Sunday, October 9, 2011

Coming home, full circle, again

Another flash from the past. I am loving re-reading my newsletters, especially the introduction section. There is nothing I would change at all on this one! I have only reprinted the introduction section here; for the entire Summer 2003 newsletter, go to my new blog at  where I am gradually transferring my website's contents. 

A Dietitian's Cancer Story Newsletter: Summer 2003

Greetings from Diana Dyer, MS, RD, author of A Dietitian's Cancer Story.

Question - "Diana, do you have a favorite cookbook?"

Answer - This is a very common question that I receive from cancer survivors and others simply interested in a anti-cancer cookbook to use. In fact, much to my surprise, the most frequently used search word that people use to find my web site is *recipe*.

I use a wide selection of cookbooks that I have been collecting for years. They are all vegetarian or *plant-based* cookbooks. I list some on my web site's page of suggested books ( and many in the resource section of my book. Most get regular use; some have fallen apart with use!

The book Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore LappĂ© ©1971, did nothing less than change my life when I found it in 1975 browsing the library stacks while taking a study break. In fact, finally getting my second copy of it autographed by the author last year was a life highlight for me (my first copy literally fell apart). I still use several recipes from that book and always get asked for my Tabouli recipe when I take it to a potluck (, which is based on the recipe from this book.

I have used and loved many cookbooks in the meantime but have recently become a fan of cookbooks by Lorna Sass, in particular her Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen, William Morrow & Co., ©1992, Unfortunately, this book is out of print but my husband recently found a used copy for me. I knew I would love this cookbook when I read its dedication, which is very simply dedicated to Mother Earth. In addition, the author's first paragraph states "When I changed my diet a number of years ago, I discovered a beautiful symmetry: What is good for our health is also good for the health of our planet."

Diet for a Small Planet was my first introduction to thought and opinion that eating a vegetarian diet was healthful both for our body and our planet. It made sense to me as a biologist turned nutritionist. A long time ago now, I had first wanted to be an environmental biologist but followed the advice I received (yikes - can't be 30+ years ago!) to be *practical* and enter a profession that would have defined jobs and career-paths, leading me to a career as a Registered Dietitian (RD). My BS in Biology was considered unconventional as a platform for a career as an RD way back then (maybe even now) but I know it has given me many different perspectives, which have been valuable, and many of my colleagues have found helpful and even interesting. :-)

Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen includes frequent *eco-tips* and quotations by cookbook authors, organic food growers, philosophers, and spiritual leaders that remind us of the vital connections between the earth, food, eating, and life. One example: ....Food reveals our connection with the earth. Each bite contains the life of the sun and the earth. The extent to which our food reveals itself depends on us. We can see and taste the whole universe in the piece of bread! -- Thich N'hat Hanh, Peace is Every Step (New York: Bantam, 1991)

This book is good for my body and soul. It has made me realize that even as an RD, I have come full circle to my original goal. I have always been an environmental biologist, using a plant-based diet to optimize my personal internal environmental biochemistry along with my food choices optimizing the health of our planet. Thus, I urge you to try to find this book at a used book store or check it out at your local library. I don't feel that I could improve it in any way.

As a final note, when I first made Tabouli back in the mid-70's, not only had I never eaten it, I had never heard of it. I can still remember that night like it was yesterday. My husband and I ate the entire recipe - enough for 6 - it was that good! The experience on that evening was a *defining moment* for me; it opened my eyes by making me both aware of and wonder what other wonderful experiences I had been missing in life simply because I had not yet been exposed to them. Be adventurous - try something new, learn something new. Not only might it be 'good for you', better yet, you might actually enjoy it! Life doesn't get any better than that :-)

As an organic farmer-dietitian, I am even more of an environmental biologist-nutritionist than I was when I wrote this newsletter in 2002. In fact, I embrace the term and practice of 'agro-ecology' and hope to incorporate that concept into ideas that I plant as little seeds in the fertile soil of the minds of dietetic students and interns. Viewed retrospectively, I can see that I have been working my way 'back' to where I am as an organic farmer-dietitian for some time. :-)

Here is my plan right now. I'm finding that cookbook by Lorna Sass and heading off to bed (early) to enjoy 'reading my cookbook', maybe finding a great recipe to try or a new inspirational quotation, and tomorrow I am making Tabouli with what are likely to be our last CSA tomatoes. We have not had time all summer to do that, and how, how, how can a whole summer go by without eating Tabouli made with locally-grown heirloom tomatoes? Unthinkable! 

So, Diana, slow down enough for one day to get that made. Yum, yum - I can taste it now. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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