Back To Earth


Riding on the coat-tails of the New Year, more so than ever I am to sense, embrace, reflect and provoke change. It's not a decision I have made lightly, but with the New Year, I have birthed the plan of ‘returning to where it all began’. Close to 10 years ago I became very ill and was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis. Probably one of the most unfashionable diseases to have because it's all about pooping. I’m talking non-stop, close-your-eyes-and-strap-yourself-in pooping.

I’m sure you all know what it's like, anyone who's ever had tummy trouble understands. Except with ulcerated colitis it just doesn't stop (I won't bore you with the whole story again if you're interested you can read all about it in ‘Sandra's story’).

10 years ago I was living in the idyllic seaside town of Noosa, Australia. Sporting some of the most beautiful beaches and gorgeous rainforest hinterland’s in the country (Tourism Noosa can thank me later), this is where I wrote my first cookbook Healing Foods. I spent a year developing, cooking and shooting my recipes whilst running a wholesale fashion accessory business. For some strange reason I set up my studio in the downstairs section of my two-story house, whilst my kitchen was upstairs.

So here's me running up and down the stairs with plates of food, perfectly styled with not a single strawberry seed or crumb out of place. There were two things that kept blowing me up and down those stairs like a madman; the first was simply, that I could! (being in remission for nearly a year gives you a new outlook on how amazing it feels to be able to move your body). The second was that I got to devour the stuff once I had taken the perfect shot. Suffice to say that I got fitter and healthier the more I cooked and ate these healing foods.

Professor Kerryn Phelps, Australian Medical Health expert and myself at the 2007 Healing Foods book launch in Australia.
Professor Kerryn Phelps, Australian Medical Health expert and myself at the 2007 Healing Foods book launch in Australia.

I left Noosa not long after publishing Healing Foods for several reasons, one of which was that a lot had happened in the 18 years I had lived there. Some of the most defining moments of my life; giving birth to my gorgeous son Reuben, a diagnosis of severe U.C., going through the mother of all separations and finally publishing my cookbook. So, some really good things and some really bad things. It was the bad things I needed to leave behind, and when I left, I left for good!

Or so I thought…

In my mind there was nothing that would make me want to go back. It was Sydney and beyond, emphasis on “beyond” as I never thought I would be here forever either.

Then, at five o’clock last January I found myself walking into the freezing rain from the threshold of Charité Hospital in Berlin. I was in an outer suburb of Berlin where the charm of yesteryear had truly worn off; stark grey buildings and skeletal trees towered above me - even they were being assaulted by the sleety wind. Their sad reflections mirrored in the silvery puddles on the black asphalt roads. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen; nearly dying will do this to you.

I had just survived a major relapse due to stress and a stomach bug. It took me three months to get back to my former health, thanks to the Healing Foods diet and the help of orthodox medicine.

Then the news came through that a beautiful young woman I had known suddenly died of stomach cancer. She was someone who had dedicated her life to helping others, a true angel. Suffice to say that the existential crisis I went into left me in tears even at the sight of a discarded banana peel. I asked myself three questions:

  1. What makes me feel worthy?
  2. What is my life worth to me?
  3. What really fulfills me?

What makes me feel worthy?

Having put so much effort into publishing Healing Foods and continuing to do so has given me a great deal of self worth. I know the book is helping people (as it has me). It still seems like a miracle that I don’t have to poop 20 times a day and that I can enjoy eating.

What is my life worth to me?

Answering this question made me really think about what I wanted to do in the future to keep feeling worthy. I was frustrated with being on the treadmill of earning a keep and paying the bills and not really living the authentic life I wanted to live. This question is the segue to the answer for the next question.

What really fulfills me?

The truest thing in life that I know is our Earth, the Earth. The smell and feel of brown, soft earth that gets under your fingernails and into your hair. Planting a tiny seed and watching it grow is one of those true miracles of life. This miracle can please you in many ways: it can feed you, heal you, inspire you …anyone can have the experience of it, even in a little pot on your window sill. The truest form of pleasure for me is to dig into the earth, to sow and to grow. It is the one time I feel completely fulfilled. I’d even go so far as to say it’s better than sex. (Thank god, because otherwise I’d have to completely rewrite this article)

The earth is not the only thing that fulfils me, the love of my family and friends is just as important. The death of my young friend made me question who I want to have around me when my ‘time comes’ and who would I regret not spending more time with? These seem to be the questions that are asked once one reaches a certain age. I think if I had asked myself these questions at 25 I would not have had such an adventurous life.

I am glad to be at this stage in my life and to be able to ask myself these questions. The outcome will be a new beginning, by going ‘home’ to where it all began. Where the not-so-good things have had closure and the good things have been lying dormant in the rich earth of my hometown waiting to be watered and enjoyed. We will see…the dream is still only in the planning stages, but tomorrow I fly back home to suss out the real estate market. I’ve given myself this year to make the transition back. I’m a little scared.

P.S. I hope you all had a fabulous New Year, there are many, many more recipes to come!

FlogSandra Ramacher