Review by Peter Deadman, The Journal of Chinese Medicine
Daverick Leggett is the author of Helping Ourselves A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics, one of the only books on the traditional Chinese approach to diet rooted firmly in the dietary habits and readily available ingredients of Western countries. Recipes for Self-Healing develops from that earlier work and presents a wide range of recipes, again using indigenous foods rather than the often strange and unavailable components of similar Chinese books. The recipe section is divided into Soups, Salads, Grains, Vegetables and Beans, Meat and Fish, Sauces, Dips and Relishes, Condiments, Bakery, Desserts and Drinks. For each recipe, as well as the standard preparation and cooking instructions, there is a full discussion of the energetics and a simple table showing its effect on qi, blood, yin or yang, pathogenic factors and zangfu, as well as its temperature and contraindications. Thus for example ‘Cabbage in Chestnut & Walnut Sauce’: “Chestnuts and walnuts both support the Yang and help counteract Dampness. They are supported in this by the garlic whilst the lemon acts on the Liver and makes the dish more digestible. The cabbage helps strengthen the Blood and is especially beneficial for the Stomach and Intestines”. The overall effect of this dish is to warm the body, clear dampness, support the Kidney Yang and nourish the Intestines”.
There is much more to this book however than just the recipes, however wonderful. Introductory chapters discuss such subjects as sources of nourishment (air, water, trees and plants, cosmic energy, sensual nourishment, relationships and food) which reveal the author’s grounding in qigong and spiritual practice, and his always rounded, sensible and comprehensive approach to the potentially narrow issue of dietary regulation. Since this book is aimed both at the practitioner and the layperson, there is a comprehensive introduction to the relevant Chinese medicine theory (channels, zangfu, substances, yin and yang, climatic factors etc.). A valuable final section, suitably entitled ‘Leftovers’ considers subjects such as coffee and tea, alcohol, sugar, dairy foods, vegetarianism, raw food diets, pregnancy, babies and children, slimming and obesity, fasting, microwave cooking, genetic engineering, vitamins and common medical drugs.
Whist Helping Ourselves was very obviously a self-published book, Recipes for Self-Healing is an altogether more professional publication, attractively designed and laid out, and with fine illustrations. It marks a major step in the development of Chinese dietary principles to Western diets and habits, and establishes Daverick Leggett as one of the leaders in this field.