Health & Fitness--an Artist In The Kitchen 01/28/99
On the go with Ginna Bell Bragg.
Thursday, January 28, 1999
Life just keeps getting more interesting for Ginna Bell Bragg. The chef/artist/author and now manager of the Thunderbird Bookshop''s Whole Life Center may have moved a year and a half ago back to her stomping grounds on the Monterey Peninsula for a change of pace, but the pace has definitely not slowed, which is fitting for someone who boasts no fewer than six professional titles.
Starting off as a legal assistant in Monterey, Bragg went on to study bookbinding and ran a successful custom book business in Carmel for eight years. A longing for spiritual exploration led her in 1990 to Northern California where she garnered a chef position at the Rainbow Ranch retreat resort in Calistoga. "I''m not a nutritionist or cook," Bragg says. "I''ve always been very passionate about the kitchen. But I didn''t know what I would do when I went to Rainbow. I just knew I was supposed to be there."
Bragg''s first foray into a professional kitchen coalesced with her introduction to Ayurveda, the ancient Sanskrit discipline defined as the science or knowledge of life. It was a meeting of the highest spiritual and professional consequences. Bragg was soon tapped to join infamous Ayurvedic physician and spiritual inspiration Deepak Chopra, M.D., at his tony new-age healing center in La Jolla.
Over the next three years that Bragg spent developing the kitchen and menu for the Chopra Center for Well Being, serving as private chef for actor Steven Seagal and co-authoring A Simple Celebration: A Vegetarian Cookbook for Body, Mind and Spirit, the Nutritional Program for the Chopra Center for Well Being, she refined what she calls "the art of cooking with consciousness." It''s a concept is sorely lacking in modern kitchens, Bragg says.
In the Ayurvedic cooking classes she teaches though Ginna and Company, her private business, Bragg tries to impart the idea of honoring the processes of food preparation and eating. While the cuisine is Ayurvedic, and mostly vegetarian, Bragg also teaches people how to choose organic produce, read labels and to "recycle" food for soup stocks. And, she urges, to always "be present" in the cooking process. "A conscious cook is paying attention to the beauty of the food, the sitting down to the meal, taking care of yourself. It''s not bolting down dinner while in front of the TV," she says. Ayurvedic tradition says that everything in the universe has its own energy. Everything you do, Bragg explains, also has energy. Food prepared with consciousness and love provides nourishment on numerous levels.
"All we are is a vibrating mass of energy and elements," Bragg says. "Whatever you''re doing while you are cooking and eating, you are ingesting with your food. If you are cooking your children pancakes and you are angry, you have to remember that you cook anger into your pancakes." The eclectic combination of culinary, psychological, spiritual and health concepts she espouses come natural to Bragg, who calls herself, first and foremost, an artist. "Give me a canvas, I''ll create," she coos.
Bragg''s present incarnation as manager of the Whole Life Center and her role as the Wellness Guide for Cornucopia Community Market meld seamlessly into her professional palette. These new forums allow her to pursue the themes central to her life--holistic health and conscious living--and to share her formidable knowledge with the community. Bragg has organized through Cornucopia, for example, a series of health and wellness seminars over the next year, including: "Rejuvenation and Renewal for 1999"; "Boy/Girl/Man/Woman-Babyboomers Coming of Age"; "Why Organics?" and "2001: A Holiday Soiree."
Her penchant for teaching through various media isn''t limited to her new job titles. Bragg has another book in the works; a tome dedicated to teaching children how to "be in the kitchen." She is also developing her own line of Ayurvedic food products. But Bragg says that her greatest goal now is to host a local wellness television show, to include interviews with complementary health and wellness practitioners, cooking demonstrations and call-ins from the public. "I really want people to understand their energetic contribution to their nutrition, for one thing," Bragg says. "I want them to understand it''s all about the quality of their life at this moment." cw
Ginna Bell Bragg presents "Cooking Consciousness and Caveats" on Feb. 27 at the Carmel Women''s Club. Call 624-4469 for more information about this event and other Ginna and Company services.