Profile: Actress/Macrobiotic Teacher Jessica Porter
Jessica Porter is a very good cook. A true renaissance woman, she hails from Toronto and wears more than one hat: actress, macrobiotics teacher, author and hypnotherapist. Her witty, informative and now classic book The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics is a great starting point for anyone interested in learning about macrobiotic philosophy and cooking.
Age Old enough to remember Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet — Hometown Toronto — Where do you live? Santa Monica, California...a/k/a Heaven — Occupation I think of myself first, but sort of secretly, as an actress. I've done it since I was a child, through college, grad school, and now in L.A., I have an agent, etc. But I don't make my living at it...I write cookbooks, and am a hypnotherapist to pay the bills. I also teach macrobiotic theory and cooking at conferences around the world. — Signature dish This is difficult. I don't really identify with any particular dish. I'm better at some dishes than others: I love making a great soup...mmm, watermelon soup!...and I love a great grain salad (barley with pine nuts, olives and capers? Quinoa with pecans and dill?) I try to continually perfect my miso soup, and I LOVE making a good kuzu gravy. How's that? — Who taught you how to cook? I learned most of my actual skills at the Kushi Institute, where I discovered the principles of macrobiotics. I've never had any formal culinary training. I often wish I had gotten some, and may in the future...but my love of food comes not from the artistry behind cooking, but in playing with the awesome power of food. Food is nothing less than magic in its capacity to heal the body, mind and yes, spirit. And that's not a purple new-age statement. It is fundamentally logical and true. We still don't understand, fully, the complexity of how food interacts with the body on a cellular level--only just beginning to understand the importance of a food's wholeness, rather than analyzing its bits and pieces. To harvest a whole grain, experience the pleasure of its taste, and to then benefit from its macro- and micronutrients...and to have these benefits show up in our body, mood, dreams and relationships...THAT is why I love food, and by extension, cooking. — Favorite kitchen tool A good wooden spoon, for spanking. — Always in your pantry Barley. I love barley. — Go-to snack On my good days, a Honeycrisp apple. On my bad days, non-dairy chocolate chips. — Favorite cuisine My favorite restaurant in the world is called Alounak, in London. When I was a private chef, I had an apartment across the street from it, and ate there almost weekly. It's Iranian cuisine, and it never failed to please...thin bread made on the spot...the most amazing hummus, other spreads, salads with fresh mint, radishes, olives...roasted onions...great white rice. There was always a line out the door at Alounak, and it never failed to please. So yeah, I love Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. I also love a good veggi pho. — Do you diet? Not really. When I want to lose weight, I become more conscious of what I'm eating, and follow a bit of a plan, instead of just grazing. But it never feels like deprivation; I just become more aware. In fact, when I do that, I often feel like I'm eating more food--it's just better quality. — Food addictions White sugar. If I eat sugar, it's hard to stop, so I stay away from it. Caffeine, although it's not a food, I've really struggled with it. — Food allergies Not technically, unless an addiction is considered a type of allergy. See above. — Food fad pet peeve I always say, when a food crashes into the spotlight and becomes the food of the moment: "Coconuts got a PR person!" Or pomegranates. Or blueberries. Or chia seeds. Because that's often exactly what has happened. There has been a corporate push to sell a product, and the PR machine cranks up, studies are done, and suddenly everyone feels like they'd DIE without their coconut water. So yeah, when a food suddenly seems like the Holy Grail, that weirds me out. — Who’s your sous chef? Ira Glass or the guys from Car Talk. I listen to NPR a lot while I'm cooking. — Drinking while cooking? Rarely, but once in a while. Pinot Noir. — What’s for dinner tonight? I have no idea. Going out with a friend, but we will probably go to a vegan restaurant. — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? If the spilled milk is serious, yes. You gotta cry. Good the for the soul, and helps me to move on. But the little stuff? Nah. — Best meal you ever had Wow. This is tricky. Okay, I got it. My mother spent the last ten years of her life cooking macrobiotic food in her kitchen in England. She had met the love of her life and one of her big gifts to him, and to the relationship, was to cook really healthy, delicious food. Whenever I went over to visit her, we would cook together every afternoon, and produce a fantastic 6 or 7 course dinner. You know, soup, grain, bean, a couple veg dishes, and a dessert. I can't remember one meal in particular, because we were blessed to make dozens, if not a couple hundred together over the years. Those meals were infused with our laughter, and love for one another. They were made for people we loved--other relatives, her husband and his kids... and many, many, many of them tasted fantastic. Of course some dishes were bombs, but that was fine. The eating of the meals was always a pleasure and we all stepped away from the table satisfied, happy and stronger than we were before. Those were the best meals of my life. — Contact hipchicksmacrobiotics.com
Fake Chicken Soup for the Soul
“I don’t know what possessed me to create this soup, but I’m glad I did,” says Jessica. “It delivers a hearty, tasty warmth that just begs for a matzo ball. On a recent trip to Israel, my Jewish friends agreed it was a very good substitute for the real thing.”
- Serves 6–8
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 cups red lentils, sorted and rinsed
- 10 cups water
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 medium red-skinned potato, peeled and diced
- 1½ cups chicken-style seitan, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 medium leek, white part only, sliced
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- Fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and red pepper and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils and add the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrots, potato, seitan and leek and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Transfer ¼ cup of the soup liquid into a small bowl and dissolve the miso in it, smoothing out any lumps. Stir the mixture back into the soup. Season with the soy sauce and cook for 5 minutes.
- Serve each bowl garnished with the parsley.
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