning to her German grandmother’s home to learn how to sew and cook, two gifts passed down to her that would later become her life’s work.
“I learned how to make clothes for first my dolls, then my family. I became interested in fashion, in color and shape, but mostly, I loved to create, something that was really feeding my soul,” says the Fashion Institute of Technology graduate, who worked as a fashion designer in Manhattan for more than 18 years.
Today, Parisi continues to create not only as a cook and gardener but also as an accomplished ceramic artist.
There is more than one way to feed the soul.
For more, visit lauraparisi.com.
Roasted Brussels sprouts with fresh rosemary and garlic
18 to 20 Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed
4 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary leaves
4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
2 to 3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, melted
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Pull off some of the outer leaves of the sprouts, (they add an amazing crispy texture to this dish), then either slice or quarter the remaining sprouts. Place in a baking dish.
Add the chopped rosemary and garlic. Toss with melted coconut oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes on the top rack of the oven. Increase the heat to 400 and roast for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the top leaves become crispy.
Rainbow kale salad with avocado Caesar dressing
1 extra-large bunch of curly kale, washed, dried and stems removed. Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces.
2 ears of fresh raw corn, shucked and kernels removed
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
½ English cucumber, sliced in ¼ inch rounds
1 cup chopped purple cabbage
5 red radishes, sliced along the lifeline (root to stem)
½ cup red bell pepper, chopped
4 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Combine salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. Toss with dressing (recipe follows) to taste.
Avocado Caesar dressing:
1 avocado, pitted and peeled
3 tablespoons tahini
½ cup grated Romano cheese
½ lemon, juiced
½ cup unfiltered olive oil
½ cup water
5 to 6 large basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients in a food processor; add more water to desired consistency.
Watermelon, papaya, arugula salad with lime dressing
8 cups of cut, bite-sized seedless watermelon flesh (1 inch cubes)
4 cups bite-sized seeded and peeled papaya
½ cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Large bunch baby arugula leaves, washed and spun dry
(Makes 2/3 cup)
6 tablespoons unfiltered olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
Coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Combine watermelon, papaya, pepitas and feta in a large mixing bowl. Toss with dressing, created by combining all ingredients together, and set aside.
Place arugula in a large salad bowl. Top with watermelon papaya mixture. Toss right before serving.
Swiss chard blueberry salad with lavender and tarragon
1 extra large bunch of Swiss chard or seasonal green leaves, stems removed
1 cup blueberries
½ cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon chopped fresh lavender
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
¼ cup unfiltered olive oil
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Chop chard leaves into bite-sized pieces and place into a large serving bowl.
Add lavender, tarragon, raisins, blueberries, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss well.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.