Founder of World Wise Beauty Introduces the A+ Life Day Retreat Celebrating Healthy Epicurean Lifestyle & Living Life Well On Your Own Terms…

Aug 14, 2017 by

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Hi World Wise Beauty,

Yes, that’s you, the woman who is comfortable in her own skin or in the process of becoming comfortable in her own skin. The best way to achieve this, I believe, is to FEEL comfortable in your own skin.  The only way we can do that is to have a loving and healthy relationship with our body, mind & spirit. Our health and well-being is related to all three, and we just can’t be comfortable in our own skin, if our body and spirit are screaming for help. Beauty has always been a metaphor here at World Wise Beauty. A metaphor for the beauty inside and all around us. I spend most of my time at WWB interviewing authors, experts and visionaries in wellness culture who have a passion for sharing their wisdom and expertise with us.  I’ll continue this tradition and will be introducing a new platform for the WWB Q&A’s soon. This current platform needs some rejuvenation and I want to make the books and interviews I feature more accessible and easy to find. Which brings me to another exciting announcement…

Celebrating and cultivating wellness wisdom and culture I’m thrilled to announce my new event edutainment company Rise of Wise presents and the first production out of the gate is the A+Life Retreat. World Wise Beauty will remain the digital platform and Rise of Wise presents will bring ideals for wellness culture to life via live forums. Working in the spa world and professionally producing an event for the industry, I was fortunate to be exposed to many wonderful wellness modalities coming from all corners of the world. I also reported on some of these amazing modalities for the Day Spa Association here in the U.S and a Travel Magazine abroad. What I came away with is wellness wisdom is found all over the world, and it thrives in cultures that put wellness values at the center of their living. In fact, wellness is more baked into the culture, and not necessarily called wellness.  Wellness is a lifestyle, a mindset and most importantly it’s a collective value. In short, it matters greatly…

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One thing I find frustrating, is how wellness is suddenly being perceived as a luxury asset, rather than an absolute necessity for our entire culture. True wellness wisdom has always been available and accessible to us all, and much of it already researched and proven by scientist and medical experts. As a side note, there is an organization here in the United States called the ‘True Health Initiative’ which is a global consensus and conglomerate of doctors, experts and scientist from around the world who are on a mission to promote ‘Lifestyle as Medicine’. This is such an important initiative because we already know how many chronic diseases can be avoided, and even how to live longer healthy and free of disease. In addition there is a lot being discovered in the field of brain science, and we are understanding much more how stress can affect our overall immune system, and how we personally can manage it, so it doesn’t wreak havoc on our health and well-being. The answers we are looking for can be found not in the next greatest drug, or trendy diet, but in our own daily habits and understanding of our own unique bodies. We all possess our own inner-wisdom and it truly is priceless…

Because no-one can live your life as well as you! This is our mantra at the A+Life Retreat, and we are celebrating bio-individuality, lifestyle as medicine and healthy epicurean living! This is your day to focus on yourself and think about what best rituals, practices and habits work best for your unique body and lifestyle. AND not to be forgotten, finding pleasure in the lifestyle habits you adopt. Otherwise what is the point?  If you don’t like Kale it’s OKAY! Really!! The future is ‘personalized wellness and medicine’, and it’s also channeling the wisdom of the past, which has always been there for us. The ancient Greek father of medicine ‘Hippocrates’ said these enlightening words many centuries ago…

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

” If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health”

 

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I have invited 5 passionate international wellness experts and authors to come share their wellness wisdom with you and to help demystify all the confusing information we are receiving about diets, food and nutrition.  Two are International Gourmand winners! One is a Chef and expert on ancient wellness wisdom and the other is a doctor who is recognized world-wide as an expert on Mediterranean lifestyle and diets. One is an icon in the natural beauty/wellness community and another is a well respected MD specializing in the very important area of burnout and stress-management. Last but not least we have an author who will give you a tour of the world’s cuisines and unpack the health and longevity secrets each of them hold. The A+Life Retreat has your Wholistic wellness top of mind and it’s going to be a fun and stimulating day of exploring self-care and renewal. I use the term ‘Healthy Epicurean’ because when you practice living well, it truly is pleasurable. At the A+Life Retreat, we set out to show you just how pleasurable living well on your own terms can be.

Visit the website https://www.riseofwise.com and learn more about our fabulous speakers and the enjoyable day we have planned for you at the A+Life Retreat. I realize some of you are not in the Tri-State area of Princeton, so please keep following World Wise Beauty for insightful interviews with authors and experts in wellness culture. We’ll work on taking the retreat on the road soon to you!

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WWB WATCH: May, Could, Might? Why Recent Research on Coffee & Media Headlines Confuse Us…

Jul 13, 2017 by

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Did you hear about the latest research on coffee? How did you miss it? It was the perfect story for all media outlets to cover this week and boy did we need some uplifting news this week in our country! Look at all the coffee buzz in the media in just two days…

  • Coffee May Help You Live Longer, Study Finds. New research from the largest study of its kind shows that coffee may help you live longer
  • Coffee drinkers live longer, according to two large-scale studies released Monday that add to extensive research indicating coffee consumption
  • Put the kettle on – two new studies have indicted that drinking coffee helps … This latest research is just the latest in a slew of reports about the
  • Pour another cup–coffee lowers disease risk
  • Coffee drinkers are waking up to some good news Tuesday after new research suggests that a cup of joe a day could keep the doctor away

I left out the media sources because I am not here to pick on individual media companies. This is breaking research news and it’s about the fuel that probably 80% of us drink to get our engines going in the morning. Coffee and the caffeine in it, is our legal drug, and like wine it is steeped in cultural rituals for so many of us. So this research about coffee is not just news, it’s happy news! But we still need to think and pause…

This research story is yet another example of how we get tangled up in the complicated ‘web’ of health studies. Butter is bad, now it’s good! Coffee is bad and may contribute to heart disease, now it may contribute to longevity and lower disease risk?  I’m not a doctor and I am not going to challenge the research from a medical perspective. I can tell you I read a lot of these research findings reports and consume quite a bit of health news. Here is what I see time and time again, and it’s important to point it out these three encouraging but also dangerous words…may, could and might.
The story I personally read on the coffee research this week came from Medical Daily. Their headline read “Your Daily Coffee Could Help You Live Longer.” I mention MD only because I am focusing on language used by the research authors and the publication’s copy. Many of the other media outlets used the same language.
Here is the sub-header following their big headline…”If you’re a regular coffee drinker, a new study might brighten your day. Researchers have found that consuming the popular beverage may increase longevity, and it doesn’t even need to be caffeinated.”

 

The lead photo for this story was this one, with a tagline that read “Researchers say that drinking one cup of coffee per day could lower the risk of death…

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Now that’s a happy story! One cup of coffee a day may save you from the risk of death! Wow, very powerful! Let’s not only drink more coffee, but also invest in Starbuck’s stock if we haven’t already!

This Medical Daily report does highlight the benefits and risks of drinking coffee and points to previous negative research about coffee. There is balance, which I always seek when reading reports on research findings. Throughout the piece you will find…yes, three words–may, could and might buried in the headlines and the happy picture of coffee. These important words get lost. If we all took the time to read the entire story we would would also find this interesting statement from the lead study author…

“Although this study does not show causation or point to what chemicals in coffee may have this ‘elixir effect,’ it is clear that coffee can be incorporated into a healthy diet and lifestyle.”

There’s that word ‘may’ again. I hate to break it to the researchers, but centuries of human culture has shown us that coffee can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle in moderation. What they didn’t know back then scientifically is that it can have adverse side effects for some people. Which brings me back to the concept of bio-individuality. Some people can eat loads of fat their entire lives and live to be 100, and others can’t and drop dead sooner. In comparison, some people can drink coffee at 10pm and go right to sleep, while others can’t drink it past 2pm without being up all night. With regards to the people eating lots of fat, what is often overlooked is the poor quality of life of people who are obese because of their diet and bad lifestyle habits. Everything gluttonous or in excess pays a price in health. We all seem to know this intuitively but just conveniently forget it.

The healers and philosophers of  ancient Greece knew that moderation was the prescription for  good health, and they also knew good sleep and regular exercise is important to longevity. It doesn’t get more simple than this, but we still look for a ‘magic elixir’ and hope it makes up for our neglect in one area or another. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in Super-Foods ( like coffee), because every culture has them and in some ways they compensate for other nutrients missing in their diets because of  factors like climate. I did a Q&A with the author of 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines a few years ago, and the big takeaway is each of the world’s healthiest cuisines have a super-food and very specific lifestyle habits that contribute to their longevity. This book was published long before the Blue Zones Solution, which is also a good book on how many various lifestyle factors contribute to health and longevity. Both books confirm lifestyle matters my friends, and our diet is one very big part of our lifestyle.

So let’s be real about the research this week. We don’t know why coffee may help us live longer. We can however, identify healthy antioxidants and phenolic compounds in coffee, that we know can be good for preventing cancer. Avoiding cancer is one very effective way to achieve longevity!

It’s not that research shouldn’t be done, it’s not that we shouldn’t learn about the research findings, it’s just how we share the research, interpret the research, and use the research. The last paragraph of the Medical Daily story this week summed up the coffee research with this statement…

“Further studies are needed to gain a better understanding of how coffee might increase mortality. In the meantime, the researchers say that we should enjoy our daily cup of joe; it could be doing us the world of good.”

From everything I have read, the facts are, in moderation and in combination with other good lifestyle habits, coffee can’t hurt us, and it’s definitely a good jump starter in the morning for most of us.  It can hurt some of us with certain heart conditions, and for some it can also disturb chemistry, stomach linings, and our sleep. This much science has established. Does it contribute to living longer? May, could or might…

 

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WWB WISE GURU Q&A: Featuring the International Best Seller ‘The Telomere Effect’: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer

Jun 2, 2017 by

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WWB WISE GURU:
Elissa Epel, Ph.D is a leading health psychologist who studies stress, aging, and obesity. She is the director of UCSF’s Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center and is associate director of the Center for Health and Community. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and serves on scientific advisory committees for the National Institutes of Health, and the Mind and Life Institute. She has received awards from Stanford University, the Society of Behavioral Medicine, and the American Psychological Association.

 

WWB FEATURED BOOK: The Telomere Effect  Groundbreaking book by the Nobel Prize Winner who discovered telomeres, telomerase, and their role in the aging process, and the psychologist who researched specific lifestyle habits to protect them and slow down disease and lengthen life.

 

WWB WORTHWHILE READ:  Have you wondered why some sixty-year-olds look and feel like forty-year-olds and why some forty-year-olds look and feel like sixty-year-olds? We discover through science, that aging is more than just an attitude. Healthy aging and longevity correlates with specific habits and mindset on a personal level, and is affected by the relationships, community and culture we are a part of.  All of which can be cultivated wisely.  Read this book and start lengthening your telomeres! ~TrulyHerself, Lauroly

 

 

 

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Dr. Elissa Epel, Ph.D, Co-Author of ‘The Telomere Effect”

 

 

Lauroly Opening: Welcome Dr. Epel to World Wise Beauty. I am so pleased you could join me for this Q&A. This is an important book that will help accelerate wellness culture, and encourage us all to lead healthy lifestyles. It covers the latest scientific discovery about telomeres and your research on how we can protect our telomeres with as your sub-title says, “a revolutionary approach to living younger, healthier and longer.” Who doesn’t want that!  But first I have to ask a basic question for my readers, so we can move on to the important ideas in your book. What are telomeres? We have been learning so much about epigenetics in the last few years and now the discovery of ‘telomeres’ takes the science on genes to another level with real world context.

 

Dr. Epel: Telomeres are a tiny part of each cell in our body that play a critical role in how our cells age. They are the caps that protect the ends of chromosomes. They protect our genes from breaks and mutations, and they also allow our cells to go on dividing and replenishing. The problem is that each time our cells divide, the telomeres can shorten, and when they get too short, the DNA can easily become damaged, the cell becomes aged, and, worst of call, it cannot go on dividing. This creates a buildup of old tissue that is pro-inflammatory. Also, as we age, there is wear and tear to these caps, shortening and damaging them.

Lauroly Q- Your study and expertise is focused on how stress damages our telomeres on a cellular level, and the devastating effects it can have on our health and longevity if left unchecked or not managed. FYI for our readers, the book also presents all the positive ways you can stop the damage already done and avoid further damage. When all the research came out about epigenetics I think a lot of people just assumed they were stuck with their lottery of genes. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and this is where your important research comes in. All our lifestyle habits especially related to stress management can contribute to lengthening your telomeres or reducing them. It seems to me that popular quote “It is not what happens you to in life, but what you do with what happens to you” really applies to our telomeres! The fact is we can train our telomeres. One of the ways we can do this is keeping our immune system biologically young. Can you describe direct examples of this?

Dr. Epel: Laura, you said it well! We will all experience difficulties in our days, and traumatic events in our lives, and these cannot be avoided. But it is how we view these events in our mind, and manage them, that determines whether an event turns into ‘chronic stress’ in our mind or whether we may end up on the other side of the event even more resilient than before. So we need to focus not on stress ‘reduction’ but stress resilience. We tend to create angst, worry, and rumination with our habitual thought patterns and these can keep our endocrine and nervous system on ‘high’—a vigilant mode that wears us out sooner. Having higher levels of stress hormones, like cortisol and catecholamines, even while we sleep, is associated with shorter telomeres. High quality sleep is also related to longer telomeres, and something we can foster. The little things we do each day can add up to have big effects on telomeres.

People who tend to eat more vegetables tend to have longer telomeres ten years later! So we are talking about small little habits during our life that really add up to healthy cell stability later in life when we are typically so vulnerable to diseases of aging. People with longer telomeres are 20% less likely to develop heart disease. Even in young healthy adults, those with shorter telomeres, when experimentally exposed to the cold virus, tend to get more cold infections, with more severe symptoms, more tissues needed (the work of Sheldon Cohen). So it’s not just about doing things now so we don’t get disease of aging later. Experimental studies have shown that programs that last several months tend to give us a boost in telomerase or maintain our telomeres better –that includes aerobic fitness, omega-3 free fatty acid supplements, support groups, meditation programs, or Dean Ornish’s lifestyle integrative program (eg, vegetarian diet, yoga, social support).

 

Lauroly Q- When I read your book, it just solidified for me that lifestyle as medicine is really the ‘secret’ to wellness and longevity. We humans love the idea of ‘secrets’ but the truth is understanding our own bio-individuality and taking good care of ourselves wholistically is all it takes to live well. The blueprints may vary for each of us, but the reliable pillars of wellness hold for all of us.

Let’s come back to your expertise on stress. Managing our stress is extremely important, and it seems to me your tips and prescriptions for managing stress should be practiced by all of us, but some people have a biological sensitivity to stress more than others and can experience depression and anxiety in a very debilitating way if left unchecked. In your book you said “Anticipating a stressful event has the same effect on the brain as the body experiencing the stressful event.” We can see why mindful techniques and practices are so important to our society today. You devote a lot of data and tips on how to protect yourself from depression and anxiety. Some people may not be open to mindfulness techniques or feel they have the time, what are other lifestyle habits that can help protect us? Some would also ask “isn’t depression and anxiety a normal response to life and part of our human experience?”

 

Dr. Epel: We will have different traumatic events happen to us, and some of us will suffer more in life, and some of us are more prone to respond to stress with depression or anxiety. When adverse events happen to us as children, un-tempered by the support or resources we need to cope, it can leave a lasting ‘scar’ in the form of shorter telomeres. But that is not something to harp on, because even with short telomeres it’s how we live our day that can keep them stable through the years going forward. As you said, it is how we react to things, that can make a big difference going forward. We can learn to ‘surf the waves’ more than crash under them. We have habits of mind that we can become aware of. I include quizzes in our Telomere Book to help people see what their stress response style is – how much they see things as ego threats, or how much they ruminate. And also how much they have buffers to stress like optimism or purpose in life.

Awareness is a first step. Then there are ways to build our inner resources so we can experience stress as small surfable waves. For those interested, learning meditation can help but that does take time and dedication. Even if you don’t regularly do it, it can help you get to take an introduction course, to know your mind and the habits that can hurt you If you are unaware of them. Any mind-body activities can help with emotional balance. These are often ‘body up’ to mind—the calmness in the body creates a cushion of stress resilience so we don’t have those strong stress reactions. Having strong social support probably creates the biggest cushion. For me, my yoga ‘cushion’ helps me build reserve.

Even if you have short telomeres, what matters is how you live this day, and the choices you make each day from here on. Our telomerase, the anti-aging enzyme that protects telomeres, and our telomeres, appear sensitive to many different behaviors (exercise, certain nutrients) and exposures (nature, pollution, certain chemicals). We detail these in the book, and the best way to learn from the book is to choose one or two things from the list of telomere bolsters that matter most to you, that you know you can improve.

 

Lauroly Q- You made so many compelling points about how telomere science offers molecular proof of the importance of societal health (what I call wellness culture) to our well-being. You even suggested in the book that we call for policymakers to add a new phrase ‘Societal stress reduction’ to the vocabulary of public health. You included a Telomere Manifesto at the end of the book. Another (there are so many in this book!) important statement you made is “The foundation for a new understanding of health in our society is not about ‘me’ but ‘we’. Why do you think we miss how important inter-dependency is to our personal health as well as to the survival of our planet? I know that is a big question!

 

Dr. Epel: When we look at solutions to becoming a more compassionate society, arrows point to our culture and education. Our strong culture, and the way we raise and teach children, reinforce the idea we are autonomous and competitive creatures. There are programs starting at early ages that promote better understanding of interdependence, compassion, and of how our mind works that will help make a much needed shift in our culture. Change needs to come both from policy, societal stress reduction policies, and from inside — our minds, our hearts. Why don’t masses of people smoke anymore? It wasn’t just the tobacco tax and policies. It was a change in our beliefs and social norms. We can all start that right now, from within, and in our local networks. We impact those close to us, we impact strangers too. Let’s use our positive impact! If it helps to know that our very cell aging is impacted by our neighborhood’s health, then spread the word and work, to change these together.

 

Lauroly Closing:  Excellent answer Dr. Epel! Thank you so much for your groundbreaking research and writing ‘The Telomere Effect‘! It really is two books in one. One for creating a personal blueprint for longevity and wellness and the other for raising awareness about how we can stop the health crisis of the entire planet. The second one is even more urgent as we need a healthy planet to live on!

Dr. Epel Closing:  Thank you Laura for your wonderful summaries and sharing these messages.

 

 

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WWB Announces the Spring 2017 ‘Book Wise’ Pick in the Non-Fiction Category and it’s a Contemporary Throwback Worthwhile Revisiting…

May 12, 2017 by

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BOOK WISE Spring 2017 Pick: Beauty and the Soul–The Extraordinary Power of Everyday Beauty to Heal Your Life

 

CATEGORY: Wellness/Spiritual/Non-Fiction

 

THROW BACK SELECTION: Book was published in 2009

 

CULTURE SPOTLIGHT: Author From Italy, content is universal

 

AUTHOR: Piero Ferrucci is a psychotherapist and a philosopher. He graduated from the University of Torino in 1970. He was trained by Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis, and has written several books including the bestseller The Power of Kindness in 2007.

 

 

WWB OF NOTE:  I wish I had introduced this book earlier in WWB’s history, because it looks at beauty the way I always intended to do with World Wise Beauty, from the inside out and wholistically. This is a beautiful and thoughtful book about appreciating beauty of all  kinds and discovering the healing capacity of beauty not only for ourselves, but for the planet. It’s simple ambition would be to have us all ‘stop and smell the roses’ so we can be fully present and in the moment. On a deeper level, the book offers ways to counteract the ugliness of life with beauty manifesting in all it’s life forms ~Lauroly, Founder of World Wise Beauty

              Author Excerpt: Chapter –Love of Life

‘In a story from the Jewish tradition, the human soul before birth roams about the universe, collects a great deal of knowledge, sees much beauty, and thus is endowed with great wisdom. But just as birth is drawing near, the angel of death approaches and with his sword touches the soul on the forehead. At that moment, when the soul incarnates into the mass of nerves, organs, and muscles which make up what we are, the drama takes place: The baby being born forgets all it knows. Yet an inkling remains, a vague feeling of what is lost. This, the story tells us is why human beings are born crying, and why they seek, everywhere and all their lives, in confusion and desperation a beauty they feel they have lost. Is there really a soul before birth? I cannot say. And I do not know if we have a past life on other planes or in other worlds. But what interests me here is the experience of this life and this world. The Jewish myth seems to allude to a feeling many, perhaps all of us have; the impression of not belonging to this world. The feeling that makes us wonder ‘What am I doing here?”. Like the alien from the film ‘ The Man Who Fell from Earth” , who came to our planet from a faraway star and landed in an amusement park, we find the world around us strange, and bizarre, and sometimes absurd. And perhaps like him, we feel homesick for a cleaner, simpler, brighter world. Luckily we can see the opposite of what the Jewish story tells is also true when we observe children…’
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Healthy Epicurean Q&A: WWB ICON Maria Benardis is back to Visit with a Greekalicious Newly Released Cookbook ‘My Greek Family Table’

May 5, 2017 by

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If you haven’t heard yet, the Mediterranean Diet is the only diet in the world with extensive scientific research behind it’s claims. What does it claim? It claims to help with weight loss, a decreased risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression, and dementia! In other words Western diseases and conditions. There is no one militant Mediterranean diet to follow like many trendy diets offer, simply because there are many eating patterns spread across many cultures living in the Mediterranean region of the world. This makes it the best flexitarian diet in the world too. One we can all get on board with because of it’s flexibility. But there is a key common foundation of the Mediterranean Diet. It is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil. It generally features fish and poultry—lean sources of protein—over red meat, which contains more saturated fat. Red wine is consumed regularly but in moderate amounts. And oh yeah, let’s not forget, they generally lead an active lifestyle, and I don’t mean Spinning classes at the Gym!

Today we focus on Greece and talk with Maria Benardis. She has published three cook books titled “My Greek Family Table” now released here in in USA/Canada this month and previously released in Australia in 2009 by Penguin Books which won the Gourmand World Cook Book Award 2009 – Best Mediterranean Cook Book in Australia and “Cooking and Eating Wisdom for Better Health’ published by Balboa Press.  She also has an ebook titled “A Greekalicious Feast”. Founder of Greekalicious she has offered cooking instructions and coaching at many venues both in Australia and the USA. These include the Intuitive Well in Sydney, Australia, The Brooklyn Kitchen, NYC, The Natural Gourmet Institute, NYC and Haven’s Kitchen, NYC. I am so honored to have her back, as some of you you might remember I named her WWB ICON in 2014.  A true World Wise Beauty dedicated to advancing wellness culture. Learn more about Maria and her beautiful journey to wellness through cooking below…

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Welcome Back Maria! I am so happy to feature another of your wonderful cookbooks! More than just a cookbook, this is really a personal memoir and tribute to your Greek heritage and family. Through your memories and stories we really get a sense of the Greek culture and how important food is to the people of Greece. You are truly a World Wise Beauty having lived on 3 continents. I bring this up because your book is  also a story of immigration. You shared so many touching parts of your childhood in the book. I can imagine through empathy what it was like for you as a child to suddenly have to move to another part of the world and all by yourself on a plane. I will let you tell our readers why you moved from Australia back to Greece as a young child.

Maria Benardis: When I was 3 ½ years old, my younger sister and I went to live on the island of Psara, Greece. My mother was very ill with cancer and my father sent us to live there with his mother, Katina. We didn’t know it at the time, but our mother succumbed to cancer shortly after we left. If I board a plane today and happen to see children traveling unaccompanied, my mind travels back to that first flight to Greece with my sister. Even though it was such a traumatic time, I can’t help but smile at the memory now.

Lauroly Q- What a heart-breaking experience Maria and so glad you can smile now for those two brave little girls on their journey. Despite the turmoil and displacement you were in some ways blessed to live with your Grandmother and had the opportunity to soak up the beautiful culture of Greece. I love how you created your own private sanctuary growing your own herbs and vegetables as a young girl. Tell us about your little Garden on the island of Psara, Greece…

Maria Benardis: I loved to go on walking expeditions around the island. One day, while on one of my regular walks, I stumbled across a small enclosed, deserted area, with just a few weeds growing. I decided that it was now going to be mine and that I would create my own magical fruit and vegetable garden. I decided not to tell anybody about it, especially my grandmother. To create my garden, I took some of the herbs and vegetables my grandmother grew and planted them there. I grew all sorts of things: small tomatoes, thyme, oregano, wild greens, zucchini, chamomile leaves, and native flowers. It was an extremely colorful and happy garden and it became my favorite place on the island—somewhere I could escape to, to dream and be free. I derived great joy from watching my plants grow.

Lauroly Q- Your upbringing is so foreign to many Americans who grew up with packaged meat, and processed food sources. Only those who lived on farms can relate and understand your experience. Yet this may be what’s missing today–a real connection to our food sources. While living with your grandmother you had chores every morning that included feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, milking the goat, and picking the herbs and vegetables. Sounds so simple, yet it’s hard work! You ate mainly seafood and vegetables, which seems to be the mainstay of the Mediterranean diet. You referred to meat as a rare luxury in the book. Tell us more about this and how your Greek family viewed eating animal meat…

Maria Benardis: Animal meat was considered sacred and before any animal was sacrificed for our enjoyment our island priest would bless it. We ate meat on special occasions only such as Easter, Christmas, when someone got married on the island, birthdays etc. In Greek Orthodox culture, many people may not know that we have meatless Wednesday’s and Friday’s amongst other days in the religious calendar in any case. Additionally, we closely aligned our eating habits to those of our ancient Ancestors. As many would know in Ancient Greece many were vegetarians, vegans and fruitarians.

As outlined in my other book/eBook “Cooking & Eating Wisdom for Better Health.” “In ancient Greece many people avoided animal flesh altogether. They believed that by eating the flesh of animals that had been slaughtered they would be ingesting pain and that this was detrimental to ones health. Plutarch ( Greek biographer and essayist) tells us: ‘Man is by nature not a carnivorous animal’. ‘It is not natural to mankind to feed on flesh, we first of all demonstrate from the very shape and figure of the body. For the human body no way resembles those that were born for ravenousness’. ‘Shall we reckon a soul to be a small expense.’ ‘Animal food is injurious: it clogs and confuses the mind’ and the ‘mind weak and feeble’. It operates unfavourably on character’. ‘If we must eat flesh let it be with sorrow and pity; not tormenting and abusing the poor animal before taking its life. Animals have senses’.”“Who knows the bodies of animals may contain the souls of deceased men.”

Lauroly Q- Thank you for sharing great wisdom we all need to revisit. There are so many interesting stories like “The Grape Leaf Lady’ weaved throughout the book, but we can’t forget the wonderful delicious recipes! I think I mentioned in our last interview together that Greek food is one of my favorite cuisines. I was fortunate to visit Greece more than once, and I have wonderful memories of eating. I think it was the simplicity of the food that worked for me and the aromatic herbs and spices. I remember going to a Greek restaurant outside the city of Athens and there was no menu! They just brought out various dishes of food to the table, as if we were family. They mainly served fish and vegetable dishes and it was all so delicious! What herbs and spices are commonly used in Greek cooking? I love how you call them healing ingredients as many spices are. Food really can be medicine don’t you think?

Maria Benardis: There are many spices and herbs still used in Greek cookery that were used by my ancient Greek ancestors. I cover their medicinal properties observed by them and now at the back of my book and throughout “My Greek Family Table”. They include basil comes from the Greek basilius, meaning “king” or “royal.” the king of herbs and the crowning herb in Greek cuisine. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, regarded basil as beneficial to the heart and prescribed it for the treatment of constipation and for the prevention of vomiting. Other include mint, dill, cilantro, Bay Leaf, Marjoram, Oregano ( is derived from two Greek words: oros (mountain) and ganos (joy) (i.e, “joy of the mountain”)), parsley, Rosemary, and Thyme. Laura, you are absolutely right Food is Medicine and in the wise words of Hippocrates “Let Medicine be thy food and food thy medicine”. I was ill for many years with cysts that were going to turn into cancer and the doctors were not able to help me. I turned to food and mind medicine and healed myself.
MBPicMyGreekFamilyTable

Photograph from ‘My Greek Family Table’ Book

 

Lauroly Q-My favorite part of the book ‘My Greek Family Table’ is where you talk about returning to Greece after living in Australia for a long time. It was on that trip you discovered your calling and true love of Greek food. Can you share a little bit of that story?

Maria Benardis: Yes, I have the whole story in my book. Briefly in August 2004 I went on a life-changing trip to Greece. It was my first visit back there since leaving Psara all those years before. While there, I visited Kalamata and many of the beautiful islands. However, it was on the island of Mykonos that my life changed forever, when I visited the small church of Saint Fanourios. It was there that my decision to pursue my passion for food was sealed and my destiny set on a new course. Saint Fanourios is a very small church on one of the main winding streets in Mykonos. Beautifully whitewashed, the church proudly hangs the Greek flag hangs proudly outside. It had an inviting look about it and I felt compelled to go in and light a candle. The church was adorned with beautiful icons painted with vibrant colors and finished off with gold and silver. In the corner there were many candles that had being lit that day by people who had passed by. I felt a peace in my soul that I had not experienced before, and the sweet fragrance of the holy basil heightened my sense of tranquility. Suddenly I experienced an epiphany and saw all that was about to happen in my life pass before me. I realized it was time for me to reinvent my life, and in that church I saw a new path set out for me to follow. I decided then and there that I was going to dedicate myself to bringing Greek food and culture to the rest of the world.

Lauroly Closing- Thank you so much for joining us Maria, I could ask you so many other questions, but I think your book is really special. Everyone needs to read your story while turning the beautifully photographed pages of your Greekalicious dishes and classic Greek tables. They will not only find delicious Greek recipes, but perhaps a fresh perspective on their own relationship with food. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, and love of your Greek culture and heritage. Mission accomplished Maria! Greece will live on in you and now in us.

Maria Benardis Closing: Thank you for interviewing me and for your time. In closing I would like to end with some words I have in “My Greek Family Table” in the acknowledgments section. This book is for all the Greeks (and I believe we all have a bit of Greek within us all) over the world. You are all so fortunate to be part of a civilization that has contributed many things, such as democracy, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, theater, arts, healing therapies, and most importantly of all gastronomy; forgotten by the world but now time to be remembered.

 

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