Hungry for Healthy

Santa Fe has a longstanding—and well-deserved—reputation as a health-conscious city. Patients were drawn to the Sunmount Sanatorium in the early twentieth century, just as the back-to-the-land movement felt a magnetic pull to the high desert in the 1960s and 70s. Even nearby Ojo Caliente’s curative mineral springs are said to have been a gathering place for thousands of years.

Today, the impulses towards good health take more varied forms, from alternative healing practitioners to tai chi instructors to organic farming advocates. And it’s only natural that the city has also kept pace with changes in the culinary landscape (remember Healthy Dave’s, in the Design Center?). Once upon a time, “health food” was a broad umbrella term referring mostly to vegetarianism while encompassing things like whole-wheat bread and homemade yogurt. Now the categories are much more complex. Vegan and gluten-free options, dietary outliers in the not-so-distant past, are becoming menu staples, as are alternatives to refined white sugar.

Dozens of local restaurants accommodate all manner of diners’ dietary needs and preferences. Below are just three of the many places where you can have your gluten-free, vegan, low-glycemic cake and not just eat it, but enjoy it, too. Continue reading

In Stride

Striders_Run_LL_02Meeting up early one morning recently for coffee with Jim Owens and Vinnie Kelley, I notice these guys are fit. Solid. Not an extra ounce of fat. Well, okay, between the two of them maybe an ounce, somewhere. Jim is the president of Santa Fe Striders, a local running club 200-members strong, and Vinnie is a longtime member. But when we get talking, I also notice they are very easy going. It’s refreshing. So often we turn play into work––we get serious about it and, poof, there goes the fun. For Jim and Vinnie, running is as much a part of life as taking a breath. They love the sport and the benefits and, while maybe years ago they were driven to excel, now they do it for fun.

Santa Fe Striders was founded in 1978. “One of the original members,” says Jim, referring to Dale Goering, “who is still a club member, he’s in his mid-80s now. He was running with us a little bit last year, but he still gets out and walks and rides his bike every day just about.” Today, the club sponsors four workouts every week, each focusing on a different type of running. They also sponsor a summer youth program, and several races over the year.

I’ve seen club members on the Windsor Trail in the Sangre’s and always marveled at them. “In the mountains, there’s usually a lot of walking, hiking for me,” says Jim, laughing. “Vinnie can run up the hill, but I can’t.” The hill Jim refers to is Santa Fe Baldy. From the Ski Basin parking lot (elevation: 10,380 feet) to the summit, is about seven miles and a 2,900-feet cumulative ascent. He continues nonchalantly, “but we get out there and have a good time.”

“The range of runner that’s shown up at the workouts,” says Vinnie, “has gone from Olympic hopeful to walker.” Jim’s heard people say, “A running club? I’m not fast enough to join a running club,” but he sets the record straight. “We encourage people to come out and do what they want. If you want to walk it? Okay. If you want to push it? That’s okay, too. We have people that will push you. We break it into slower and faster groups. The exact same workout. So we really encourage people of all skills to come out.”

“Certainly, we’re a very inclusive club,” says Vinnie. “There’s competition in the club, but that’s far outweighed by the social desire to get more people to run.” Vinnie’s been a member for some 20 years. He continues, “What attracted me to the Striders, I was competitive at that time but now I’m older and [being a member] means I’m going to run more often and have more fun doing it. I’m going to have other people that share…” and he laughs, “the affliction of running.” Continue reading

Magic Carpet

YOGA_kl_009It’s a late winter afternoon at Body, Santa Fe’s popular wellness complex. As sunlight slants across the studio’s polished wood floor, instructor Kathy Walsh and Helen Young, her assistant, welcome their small group of youngest yoga students, one of whom comes barreling down the hall ahead of his mom to get there. Kathy gives everybody a few minutes to settle into places in the circle on their day-glo orange and neon pink “magic carpet” yoga mats, smiling, addressing each child by name. “You can be anything you want to be!” Kathy says. “My grandma told me that, and I believed her.” The two five-year-old girls, Afsana and Danika, stare at her solemnly; Jahio, who’s three, keeps hopping around on his knees, laughing, rolling, crashing into his sister.

Kathy starts by reading a picture book, one of several she’s written. Listening as the engagingly simple story unfolds, all three kids relax against their mothers, silently curling the edges of their mats between their fingers and rocking. After the story ends, “We’re going to be eagles today!” she tells them. First, though, Kathy and Helen model deep breathing, instructing the children to breathe along with them. Kathy shows them how to modulate their breaths with an extremely kid-friendly “breathing ball,” which they pass around the circle. It’s a sphere made of Lego-like components that you can expand and contract. Danika and Afsana shyly give it a try but Jahio is fast unraveling; his mother, after repeated attempts to settle him down, calmly takes him by the hand to sit with her against the wall and watch. Then Kathy and Helen lead the girls in a series of yoga poses, including a twisty stretch, cat pose and sun salutation. One of the girls is—quietly, happily— especially limber. Then it’s time for the magic carpet ride! “Today we’re going to a mountain,” Kathy says, instructing everybody to grip the edges of their mats on their way first to a magic forest. Girls, instructors and the remaining mom take a walk in the woods, noticing trees, birds, rabbits. With the mountain in sight now, everybody does mountain pose, then a tree pose. “Let’s jump over the river!” Kathy calls over her shoulder, the others hopping from mat to mat behind her. Now they’re eagles, perched on a cliff, then flying. After a rain dance, they come back to the room, give each other “a big hug of love,” and Kathy and Helen bow to the girls in turn, telling them, “You are a bright shining star,” as, lastly, the girls lie on their backs in corpse pose as Kathy puts a small jewel on each one’s forehead. “Who wants to color what we saw on our walk?” she asks, handing out paper—and who should suddenly appear, crawling across the floor, jumping over mats, but Jahio, who wants to color, too. “I’m glad you’re back!” Kathy tells him. “And I hope you’ll come next time, with your sister—then you’ll already know what we do!” He smiles a secret, pleased smile and hunkers over his paper.     Continue reading

Plants that Nourish

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To those of us who call northern New Mexico home—and to those of us who keep traveling back—the trees, flowers and brush that dapple and scent our high-desert landscape are as much a part of the atmosphere that defines this place as the vivid golden light and the soft, looming mountains. This is a place whose botanical traditions are as unique and vibrant as its culinary ones. For over 400 years, the northern New Mexican curanderos, Hispanic folk healers, have harvested and made use of the healing properties of local flora—and the Puebloans have done so for far longer than that, from ancient times.  Continue reading

Homemade Yogurt

Yogurt famously splashed into mainstream American consciousness sometime in the early to mid-’60s as a health food, along with granola, juicing and wholewheat everything. I had a yogurt maker back then, a simple little electric heating platform that held four cute porcelain dishes, each with its own fitted glass lid. You could monitor the milk’s progress without disturbing the process; as it got closer to being yogurt, lots of water vapor collected inside the lids. The procedure, essentially as simple now as it was then, is to add a small amount of commercial yogurt to the milk of your choice and leave it in a warm place to incubate. Continue reading

On Walking

Going for a walk is so beautifully uncomplicated. You do not need any special gear; you simply step out the door and do it. And the benefits are enormous. You get the blood flowing, work all those joints, strengthen those muscles and bones. Hold your chin up and feel the sun on your skin. Things slow down. Check out your world, sniff the breeze and say hello to passersby. These are real connections. The joints and muscles may at first respond with an ache, but you’ll feel good in both body and mind. When you get home, you’ll be full of fresh air. That’s a great feeling. Continue reading