look into my eyes and tell me girl you know you gotta watch your health

It’s an analogy that’s brought up a lot, but one of the differences in the way that mental and physical health are treated is that like, if you have a broken leg it’s considered completely reasonable to be seen immediately and have it put in a cast and then get follow-up therapy to strengthen your stupid broken leg. Unlike mental health, which is like…imagine if you broke your leg and you were told you had to wait six weeks to see someone, and then when you saw them you really, really had to convince them that your leg was broken even though you’ve tried meditation, and then you’re told to wait another six weeks and at the end of that you’re finally given, with great reluctance, a plaster and some supermarket paracetamol.

This isn’t exactly relevant, I honestly just wanted to complain. But where I’m going with this is, I’m so used to focussing on the moving target that is my mental health that I’m always completely taken by surprise when I get, y’know, physically unwell in the traditional sense. To me, getting actually sick is kind of not an option, simply because I don’t have time for this and so I refuse to acknowledge it.

And yet, here I am, and this head-cold/flu-adjacent thing that is occupying my bod is refusing to acknowledge my refusal to acknowledge it, and as such, I’ve done the only thing anyone can do – google which foods are the most aggressively able to fight germs and then make a recipe out of as many of them as I can get hold of. Since cabbage came up extremely high on the list of “will make your nose bleed from vitamin overload” I decided to use it as the base of a slaw, adding watercress and fennel, a dressing made from ten cloves of garlic, and a scattering of raw turmeric and almonds.

So yeah, it’s good for you – you can wikipedia the individual ingredients if you want to know specifically how, for me it’s just enough to know that they’re doing something – but it also tastes completely fantastic. Cabbage and watercress are both super peppery and fennel has that aniseed heat, but there’s a ton of olive oil and salt to soften it all, plus the incredibly mellow dressing, made by simmering the garlic cloves till they’re softened, both physically and in terms of eye-watering burn. On top of that the almonds – and I use heaps of them – add a kind of contrasting creamy nuttiness, so it’s not all too astringent and cold and a chore to get through. Finally, raw turmeric has a kind of gingery carrot vibe flavourwise and adds pleasing bursts of chrysanthemum yellow against all the purple and green. And it’s SO good for you, guys.

Did it help? I mean honestly, I’ve never felt less healthy. But does correlation equal causation? Am I mad at this salad for not curing me and indeed, solving all the problems in my life? Can you be mad at a salad? Am I doing a terrible job of selling this recipe to you as something you might want to make? If nothing else it surely didn’t do me any harm and above all it tastes amazing so…that will have to do for now.

Feel free to mix and match ingredients depending on what you’re able to get hold of – you could add kale, or use white cabbage, have walnuts or hazelnuts instead of almonds, use rocket instead of cress, anything at all. But as it is in the recipe below, it’s pretty spectacular – so crunchy, oily, salty, garlicky, crisp, peppery, everything. Also – I feel like I say this a lot, but – the recipe looks really long but it’s truly super simple, I’m just super talky. You’re really just chopping up a bunch of stuff and putting it in a bowl.

healthy af slaw

a recipe by myself

  • half a purple cabbage
  • one fennel bulb
  • two handfuls of watercress
  • turmeric root, a couple of inches thereof
  • at least two handful of almonds
  • ten cloves of garlic, give or take
  • plenty of extra virgin olive oil
  • two teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • a couple of drops of maple syrup or clear honey or golden syrup or honestly whatever
  • sea salt

Firstly, put the garlic cloves in a pan and just cover them with water. Bring to the boil and let them simmer away for about five minutes, during which time you can prepare the salad itself. 

Get an enormous serving bowl ready. Peel the thick outer leaves from the cabbage and slice the rest as finely as you can manage, transferring it all into the serving bowl once you’re done. Repeat with the fennel (slightly more difficult due to the unwieldy shape of the bulb.) Then, and this might sound stupid, but drizzle over some olive oil and scatter over some salt and use your hands to vigorously lift and scrunch the cabbage and fennel. This will mix it together but also kind of soften and relax the aggressively stiff purple and white shreds a little. Just do it. 

Roughly chop the almonds and throw them in, and then give the watercress a brief chop before adding them to the salad as well. Use a small sharp knife to slice off the outer peel of the turmeric root and very finely chop up the bright orange flesh underneath, scattering that over the vegetables.

Remove the garlic from the heat (if you haven’t already) and, if necessary, give the cloves a quick rinse under cold water so you don’t burn yourself on them. Remove the papery casing – they’ll be so soft that you just need to give them a squeeze and they should pop out – and either mash them with a fork, blitz them in a food processor, or pulverise them in a pestle and mortar (I chose the latter because my flatmate owns this amazing huge one that I’ve always wanted to use.) Add the cider vinegar, the maple syrup, a good pinch of sea salt, and like, heaps of olive oil, at least three tablespoons but honestly way more than that. Drizzle it over the salad and mix it all together and add more olive oil and salt if you think you need it, plus perhaps more chopped almonds – and then serve. 

It’s – she says, in a Justin Timberlake voice – gonna be May, and the rapid change of one month to another is as good a time as any to look at my life and where I’m at and generally take stock of things/panic wildly about the disproportionate size of the passage of time compared to the Stuff I Have Achieved. On January 1 of this year I published a thing about my struggle with the mental health system and the mental health of my own self. Since then things have zig-zagged wildly but most definitely on an upwards trajectory, and as such I’d like to draw your attention to this podcast I recorded with Ollie, this magical guy who, as well as being the doorman at work, also has his own podcast where he talks to people from all walks of life about, well, their walks of life. I feel like it’s a natural post-script to my original piece. I mean, so many things are still a monumental struggle and I congratulate myself for every day that I get through, but it’s kind of amazing looking at the difference between the me of that podcast and the me of the January 1 article.

Meanwhile, I’ve still got this damn head cold thing, but at least I know it’ll get some attention from the doctors if I tell them about it. And, I’m full of vitamins.

PS: If you’re feeling this slaw, you may well want to check out some other recipes I have along these lines, such as the Lee Brothers’ Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts, my Silverbeet, Parsley and Horseradish Slaw, or my Aggressively Healthy Bowl with Matcha Mayonnaise (and there’s nothing stopping you making the mayonnaise to dress the slaw in this blog post, it would certainly fit the context.)

title from: Grimes’ amaaaaaaazing song Oblivion, which I will never ever get sick of.

music lately:

Harry Styles, Sign of the Times. NO BIGGIE I”M JUST SOBBING SO HARD I HAVE A BLOOD NOSE anyway I quite like this song is what I’m saying.

Chelsea Jade, Life of the Party. I love this gal and everything she does is gold.

next time: I bought some quinces! So I’m super keen to do something with them! 

One thought on “look into my eyes and tell me girl you know you gotta watch your health

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