Traditional Chinese Medicine Leader and Nutritionist Zoey Gong Wants to Make You Feel Warm and Fuzzy

January was the ultimate symbol of a new beginning, and we have nothing against this annual reminder to refocus and reconnect with oneself. But modern expectations of “new year, new me” alienate us from ourselves, often rely on shame, and separate us from our old grounded ways of being.

Food and the rituals surrounding it are sources of liberation, not guilt, and you often have to look back to move forward. Home goods company Our Place (known for its iconic Always Pan) embraced the tried, true, and rooted ways of our ancestors in January and beyond. From recipes handed down for nutritious meals to healing intergenerational trauma through cooking, they share traditions and food wisdoms that have carried generations into many new years.

Case in point: Traditional Chinese Medicine leader and nutritionist Zoey Gong has a unique vision of healing – she embraces the past, present and future, while encouraging variety (both in food and in rituals) to anchor you. As part of the Our Place series, The way we heal, Gong shares his most important practices, along with a fun recipe for Mushroom Stew and Black Sesame Bread that will give you that warm, fuzzy feeling at first taste.

What does healing mean to you?

On the surface, to heal is to heal a wound, a chronic illness, an emotional blockage. Deep down, healing is about embracing everything we have and learning how to transform our suffering, mental or physical, into something better than what we experienced a moment ago. It’s about understanding who we are, who our ancestors are. From there, we can begin to explore the different healing pathways that are unique to each of us.

What is the best advice you have received from an elder?

Happiness is the most important [thing], [which was] of my grandparents.

What foods, spices, herbs particularly heal you?

I enjoy all foods, spices and herbs. I think the variety of them we consume is the key to well-being. Most of us tend to eat a fairly limited diet with only a few types of whole plants and consume supplements to compensate. For me, it is very important to have a wide range of seasonal whole foods: from cereals to vegetables to fruits, wild proteins, medicinal herbs or functional ingredients. Eating the way Mother Nature would have us eat is the most healing.

Aside from physical health, what recipes bring you comfort and well-being?

Herb millet congee has to be my first choice. Slow cooking millet in herbal bone broth makes it so nutritious for the digestive system. I like to add herbs that tonify Qi and Blood like dang gui, huang qi, goji and dang shen because I tend to have a busy life and these herbs help me stay energized . I also add a touch of nutmeg, ginger, Sichuan pepper and white pepper to help lift my spirits.

What is a food or ritual from your culture that has been appropriated/under-recognized/commercialized?

There are too many to mention. As a Chinese chef and Chinese medicine food therapist living in the United States, I find it hard not to feel angry about this. So many of the trendy “superfoods” sold by white-owned brands originated in China and have been used in our culture for hundreds and thousands of years. These brands mainly source their ingredients from China, but they fail to acknowledge the culture and wisdom behind their products to their customers. They may even avoid mentioning China, as there is an unfortunate negative impression associated with Chinese products. Next time when you take your reishi supplement or drink your kombucha, I hope you also spend time reading about my country’s fascinating history.

Well-being is not…

A 10 day detox program.

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