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A Cookbook: More than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans!

Crescent Dragonwagon

Cover design by Faceoutstudio
Cover photo composite:
© pixelsaway/Veer
© StockFood
© Brian Leatart/FoodPix/Getty Images
Illustrations copyright © by Eleanor Davis

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Book Details
 637 p
 File Size 
 6,088 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2011 by Crescent Dragonwagon

About the Author


“What shall I learn of beans, or beans of me?”
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Thoreau devoted a chapter of Walden to “the common small white bush bean”;
he’d devoted a growing season of his two years in the woods to their raising. “I
cherish them,” he wrote of his beans. “I hoe them, early and late I have an eye to
them; and this is my day’s work.”

Let us, too, have an eye to the bean. Hold one in the palm of the hand. Discreet,
self-contained as an egg, spotted or speckled, dark or light, it’s such a small
package holding so much. Inspiration for tonight’s dinner, perhaps a soup or
stew? Sure, and no more and no less important than all it contains.
Soften, now, to time, as that bean, soaked in water, would soften. You’ll see
more life than seems possible in something so tiny. Eye the future and there, if
you allow that bean to sprout, you have the stuff of tomorrow’s salad or stir-fry.
Look further: Bury that bean in soil, and it sprouts. Emerging from the earth,
roots growing down, shoots and leaves growing up, it becomes a bush or a vine
climbing a pole, tendrils curled—tenacious, poetic. This is a miracle beans have
in common with any other seed. Yet, unique among plant families, beans and
their kin generously give back to the soil; they are—it almost defies belief—selffertilizing.

Look backward, too. The bean resting in your astonished palm is a direct link
to the members of our own human family: the bean-growers, -sowers, and -
eaters of ten thousand years ago in the Americas and the Middle East, in Africa,
India, China, Japan. Had they not labored, no little package of life in its shiny
coat would rest there under your scrutiny, ready to tell its secrets to anyone who
will listen. Or remain silent, doing its work anyway.
Take your inquiry in another direction and you’ll see, in this small, perfect
package a nutritional cornucopia: protein, fiber, carbohydrate, vitamins A, C,
and B-complex, omega-3 fats, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc,
copper, magnesium; and some pesky sugars known as oligosaccharides. It is
these sugars, indigestible to humans, that give beans their nudge-nudge, gradeschool-
jokey, scatological reputation. Which is not worthy of them, or us, and
which is easily dealt with once you understand a few bean basics (see page 1).
Perhaps we should not be surprised that something as powerful as the bean has
an explosive quality: When beans arrived in the Old World—first from the
Middle East, then from the Americas—their protein and their ability to enrich, as
opposed to deplete, the soil in which they are grown literally changed the face of
Europe. Lynn White Jr., in Medieval Technology and Social Change, writes:
agricultural methods, but the new type of food supply which goes far
towards explaining, for northern Europe at least, the startling
expansion of population, the growth and multiplication of cities, the
rise in industrial production, the outreach of commerce, and the new
exuberance of spirits which enlivened that age. In the full sense of
the vernacular, the Middle Ages, from the tenth century onward, were
full of beans.

Thoreau and I, as you can see, are far from the first to meet in the bean field.
“Field,” not only as a cultivated piece of ground, but as an area of inquiry and
observation. Humanity and beans have kept company together a long time—for
all recorded history.
The contexts of this meeting, both earthy and sublime, include supper
(sustenance, succulence, sensual pleasure, nourishment) and soul (poetry, art,
spirituality): meals and myth. Look closely at some of humankind’s largest
directional shifts and achievements, and you will find behind them. . . beans.
Members of the Leguminosae family (which includes beans, peas, lentils, and
such idiosyncratic kin as peanuts and jicama) appear in the Bible often, where,
among many mentions, they are pivotal in the Old Testament account of what
many take to be the classic tale of sibling rivalry, that of Jacob and Esau. (I take
the tale quite differently, see page 58; it describes, handily and beanily, another
one of those large directional human shifts.) The Sufi poet and mystic Rumi
(1207–73) wrote “Chickpea to Cook,” a dialogue in which a disgruntled
chickpea argues with its cook, who turns out to be its spiritual mentor and fellow
traveler. Mark Twain wrote about bean soup in A Tramp Abroad; Shakespeare
mentions peas in As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry IV, and
Twelfth Night. And let’s not forget two leguminous nursery tales: In one, Jack’s
trade of a cow for a handful of beans leads him into gigantic trouble, and in the
other, a pea gives a princess a particularly restless night. More
contemporaneously, in the 2009 film Cold Souls, the character played by Paul
Giamatti has his angsty soul extracted. What does it look like? A chickpea.
Beans have penetrated the human psyche at least as much as they’ve nourished
countless human bodies.

“Back when I was a sprout. . .”
Beans have also been my day’s work for the last few years. They were my work
as well during a much earlier period of my life, back in 1970–72, when I wrote
the ancestor of this book, The Bean Book: Cooking, Planting, Growing,
Harvesting, Drying, Eating, and Just Thinking About Them (it cost $2.45). I was
eighteen then; I’m in my late fifties now. But in a less focused manner, beans
and I have been together all those years in between. When I was a young
freelance writer of uncertain and unpredictable income, bean soups nourished
me, simmering gently and comfortingly as I worked. They cost little and made a
tiny bit of meat (which I then ate; I no longer do) go a long, long way. They
nourish me, and those I cook for, still.

Beans have certainly come up, up, in the world since I first began writing
about them. Once lacking in social standing, associated with poverty, they’re
now chic side dishes, even entrées, at many of the world’s finest restaurants,
treated with respect. Once reviled nutritionally as little more than starch, they are
now praised, both for what they are (carbohydrate that is low-glycemic, i.e.,
slower to turn to sugar in the body, judiciously mixed with protein, fiber, and a
bountiful collection of vitamins), as well as what they are not (meat, with its
saturated fat, cholesterol, excess calories, secondhand antibiotics, and large ecofootprint
and expense).
Once limited in canned form to seven or eight varieties, and in dried to about
twelve, today about fifteen varieties of canned beans and about twenty dried are
to be found in your average supermarket. And if you go online to a specialty
store, you’ll find hundreds of varieties, including such captivatingly named
beans as Tongues of Fire, Flor de Mayo, Indian Woman, nightfall, Mortgage
Lifter, Rattlesnake, Christmas limas, gigandes, and Petite Estoria lentils. One
bean in particular, the soybean, has done such an about-face in terms of
availability, a trajectory that has taken it from primarily animal feed to
nutritional superstar, that I myself find it hard to believe. Yet it’s true: In 1969, in
New York City, if you wanted tofu, you got on a subway heading downtown and
shopped at a Chinatown grocery. I know; I did it. Today, every Walmart in the
country carries tofu, and most supermarkets offer countless soyfoods, ranging
from frozen edamame to various meat analogs.

To V or not to V: Leguminous Options
The bean’s slow-but-steady renaissance parallels, in part, the journey I took in
my own eating. When I was sixteen and lived in a commune, if the food was
vegetarian more than two nights in a row, I’d jones for meat to such an extent
that I’d take the subway to the Middle Eastern section of Brooklyn and order
lamb. But as I aged, several skeins of interest—environmentalism, nutrition and
health, the range of agricultural and animal husbandry practices possible (some
respectful and some brutal to earth, as well as to plants and animals), social
justice, history, the astonishing number of human beings on this vast green globe
who go to bed hungry each night, and yes, my own love of good eating and the
practice of cooking—coalesced. Gradually, for me, a plant-based diet became the
way of eating that felt best on many levels; and once again, beans were there.
Being a “laissez-fare” vegetarian, I am not here to proselytize or advocate a
meatless diet; indeed, I’ve included in this book many of my long-ago with-meat
standbys. Though it’s been many years since I’ve eaten these dishes, my meatist
friends tell me they’re just as tasty as I remember them. Choosing how and what
to eat is such an individual and intimate matter: We all have our reasons and
experiences for choosing as we do. While many still insist on conflating a
vegetable-centric diet with self-denial and deprivation (and many, on the other
side, flaunt an ill-founded and alienating sense of moral superiority about not
consuming meat), eating, to me, remains a delight both reliable and evervarying.
As a vegetarian I give as much care and attention, from the sensual
pleasure point of view, to what I put in my mouth and the mouths of those I love
as I did when I ate lamb and pork, beef and chicken, and fish.
So, I’ve learned to cook beans in countless ways above and beyond the meaty.
Whatever your preferences and choices, you’ll find ways with beans that fit
them here. Green and dried herbs, fresh and toasted spices, garlic, ginger, onions,
and other aromatics, vegetables, stocks, oils, butter, coconut fat, condiments, and
pickles—all these befriended me and the beans I cooked, and cook still, and will
befriend you in your kitchen. Meat, in most cases, is optional.

Multiplicitous Meals
Beans are equally amiable as entrées (Vegetarian Cassoulet, page 234) and side
dishes (Three Sisters Salad with Fresh Corn and Zucchini Ribbons, page 133);
for lunch (Mr. Puppevich’s Ho-made Fishcake-style Tofu Cakes, page 257) and
dinner (Mjeddrah, page 301); and even for breakfast (Fastest-Gun-in-the-West
Huevos Rancheros con Frijoles, page 270, The Best Vegetable Hash, page 256).
Beans can start a meal (Classic Hummus Bi Tahini, page 30, Gotcha-Hotcha
Sweet-Smoky Cocktail Peanuts, page 28) or finish it (White Chocolate & Peanut
Butter Banana Cream Pie, page 332, Rose of Persia Cake, page 334). Beans can
be curry (pages 199–207), chili (pages 157–184), ragout (page 282), soup (pages
51–126), or salad (pages 127–156). They can also be bread (Socca, page 277),
pancakes (Neo-Classic Crepes, page 280), cookies (Julie’s Peanut Butter-
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal, page 322), even ice cream (Red Bean Ice Cream, page 339).

Deep Feast
What have I learned of beans, then? My answer to Thoreau’s question is on
every page of this book (as well as on my website and blog
— and—plus Facebook and Twitter
[@cdragonwagon], into which my bean obsession has naturally also flowed).
It’s impossible, of course, to answer the part of Thoreau’s query in which he
wonders what beans will learn of him. But if I could give voice to beans, I can
tell you what I’d hope they’d say of me: “She treated us with respect,
imagination, and gratitude. She cooked us with exuberance. She used us as a
way to join hands with others all over this spinning green planet on which we
ride together, each of us, in turn, eating and being eaten.” I think beans must
know, as I do, that life’s contract requires full participation, whether we are
legume or human.
Let us participate, then, and celebrate, sprouting, growing, making tendrils;
maturing, harvesting, and being harvested; cooking, eating, being eaten; letting
the next generation rediscover the poignant joy of the feast. Let us join hands at
a table the size of the world. Let’s eat.

Table of Contents

How to Know Beans
Bean Basics
The A, B(ean), Cs
A primer for all things bean. Everything you’ve ever wondered about
selecting, preparing, cooking, and storing dried beans, fresh beans, shell
beans, canned beans, and dehydrated beans—including, yes, a revolutionary
method for making beans more belly friendly.
Hummus, Where the Heart Is
Leguminous Starters
Small plates and sumptuous bowls beckon nibblers, grazers, and feasters
alike. From rich dips like Newly Minted Puree of Fresh Favas (page 43) and
the exotic Marrakech Melange (page 36), to surprising party munchies like
Gotcha-Hotcha Sweet-Smoky Cocktail Peanuts (page 28), these satisfying
starters are the pillars of any appetizer spread.
Soulful Simmer
Soups for Spirit and Substance
Explore the globe with bean soup, the very potage our ancestors—even the
biblical Jacob and Esau—made for thousands of years. Ladle up the flavors of
the Middle East with Syrian Zucchini-Chickpea Soup (page 61), then journey
to Kilimanjaro for Tanzanian Black-Eyed Pea & Coconut Soup (page 72).
Nourish and soothe with Noodled Japanese Broth with Tofu & Bean Threads
(page 79); turn up the heat with India’s Kerala-Style Dahl (page 85); and trace
the bean’s journey through Europe with belly-filling Pasta e Fagioli (page 96)
and garlicky Caldo Verde (page 102). End in the New World on a high note:
rich, golden, avocado-and-egg flourished Fanesca.
Cool Beans
Salads for Every Season
Crunchy or tender, hearty or light—here, green beans and dried beans dance
together and apart. The cool bean takes many forms, from sprightly starter
salads—Sugar Snap Pea, Orange & Spinach Salad with Citrus-Mint
Vinaigrette (page 134)—all the way to full-meal salads, like Dragon-Style
Dan-Dan Noodles with Baked Tofu, Bean Sprouts & Crisp Vegetables (page 147).
Chili Weather
Chili spans the color spectrum: from Brown Bean Chili with Sweet Potatoes
(page 180) to White Chili with White Beans, Poblanos & Hominy (page 182).
You’ll find chili variations from all cardinal directions, and, of course, their
go-to go-withs: cornbreads, fixins, even salsas.
Superior Stews, Companionable Curries
The plot thickens, or, rather, the soup does, enticing us into the realm of
luscious curries and satisfying stews. Whatever you choose to call them, these
hearty bowlfuls—like Dorothy Read’s Yellow-Eye Beans Redux (page 190)
and Mellow Coconut-Tempeh Curry with Spinach, Zucchini & Sweet Potatoes
(page 206)—will surprise, tempt, and sustain you.
Bountiful Bean Bakes, Comforting Casseroles
Bubbling and beckoning, these oven-baked beauties are truly hot items. Old-
Fashioned, Down-Home All-Day Baked Beans (page 216) with Steamed
Boston Brown Bread (page 219) and Vegetarian Cassoulet (page 234). Baked
Beans Brazilian with Olives & Cheese (page 230), several methods for ovenbaked
tofu, and Summer Garden Potpie with Cheese-Herb Drop Biscuits
(page 240). All are served up golden-brown and piping hot.
Home on the Range
Simpatico Skillets and Stir-Fries
Stovetop beans are one-pot wonders: They can be both contemplative, slowcooked
simmers and quick-fire weeknight dinners. You’ll discover falafel,
both Traditional (page 260) and Neo-Traditional (page 264); the so easy and
so good CD’s Beans & Greens Pasta with Lemon, Garlic & Chile (page 273);
and nearly infinite variations on the stir-fry. There’s even Socca (page 277)—
addictive chickpea flatbread—to soak up any leftover skillet sauce.
Beans and Grains
Earthy Soul Mates
It’s a perfect marriage: Beans and grains complete each other in traditional
dishes like Mjeddrah (page 301), Dragon-style Dancin’ John (page 312), and
two styles of Red Beans & Rice (pages 306 and 308). And they delight in
imaginative bean-grain two-steps like Maya’s Magic Black Beans with
Eggplant & Royal Rice (page 314). All are heavenly matches made on earth.
Sweet Beans
In Which Legumes Dessert You
Let’s champion the versatility of the legume! Julie’s Peanut Butter Chocolate
Chip Oatmeal Cookies (page 322) are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. So, too,
will the tart Lime Tofu Mousse-Custard (page 330) and the luscious spiced
navy bean custard that fills “Don’t Hurt Yourself” Bean Pie (page 327). And
of course, this dessert chapter wouldn’t be worth a hill of beans without Red
Bean Ice Cream (page 339)—a delicious ending to our leguminous journey.


Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint the following:
Page 123: Excerpted from “Speaking of Soup: The Culinary Approach to
Spanish” by Calvin Trillin. Copyright © 2005 by Calvin Trillin. Originally
appeared in The New Yorker. Reprinted by permission of Lescher & Lescher,
Ltd. All rights reserved.
Page 148: Excerpt from “4,000 Noodles Found in China” by John Roach.
Published 2005 National Geographic News.
Page 238: Excerpt from Cress Delahanty by Jessamyn West. © 1948, renewed
2006 by Jessamyn West. Reprinted by permission of The Feminist Press.
Page 253: Excerpt from Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami.
© 2005 by Laila Lalami. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books of
Chapel Hill. All rights reserved.
Page 302: Excerpt from Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber. © 2003 by Diana Abu-
Jaber. Reprinted by permission.
Page 313: Excerpt from Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tastes of the Jewish
South by Marcie Cohen Ferris. © 2005 by Marcie Cohen Ferris. Reprinted by permission.

All efforts have been made to secure permission for the excerpts in this book. If
any have been inadvertently overlooked, the author will be pleased to make the
necessary arrangements.

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What They Know, Why It Works, and How It Can Work for You


The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick- What They Know, Why It Works, and How It Can Work for You
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Book Details
 218 p
 File Size 
 1,892 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2010 by Gene Stone

Twenty-five different people with twenty-five different health secrets. From
bathing in cold H2O to dowsing in bottled H2O2, from downing dirt to doing the
downward dog. Secrets from nurses and doctors, firefighters and comedians,
agents and politicians. All the people included believe their secret is the reason
for their good health. All of them feel very confident. All of them are (or were,
during their lifetimes) very healthy.
Still, it quickly became clear to me that these people have conflicting ideas
on what helps them stay well. Rip Esselstyn avoids the dairy-based yogurts Tony
Japour consumes. Sasha Lodi and Helen Klein don’t see eye to eye on exercise.
Only Nate Halsey jumps into cold showers. Nobody else avoids people’s germs
like Rachel Hill does. Most people enjoy garlic, but only Susan Seideman Brown
consumes it so systematically.
Given that my quest for these secrets was initiated, in part, to avoid catching
colds, it seemed reasonable to adopt as many of these secrets as made sense. The
good news is that most of them are easy to add to a daily routine; some of them
were already part of mine. For instance when I co-wrote Rip’s book, The Engine
2 Diet, his unrepressed enthusiasm for a plant-based diet made me want to join
in, and I became a member of his Engine 2 pilot study. The results of my lipid
tests were impressive enough that eating only plants has been part of my life for
several years.
I’ve been performing many of Dr. Fulford’s exercises since ghostwriting his
book, Dr. Fulford’s Touch of Life. Every morning I do the two he told me were
most important: sitting in a chair and lengthening the spine, then leaning against
a wall and raising the arms to stretch in the opposite direction. These exercises
were designed to strengthen the back muscles as well as to enhance overall
health, and on that front, back pain has yet to appear in my life (except for that
one excruciating yoga ache).
Napping is already integrated into my daily routine, but in the past I ascribed
this habit to lethargy. Now I have permission to think the daily snooze is
evidence that I’m taking good care of myself. Every day, sometime between one
and three P.M. (the times recommended by Sarnoff’s daughter, nap expert Sara
Mednick), I sleep—not for as long as she recommends, but for at least fifteen minutes.
Because these secrets alone hadn’t been enough to keep me healthy, I added
more, assuming that each individual has different needs, and that in my case, a
variety of secrets was necessary to stay well. Everyone’s system is unique.
Whereas for some, one secret may suffice, for others, it may take many. Perhaps
some may need all of them.
I also noticed that even though some of the ideas clash with one another, the
people interviewed, even if they prefer one secret over all others, don’t live in a
vacuum. Many exercise aerobically and anaerobically, take vitamin and mineral
supplements, eat less than most people, and so on. In other words, they all make
an effort to live a healthy, well-balanced life.
For me, the toughest of my new habits is eating raw garlic, which I took up
after talking with Susan Brown: I don’t do it often, but whenever a cold feels
imminent, I chomp on a clove. Some people like the taste; I find the garlic
literally difficult to swallow. Still, more than any other of the secrets, my gut
tells me it’s working on whatever attackers are invading my body.
Due to my plant-based diet, chicken soup and dairy-based yogurt are offlimits,
although I do eat soy yogurt with live probiotic cultures now and then.
After hearing Barbara Pritzkat praise the powers of brewer’s yeast, I decided
to mix a tablespoon of it into my morning health concoction. Unlike the garlic,
the taste of the brewer’s yeast doesn’t bother me, although that might be due to
the fact that the rest of the mix contains pomegranate, orange, and cranberry
juices, along with a fizzy powder product called Emergen-C, a heaping scoop of
Green Vibrance (a nutritional supplement that, says the label, supports “the 4
Foundations of Health: Nutrition, Digestion, Circulation, & Immunity”), and a
half teaspoon of flaxseed oil.
The Emergen-C is replete with vitamin C, a nutrient that, thanks to Susan
Rennau’s recommendation, I now ingest a great deal more of. Coincidentally,
when I was an undergraduate at Stanford in the early 1970s, I participated in Dr.
Linus Pauling’s original vitamin C experiments, ingesting enormous amounts of
it. It gave me diarrhea, so I dropped out of the study. Today I take much less, and
my system responds much better.
Although I’m not much of a cook, I have added more herbs to my diet
(without adding excess salt). And speaking of food, caloric reduction wasn’t for
me, because I already eat less than most people and don’t feel like cutting back
any further. Although calorie consumption is primarily a health issue, to some
degree it is also a psychological one. For many, food is as much about
nurturance as nutrition; they turn to it for comfort. The majority of such people
were raised in families where meals played a vital role, and food remains a
metaphor for security, relationships, or some other deep significance. However, I
grew up in a household where food was of minimal importance. No one cooked
it well, no one enjoyed it much, and everyone left the dinner table as quickly as
possible. When I feel anxious or unhappy, I turn away from food. My weight
hasn’t changed much since college.
No matter how much I tried, though, some of these secrets simply didn’t
take. I attempted jumping into a cold shower, but couldn’t acclimate to the idea
of facing freezing water in the morning—or any other time, for that matter. Even
with Nate Halsey’s enthusiastic coaching, being drenched in cold water felt
painful. Similarly, I still feel compelled to clean my fruit pretty scrupulously,
even though Patricia Burke has explained that that may not be necessary. The
habit is too firmly ingrained.
Exercise has always been part of my life, but everyone has his or her own
preferences. Even though I’m about the same age as Helen Klein when she took
up running, I get bored too easily going long distances. However, my threetimes-
a-week gym routine does include aerobic exercise as well as weight
lifting. So the old regime will suffice for now.
After talking to pH advocate Tom Appell, I bought litmus paper and tested
my urine every day for a week, but perhaps because my diet already consists of
so many fruits and vegetables, my pH balance was healthy. And peeing on the
paper felt awkward. Several times I missed. I tried dunking my head in hydrogen
peroxide as well, and although I never missed, I never felt comfortable either, so
when the bottle was empty, it wasn’t replaced.
Living in Manhattan makes it impossible to avoid the constant sneezing,
coughing, and nose blowing of strangers. But washing my hands after this
exposure has now become routine. It hadn’t occurred to me before to wash them
unless they were dirty; now I do it preventively.
Being a city-dweller has also made it possible to make many friends, but
unlike Sydney Kling, I haven’t cataloged them. It’s hard to argue that a social
support system isn’t a healthy thing; it just never occurred to me that each friend
is a potential ally in the fight against illness. This makes my address book a
different form of pharmacy.
Finally, although Susan Smith Jones is a passionate advocate for
stresslessness, it’s nearly impossible to write for a living and remain stress-free.
I’m working on her advice points, but I can’t pretend that anxiety didn’t attack
many times when I turned on the computer and this book appeared onscreen. It
could have been worse: Watch Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining
—that’s what stress can ultimately do to a writer.
The best part of all these remedies is that in the time it’s taken to research and
publish this book, my health has unquestionably improved. I still may feel a cold
coming on now and then—but that’s about it. At no point have I come down
with the raging sore throat and red, runny nose of years past. The reason for that
may have as much to do with my new belief system as anything else: I truly
believe that the combination of secrets I’ve chosen is working for me.
And that is the one commonality of these secrets. People may take cold
showers, drink warm soup, or eat hot spices, but in each case, the person who
has shared the secret firmly believes that it is why he or she stays well. This is
why, to some degree, everyone in the book agrees with one theory—Gail
Evans’s attitude about attitude.
Rationally, that may not make much sense. But little in health research does.
For nearly every study that claims to prove point A, another study refutes it with
point B. Ideas popular in one decade become passé in the next. In the 1960s,
doctors considered many of the medical practices of the 1910s somewhat
barbaric; today the same is true of some from the 1960s. For instance, consider
“completely safe” barbiturates, the overuse of electroshock therapy, or
prescription drugs such as Halcion that were considered free of all side effects
and yet drove some people into a spiraling depression—as told in author William
Styron’s frightening account of his own experience, Darkness Visible.
All we know for sure about the year 2050 is that its doctors will ridicule
some of today’s prevailing wisdom.
So much conflicting information, and so many treatments falling in and out
of fashion—and yet one theory that’s been around since Hippocrates is the belief
in a mind-body connection. The way we think about our health may be as
important as any other aspect in determining how well we are. Still, modern
medical science doesn’t understand this role of attitude on health, and plenty of
well-documented, double-blind, randomized controlled studies dispute its
importance. In fact, until recently, Western medicine was reluctant even to admit
that the connection exists. But it could be that discussing the two constitutes a
tautology; the mind and body may be so connected that you might as well be
discussing a pancreas-body connection.
That also may explain why the placebo effect is one of the most powerful
and least understood concepts in medicine. A placebo (Latin for “I will please”)
is an inert pill that seemingly has no real medicinal benefit—and yet often has
the same effect as the actual medicine for which it is substituted. Many doctors
who have given patients placebos instead of medicine have seen those patients’
conditions improve—and many doctors now routinely use placebos in place of
prescription drugs. A 2004 study of Israeli physicians reported in the British
Medical Journal found that as many as 60 percent of them had given placebos to
their patients—generally to keep them from taking powerful drugs they didn’t
need; the figure was 40 percent in a study of Danish doctors. In a 2007 survey of
doctors in the Chicago area, 47 percent admitted to using some form of a
placebo treatment with their patients. (Controlled studies have been undertaken
to investigate this phenomenon, but the results have been inconclusive; the NIH
is currently funding several such inquiries.)
It has also been shown numerous times that the more faith a patient has in
the remedy he or she is given to combat illness, the more likely it is that the
chosen remedy will work. But not only do scientists fail to understand why it’s
true; they also can’t say why it’s true for some people and not others. And what
of the studies that have shown that the more a patient believes in a doctor’s
ability to understand him or her and the illness, the more likely it is that the
doctor’s treatments will work? Why is that so—and why doesn’t the
phenomenon work for everyone? Again, no one knows.
This does not mean that the twenty-five remedies offered in this book are
simply placebos, but perhaps without belief, the remedies might not be quite as
effective, which is why the connotation of the word placebo is changing in the
twenty-first century: Whereas it once implied something relatively worthless, it’s
now being investigated as a powerful and real medical device, one that may
unlock an entirely new paradigm for medical care. The study of the placebo
effect has even led to the examination of its opposite—the nocebo (Latin for “I
will harm”) effect, which occurs when the patient has an unduly negative attitude
toward whatever remedy he or she is being offered, invalidating its efficacy.
Science is just beginning to work on this one (the word was coined less than fifty
years ago). If it holds up, it’s more proof that the power resides in the mixture of
mind and medication.
Taking care of oneself involves many personal beliefs, however, and my own
is that my health will improve as I implement as many of these secrets as make
sense to me. Why not believe this? Think of Pascal’s wager. The seventeenthcentury
French philosopher Blaise Pascal asserted that God’s existence cannot be
proven using reason but that it makes reasonable sense to bet that God exists. Put
very simply, if you live your life believing that God exists, you have nothing to
lose and everything to gain (you’ll go to heaven). If you’re wrong, however,
you’ll have lost nothing. But if you bet that God doesn’t exist, and you’re right,
you’ll gain nothing, because when you die, it’s all over. And if you were wrong,
then you really lose, because you’ll be consigned to hell for eternity.
I’ve decided to make an earthly form of Pascal’s wager with my health. I
choose to believe I’ve found the correct combination of secrets that will keep me
healthy. I have everything to gain from believing it (assuming attitude really
does hold sway) and nothing to lose (except perhaps a bad taste in my mouth left
by raw garlic). So I intend to keep believing.
Unless for some reason I start getting sick again—in which case my belief
system will fly out the window, and I’ll need to seek out still more healthy
people. (I did make the same kind of bet when I was six concerning the existence
of Santa Claus. That one didn’t work out so well.) And that means that the
publication of this book doesn’t end the search for health secrets. If you have a
different one that you’d like to share (or an opinion of the ones I’ve described),
please visit and post your experiences.
Besides belief, there is something else that everyone in the book shares:
consistency. These aren’t people who sometimes take a cold shower or
occasionally eat probiotics or run now and then. Their secrets are woven into the
fabric of their daily routine.
That’s the secret to any secret—doing it. Belief is the underlying attitude, but
without the practice, nothing is accomplished. If you decide that you want to
make one of these secrets your own, take that decision seriously. Don’t try it
now and then, or when you remember, or only when you feel ill. Whatever you
decide to do, do it, and do it as regularly as possible.
Maintaining this consistency means choosing the secrets that make sense for
you and your lifestyle. If you enjoy exercising with others but hate the gym, give
yoga a try. If solitary workouts are more to your liking, running is the way to go.
If you don’t have the time or just dislike working out, the diet-based secrets will
be easier to stomach.
Once you try one, stick with it—at least long enough to determine if it’s right
for you. I knew quickly that cold showers, no matter how healthy they might be,
were never going to be a part of my life. Eating a plant-based diet took some
time to adjust to; at first it required serious effort, but now it’s a snap, and I
seldom stray from it. Adding brewer’s yeast to my morning drink was as easy as
buying it at the health food store and storing it next to the drink’s other ingredients.
Pick a secret that makes sense for you and your lifestyle. Pick one that
appeals to your strength. Pick one that your friends and family will support.
Don’t be upset if you try one and it doesn’t work. Try another.
Good health results from good healthy habits. No matter which secret
becomes yours, make it a part of your life.

Menu from Mario Bendiscioli and Adriano Gallia, Documenti di Storia Medievale, 400–1492 (Milan:
Musia, 1970), pp. 267–68.

In the 1490s, as Cornaro approached his fortieth birthday (about ten years
before an Italian aristocrat in the fifteenth century would have expected to die),
he fell ill. His doctors informed him that if he wanted to survive, he’d have to
moderate his diet. Most who received similar prescriptions ignored them, but not
Cornaro. Having lived intemperately during the first part of his life, he was
determined to live sensibly during the second part.
At the time, knowledge of the connection between diet and health was
murky, so, as an experiment, Cornaro designed himself a new diet, cutting back
drastically on the quantity of food he consumed. Each day, he limited himself to
twelve ounces of solid food and fourteen ounces of wine (the water of its day,
medieval wine was much lighter than today’s vintages).
Cornaro’s plan worked almost immediately. His health improved so
dramatically that he continued his plan until age 68, when his doctors, worried
that his food intake was too meager, insisted he eat and drink more generously.
He complied but soon developed a mild fever, prompting him to return to a
lighter menu, which he maintained for the rest of his life—till the age of 102.
Cornaro wrote about this plan in his four-volume book, often translated as
Discourses on a Temperate Life, in which he articulated his philosophy that
people should eat less as they grow older. He also elaborated on his belief that
the body prefers rest to digestive action during periods of weakness, meaning
that it is healthier to avoid food than to gorge on it. “There is no doubt,” he
wrote, “that if one so advised were to act accordingly, he would avoid all
sickness in the future, because a well-regulated life removes the cause of disease.”

Cornaro not only lived a very long time, but also remained healthy until just
before his death. As he noted, “A long life full of disease and misery is worse
than no life at all.”
For centuries afterward, Cornaro’s book was read and discussed by many
other great writers and thinkers, including essayist Joseph Addison, Sir William
Temple (Jonathan Swift’s employer), and philosopher Francis Bacon. But over
the centuries, the book’s influence waned, and today few people have even heard
of Cornaro. However, his secret—calorie reduction—has resurfaced as a twentyfirst-
century approach to achieving health and longevity (see page 18).
Many other modern health secrets also originated long ago, only to lose
favor or see their efficacy challenged by scientists looking for hard proof. But
like Cornaro’s, these secrets often have a surprising degree of validity.
For example, if you’re prone to seizures, someone might have told you to be
wary of the full moon, a warning medicine didn’t take seriously until the 1990s,
when researchers at Greece’s University of Patras Medical School reviewed the
records of 859 patients admitted for seizures and found “significant clustering of
seizures” around the full moon.
You might also have dismissed the often-heard belief that fish is brain food
as an old wives’ tale—but many recent studies show that certain oils found in
fatty fish (such as mackerel and sardines) play a significant role in brain
development and functioning. Fish intake has also been associated with a slower
rate of cognitive decline in aging patients, along with many other benefits.
For centuries, conventional wisdom held that cranberry juice will cure a
bladder infection. Researchers at Harvard Medical School recently confirmed
that cranberry juice actually does destroy bacteria clinging to the walls of the
bladder. Similarly, an apple a day may well keep the doctor away; data from
Ireland’s University of Ulster suggest that high levels of certain chemical
compounds found in apples help destroy colon-cancer cells. Moreover, Cornell
University researchers have found that apples can prevent mammary cancers in animals.

Speaking of animals, it’s often been said that having a pet is good for human
health and well-being. New evidence corroborates the concept: Dog owners, for
instance, tend to have fewer illnesses than their canine-free counterparts. “The
simple act of petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure by
inducing an instant relaxation response,” says Alan Beck, ScD, director of the
Center for the Human-Animal Bond at the Purdue University School of
Veterinary Medicine.
For thousands of years, doctors used leeches as a bloodletting device; the
practice was only discontinued toward the end of the nineteenth century. Recent
medical research, however, indicates that leeches can help cure many conditions,
including osteoarthritis. Bee stings, too, have made a comeback as a treatment to
alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. And if you have bedsores, one of
the best remedies is the same one that would have been prescribed for you in the
year 1250. That would be maggots, which devour dead tissue from open wounds
and eradicate bacteria by excreting a solution similar to ammonia.
In the Middle Ages, wealthy patients often drank suspensions of finely
ground gold (aurum potabile, or “drinkable gold”) to ease the symptoms of
disease. The metal then fell out of favor for hundreds of years, but at the end of
the last century, studies revealed that small quantities of liquid gold can
strengthen the immune system and are particularly useful in patients suffering
from rheumatoid arthritis. According to researchers from the Arthritis Research
Centre of Canada, “Gold therapy reduced the severity of arthritis in patients who
had a poor response with methotrexate, the standard drug used to treat the disease.”

The popular remedies mentioned above aren’t meant to suggest that all notions
held by mothers, midwives, scientists, or, for that matter, anyone else are always
accurate, or even useful. Many are flawed. Some are foolhardy. Trepanation, the
practice of drilling holes in the skull to relieve the pressure that supposedly
caused all kinds of ailments, was practiced for more than five thousand years
throughout the world. It didn’t work. For centuries many people believed that
coffee stunted growth; it doesn’t. Copper bracelets, supposedly beneficial for
arthritis sufferers, do not appear to have any benefit. The notion that staying
outside in cold weather will give you a cold turns out to be wrong; the actual risk
comes from staying inside in close contact with other people breathing germs on you.

The herb hemlock was once thought to be useful in reducing pain—but it
also induced death. Cocaine was considered an excellent teeth whitener, as well
as a treatment for morphine addiction; Sigmund Freud called it an excellent
stimulant with no side effects or abuse potential.
There was a time when doctors routinely bled their patients; bloodletting was
supposed to restore the balance of fluids in the body. When George Washington
was ill, his doctors drained eighty ounces of blood from his body, likely
precipitating his death.
In 1899, the respected Merck Manual recommended arsenic as a treatment
for baldness. These days, the cancer-causing metal is listed as a toxic substance
by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Merck Manual also listed
coffee as a means to relieve insomnia. Other beverages, particularly liqueurs
(which were first formulated as cures for everything from parasites to
impotence), were mistakenly ascribed medicinal powers. The herbal liqueur
Benedictine D.O.M. (Deo Optimo Maximo, “To God most good, most great”),
originally formulated in 1510 from twenty-seven herbs and spices, was designed
to fight malaria around the Benedictine Abbey at Fécamp on the north coast of
France. Other liqueurs once believed to have restorative powers include the
Belgian elixir d’Anvers (for stomachaches), the Greek mastic (also for gastric
relief), and the French vervein du Velay (for increasing libido).
The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were rife with a particularly
infamous category of potions known as patent medicines (or nostrums),
trademarked concoctions of dubious and sometimes harmful effect. Popular in
Europe and the United States, these over-the-counter products promised
miraculous curative powers over everything from tuberculosis and venereal
diseases to colic and cancer, as well as the perennial advertising-industry
favorite, “female complaints.”
In reality, many patent medicines were benign, alcohol-based solutions, but
some contained dangerous opiates or stimulants such as morphine, opium, or
cocaine. For example, the opium-based laudanum, praised by the medical
community as an effective pain-killer, was the scourge of the underclass in
Victorian England. And heroin was once marketed by Bayer as a cough suppressant.

One of the more harmless concoctions included “snake oil,” a term first
innocently coined by a man named Clark Stanley for a benign ointment he
created to cure muscle aches—but which came to mean any fraudulent medicine.
(Stanley gained fame for killing live rattlesnakes as part of his demonstration at
the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.) Although you can no longer buy Stanley’s
Snake Oil, other potions once marketed as patent medicines are still available
(minus the health claims): Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, 7UP, Angostura Bitters, and tonic water.
Even some very recent remedies have missed the mark. A few decades ago,
it was thought that lying on a tanning bed in winter might keep vitamin D levels
high and prevent seasonal depression—until the journal Lancet Oncology
published findings showing that the probability of cancer increased by 75
percent in people who used tanning beds before the age of thirty. Such research
led the International Agency for Research on Cancer to reclassify tanning beds
as “a definite carcinogen,” alongside tobacco products, arsenic, and mustard gas.
Which health secrets make sense and which don’t? Who can benefit most? How
can you make sure that you live a long and healthy life? How can you manage to
avoid sick days at the office?
How do you just flat-out manage avoiding being sick at all?
This book is designed to answer these questions, because all of us could
profit from knowing what keeps other people well and how to stay well ourselves.

I certainly felt my health could stand improvement. For the past two decades,
I’ve written extensively about health as a journalist and ghostwriter. As someone
who believes that responsible writing can require participation, I’ve
experimented with nearly every tip, technique, and tonic I’ve covered. (The
exception: electroconvulsive therapy. The doctors interviewed offered me a free
session, but I declined.)
This commitment means I’ve probably been tested more than nearly any
other relatively healthy human being. I’ve been through body scans, ECGs,
EKGs, DEXA bone-density scans, DEXA body composition scans, IgG food
antibody tests, and 2D and Doppler echocardiograms. I’ve had my blood tested
for C-reactive protein, homocysteine, fibrinogen, insulin levels, lipoprotein A,
and I’ve taken a glucose challenge. I’ve had urinary and serum-amino-acid
nutritional profiles taken, along with myriad lipid profiles; my cholesterol levels
have been charted so frequently that they look like a plot of the Dow Jones
Industrial Average. I’ve been tested for every possible allergy (I’m mildly
allergic to cats, certain pollens, and mold). I’ve had my muscles studied, my
organs examined, and my brain waves synched via a contraption placed on my
head (instead of generating alpha waves, my brain tuned in to a local radio station).

I’ve also sampled countless spa treatments, from Bindi Shirodhara to
Ayurvedic herbal rejuvenation, and submitted myself to dozens of New Age
modalities, including candling, rebirthing, crystal therapy, past-life regression,
and polarity therapy. I’ve had feng shui experts rearrange my home for better
energy flow and seasonal affective disorder experts install lighting to boost my
mood. I’ve undergone acupuncture, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, bioenergetics,
the Alexander technique, Rolfing, reiki, and reflexology.
Being fairly obedient, I’ve generally tried everything experts have
recommended, from exercising the 1980s way (cardiovascular and strength
training) to working out the twenty-first-century way (interval training). I’ve let
doctors attach electrodes to my scalp in sleep labs and allowed pros at
consciousness labs to investigate the inside of my brain. I’ve experimented with
Freudian therapy, Jungian therapy, primal therapy, cognitive therapy,
aromatherapy, and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).
I’ve talked to psychics about my health, and to pet psychics about my pets’
health. (One of the latter suggested my cat was whining at night to warn me that
the stairs in our apartment were dangerous.)
Despite all this, I always got sick at least twice a year. At some point every
winter, I came down with a blistering sore throat that turned into a lingering
cold. Then, in either late spring or early fall, a different kind of cold took over,
one that started with a mild tickle in the throat, moved to my chest, then settled
in my nose, where it lingered like a lazy guest who won’t get off the couch,
resting there indolently for days.
It has recently occurred to me that I was taking the wrong medicine. Instead
of relying solely on experts, my thoughts have turned to people who don’t
depend on medical professionals—or any type of expert, for that matter—but
who manage to stay healthy nevertheless.
I’ve known many such people in my life. While I was enduring one cold
after another, they were happily living under the cover of some personal secret
that kept them healthy even as I twisted, writhed, and sneezed, in thrall to
whatever germ, virus, or unidentified alien life form was sweeping through my being.

Not that all such secrets are worthwhile—as mentioned, some are downright
wrong, while others are simply strange. What all the secrets in this book share is
that they seem to work for the people who promote them—often better than the
solutions proffered by science. Despite centuries of lifesaving advances in
medicine and public health, medical professionals still can’t tell us how to stay
well. The common cold is just as common as it was eons ago, and sickness itself
shows no sign of abating. So why not look for solutions to sickness among those
for whom the common cold is uncommon?
This became my mission for the last few years: to find people who didn’t get
sick, to find out why they didn’t get sick, and then to see if their secrets were
valid for others.

For the most part, these people who “never get sick” actually may catch a
slight cold now and then or suffer an occasional ache and pain here or there.
What they don’t have are the colds, flus, and fevers so many of us get so often.
They also rarely have any serious diseases. Although they may have inherited
some kind of genetic condition that manifested at some point, they’ve
energetically fought it off—or in a few cases, did come down with a major
illness but adapted their secret to the situation and achieved a solid recovery.
Overall, they are living long and healthy lives.

Table of Contents
1. Blue Zones
2. Brewer’s Yeast
3. Caloric Reduction
4. Chicken Soup
5. Cold Showers
6. Detoxification
7. Eating Dirt
8. Friends
9. Garlic
10. Germ Avoidance
11. Good Genes
12. Herbal Remedies
13. Hydrogen Peroxide
14. Lifting Weights
15. Napping
16. pH Balance
17. Plant-Based Diet
18. Positive Attitude
19. Probiotics
20. Running
21. Spirituality
22. Stresslessness
23. Stretching
24. Vitamin C
25. Yoga

The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick- What They Know, Why It Works, and How It Can Work for You
225 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014-4381

Design and Illustrations by E.Y. Lee

Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint the following:
Page 17: “Pep-Up” recipe from Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit, by Adelle Davis.
Copyright © 1970 by Adelle Davis. By permission of The Adelle Davis Foundation.
Page 24: Tips on Calorie Restriction by permission of the Calorie Restriction Society.
Page 25: Excerpts from How to Live to be 100—Or More, by George Burns.
Copyright © 1983 by George Burns, by permission of George Burns’s estate.
Page 30: “Chicken Soup” recipe from Cooking Jewish, by Judy Bart Kancigor.
Copyright © 1999, 2003, 2007 by Judy Bart Kancigor. Used by permission of
Workman Publishing Co., Inc., New York. All Rights Reserved.
Page 131: “Sweet Potato—Vegetable Lasagna” recipe from The Engine 2 Diet
by Rip Esselstyn. Copyright © 2009 by Rip Esselstyn. By permission of Grand Central Publishing.
Page 145: “Bug Crazy: Assessing the Benefits of Probiotics,” by Laura
Johannes. Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal. Copyright ©
2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. License
number 2418860309904.
Page 178: Excerpts from Dr. Fulford’s Touch of Life, by Robert C. Fulford with
Gene Stone. Copyright © 1996 by Robert C. Fulford, DO, by permission of
Robert C. Fulford’s estate.

The original material by Thomas Moore, Judith Orloff, and Tim Sanders, and the
advice of Susan Smith Jones, were provided by those authors. To learn more
about each, please visit their websites:
Thomas Moore:
Judith Orloff:
Tim Sanders:
Susan Smith Jones:
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