Since the creation of C&L I have literally not stopped learning new things. It’s been one continuous course in food and life since the start and if I had to name the thing I’m most grateful for since diving head first into food blogging it would most certainly be that. Some of this learning has been self-taught, but most lessons (certainly the greatest ones) have come from the people who’ve shared their recipes and stories with me and all of you.
Rachel Zierzow spoke words to me over brunch in Austin, Texas a few weeks ago that really hit home. She told me that in this life, she’s just searching for balance. What a concept — to put balance at the forefront of your life and to set goals oriented with a mindset instead of a salary or a position at work. At a time in my life when I am often kept up at night thinking about work and assignments, how to advance my career in food media, and where my next project is coming from these words from Rachel made me stop for a moment and take a deep breath to appreciate all the beautiful things in my world that have nothing to do with my career.
Rachel epitomizes calm and peacefulness. Even for just the short time we spent together I could tell this about her. So when she explained her career to me I wasn't really shocked at all that she was involved with something that included helping others. For the last 10 years she’s worked as a healing macrobiotic chef. What this means is Rachel prepares balanced, nourishing meals for families in Austin where she lives. Many of her clients have had serious health issues like cancer, leukemia, and Crohn's disease. Some have been pregnant or nursing mothers that need extra nourishment. Essentially what Rachel is doing is helping heal or alleviate pain for her clients through the food she prepares for them.
This style of cooking began when Rachel faced her own declining health while in graduate school for ecology and evolution. She saw doctors and specialists who prescribed lots of different medicines and suggested surgery for one of her ailments. In looking for alternative healing solutions she started eating at a macrobiotic restaurant in Austin called Casa De Luz, there she discovered a weekend seminar on the fundamentals of macrobiotic cooking.
“During that weekend of delicious, nourishing food, I completely fell in love with the macrobiotic approach to healing, which involved creating balance in one's own life, taking responsibility for everything in your life, and living in harmony with the seasons and with nature in general." Rachel said. "Within a week or two I signed up for a two and a half year program in macrobiotic studies and natural foods cooking, which led me to my current career as a natural foods chef instructor and macrobiotic health counselor.”
All of these fancy words could make macrobiotic cooking feel a bit intimidating, but Rachel explains it quite simply. The concept goes back to her original statement about balance. She says, “We are all in the same boat, whether we are rich, poor, young, or old. There are examples of chaos and imbalance all around us, everywhere we go, every single day. It is our job to try to make sense of the world around us, learn how to live in harmony with nature instead of against it, and learn how to create robust health amidst all of the noise. Cooking real food and eating at home is the first step towards getting a grasp on this concept. We have to build a solid foundation for our health through our daily meals. It anchors us and helps us build other aspects of our lives.”
Rachel hopes to one day write a children’s cookbook with her daughter, Isabel, and in the future run a non-profit that teaches children and teens how to cook and have them prepare meals for those in need.
You can find Rachel here and on Instagram @chefrachelz
- In a small bowl, mix together fennel, orange juice, olive oil, and sea salt. Allow fennel to marinate for at least 20 minutes. This step can also be done up to one day ahead, storing the fennel mixture covered in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the salad.
- Rinse and spin dry mixed greens. Spread evenly onto large platter or into large salad bowl.
- Drizzle greens with balsamic vinegar and citrus-infused olive oil. Top greens with marinated fennel, figs, avocado, orange or clementine slices, and Marcona almonds.
- Top with a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper, if desired.
You can find Rachel's blog post on this recipe here. Also, it should be noted that I made this salad for my aunt's 60th birthday party and we doubled the recipe so the photos reflect that!