Freezing cold Helsinki is quite different from spring in Denmark. But it is a pretty place in sunlight! On top the Bank of Finland and the Cathedral; below the House of the Estates.(Helsinki, Finland; March 2019)
This little town has many great picnic spots. I cannot wait for warmer weather and lazy days on the grass with a good book, or in good company. The Danes do not seem to enjoy the great outdoors much, unless they are into mountain biking or have a dog that needs to attend to its business. Most evenings the gravel and forest trails are empty, save for those few dog walkers, and me and about three other runners. On Sundays the busiest time is before 2 pm, when families go for a leisurely stroll (even without dogs). And what is nearly unthinkable here in the dark Nordic winter: all gravel walks and trails are without artificial lighting, so enjoying the outdoors after dark is quite unpleasant.
The hiking trails are nearly empty compared to Finland. And so are all these beautiful picnic spots. At least this time of year. The Danes do not know what they are missing.
(Brande, Denmark; February 2019)
No, this is not late August last year. It is February this year. There were two swans in the pond, just like there should be in spring, when everything is wonderful.(Brande, Denmark; February 2019)
Spring arrived too early. So early, that the first leaves faced mid-February night frosts and the finches and flycatchers had to desperately look for food: for those brave winter-bearing insects staggering out of their hiding places into the warm sunlight of a few noon-hours of the day.
Hopefully we will not have a “Finnish spring” here in Denmark, with another layer of frost and snow before summer really comes. Otherwise much newly awoken spring life will perish.
(Brande, Denmark; February 2019)
The moor looks dramatic in winter, and it is not a landscape I feel at home in. I am used to sea, lakes, and thickets where you need violence or a machete to stumble through – not these open windswept landscapes with heather and farm animals.
The miniature moorland behind Brande is like all those old English novels come to life, the ones I read in my teens: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Hound of the Baskervilles.
(Brande, Denmark; February 2019)
Winter detoxes and spring cleanses never seem to go out of mode. To be honest, as a scientist I do not believe in quick “detoxing” (I also do not believe one can “wring toxins out of the liver” while squeezing into certain yoga poses). But I do believe in resetting metabolism: resetting energy intake and resetting cravings for salt, sugar, fat, pickles, candy – you name your own craving.
And so, nearly my entire adult life I have taken a timeout of one to three weeks, early on in the year, and focused on clean, healthy, often light food. I have tried a version of the “heart surgery diet” or the “cabbage soup diet” – mainly for excess fluid loss and carb reset, not weight loss. I have also tried three or four different Goop detoxes and found them insanely expensive, adventurous, and delicious.
The past few years I have used a version of an ayurvedic kitchari detox. My ayurvedic dosha is pitta – except for that some of it, and especially my digestive system, is kapha. The combination of mung bean dhal, lots of spices, pickled ginger, and a little rice just works. Especially if you have a slow metabolism or kapha imbalance, or just feel tired during the winter time you might want to give this a go.
The catch with this winter reset, first published on Oh Holy Basil, is that you really must like this dish because it is all you eat. Every day. The recommendation is a three-day diet but I throw in a light almond milk based smoothie every morning and combine that with the kitchari for seven days. Why on earth?? Because it gives my stomach a well-deserved rest. No surprises. No difficult-to-digest raw vegetables, bloating short carbs and sugars, and no chemical additives or caffeine or alcohol. Just highly nutritious, easy-to-digest, clean foods. Every day. And this dish is delicious, especially with the condiments of pickled ginger, shredded coconut, sesame seeds, and fresh cilantro.
My week-long simple reset is as follows:
Morning: Half a lemon squeezed into a glass of warm water, with a dash of cayenne pepper stirred through (to wake up my kapha belly). Followed by a 4 dl smoothie blended from a banana, almond milk, super green powder (think spirulina, wheat shoots, nettle), and maca powder.
Lunch and dinner: Kitchari with rice and condiments, as much as you feel like having. Have some more in-between meals if you feel hungry. If you go for an entire week, make sure you go plenty on the ghee or coconut oil, and cook the mung beans well. I prefer to sprout them for up to 36 hours in a bowl of water in room-temperature prior to cooking, to aid my digestion. I also add up to twice as much spices than in the recipe below (and go even heavier on the turmeric).
To drink: No alcohol, of course. No caffeine also means no black or green tea. Only that glass of fresh lemon water in the morning, followed by herbal teas and water. There are lots of gently and tastily spiced herbal teas out there. Not sure how much good they actually do, but for example the Pukka brand is good for exploration during a reset.
This is not a diet to lose weight; it is a diet for feeling good. You might end up losing some fluid and weight if you go for an entire week. If you do not feel your stomach, even after a heavy meal, this diet is probably working for you. You also do not need expensive adaptogens and Moon Dust (google it if you don’t know what it is) but I like to throw in the things I normally take: holy basil, maca, ashwagandha if I am under pressure at work, and vitamin D + calcium as well as vitamin B12 (as I am vegetarian).
An actual reset is also about resetting one’s mind. Try yoga, meditation, or just sitting in stillness, listening to sounds around you and to your own body. Read, go for walks in Nature, or take a bath. Try to spend less time consuming anything in your life that is not either bringing you a sense of calm or a sense of self-improvement (and that includes dramatic tabloid news, Facebook, and cat videos on Youtube).
The recipe for the actual dish follows below, with a grateful nod to Dillon at Oh Holy Basil. If you have tried this, or another “detox” / cleanse / reset you absolutely recommend, please drop me a line as I do like to experiment and improve.
- 1 cup yellow split mung beans (not the whole green ones she says, but I’ve never found yellow ones anywhere), washed and soaked at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, see note
- 2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon mustard seed
- ½ teaspoon cumin seed
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- pinch asafetida, if available, otherwise omit it
- 6 cups water
- salt to taste
- 2-3 cups turnips, sunchokes or other mild root vegetables, thinly sliced into half moons
- ½ bunch of kale or the reserved turnip greens from the turnips, sliced very thin
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 cup basmati rice, preferably soaked for one hour, otherwise rinsed
- 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 cardamom pods
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups boiling water
- cilantro leaves
- shredded coconut
- sesame seeds
- melted ghee
- ginger tonic, recipe follows
- Drain and rinse the mung beans in a fine mesh sieve and leave them to drain of their excess water.
- In a medium pot, heat the ghee or coconut oil, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick over medium heat until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Immediately add the turmeric, asafetida and mung beans and cook, stirring frequently for about a minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, partially covered and cook for about 45 minutes or until the mung beans have broken down, loosing their district form. Add the root vegetables and salt and cook for 15-20 minutes more, until they are quite soft. Add the greens and cook about five minutes more. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice. While the dal is cooking, make the rice.
- Drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse a couple of times.
- Heat the ghee or coconut oil, cumin seeds and cardamom pods over medium heat and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently for a minute or two more, until the rice is well toasted but not yet browning. Add the boiling water and boil the rice, uncovered for five minutes. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer until all of the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
- To serve put some rice into a bowl and ladle the dal over top of it. Garnish with cilantro, a hearty squeeze of lime juice, the coconut, sesame seeds and melted ghee, if using. Top with a couple of teaspoons of the ginger tonic.
- a large piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into tiny cubes
- lime juice
- sea salt
- Place the ginger in a small bowl and coat with a liberal squeeze of lime juice. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and set aside to let marinate for at least 20 minutes.
- Cover and store in the refrigerator.
(Brande, Denmark; February 2019)
If one lives on a mountaintop, one sees more of morning sunlight. The days are shorter in the valleys. So which one will you choose? Sheltered still shorter days; or wild windy longer ones? And what about the days of your life?
(Above Norway; February 2019)
My current bi-weekly commute: Billund to London City airport. In the cutest tiniest passenger jet possible. With artisan ice cream served on board. This does beat the impossibly-early mornings of the overfull Stockholm commute from either Billund or Helsinki, which were a priority for the past three years.
(LCY, London, United Kingdom; February 2019)
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more”
(Silkeborg, Denmark; February 2019)
Today I am consciously enjoying the longer midwinter daylight in Denmark compared to dark Finland. And the fact that I am no longer an “illegal immigrant” but actually have a registered Danish address and social security number. After six months of drifting I have bureaucratic roots again. And as I am (unfortunately?) a human conditioned to like modern society, bureaucratic roots help generate the sense of individual roots and foothold.
It is a good lesson to learn that even if a sense of belonging to a place is all in my mind, having a contract with a country about my intention to stay helps. And I just heard from my employer that I will be advised to sign up for a course on introduction to Danish culture – in essence, a guide on how to become Danish. Or at least how to understand the Danes. I have no need to become Danish. But as I also have no need for a Danish language course (Scandinavian languages are inter-comprehensible), perhaps a course on how to understand the cultural quirks of the Danes beyond “hygge” will be useful.(Silkeborg, Denmark; February 2019)