By Christina Pirello
How I Got Into This Fine Mess…
I was raised in a big Italian and Irish family, with extended clan members roaming wildly in and out of our house and lives on a daily basis. With the exception of my Irish father, we all cooked…my brothers, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and of course, my mother.
Talk about being ahead of your time! My mother was one in a million (thank God); I am not sure the world could have handled more than one of her. I surely know that my father couldn’t have. She was a lot of things, but ahead of her time is what I remember most about her…and her passion for good food.
As a child, some of my most vivid memories are of the Friday night and Saturday morning treks to the farmers’ markets in our area of New Jersey. My mother would pile us in the car and head off to find the best vegetables and fruit she could manage. Our eggs were delivered weekly by a local organic egg farmer (although we did not use that word back then). My father brought home the finest cuts of meat. She baked all our bread and sweets, working outside the home as well as in it. She loved to cook and to nourish.
Her commitment to fresh ingredients was matched by an insatiable thirst for knowledge about alternative health. While she and I cooked, continuing right on through dinner, she would talk to me about the latest article she had read about health and food.
…And Then There Was Me
And I was sick to death of it all…the recycling, the turning off of the water while we brushed our teeth to conserve, the walking instead of driving for added fitness and conservation, the healthy meals, the ‘weird’ brown whole wheat bread she baked that I would trade at school for something ‘normal,’ like Wonder Bread, the activist marches she regularly attended with me in tow. She was politically liberal, diametrically opposed to my conservative father, which made for some lively dinner conversations. Let’s just say I was raised to be politically, environmentally and socially aware.
She also spent countless hours in ‘health food stores,’ communing with the owners (all with names like ‘Free’ and ‘Sunflower’). She read voraciously, Ann Wigmore, Frances Moore Lappe…anyone who had anything to say about food, health and the environment. She made the connection between food and health way before anyone was talking about it on CNN.
I listened to my mother lecture me for my entire young life. I cooked for most of my young life. By the time I left home, I had decided to become a vegetarian and was sick to death of healthy cooking, recycling, worrying. I left my life of home cooked meals for Snicker Bars, diet soda, ice cream, pizza and candy.
But my mother’s lifelong preaching would come back to haunt me.
Why I Can Say I Know a Few Things
I moved to a new city and started a new career. No more food for me. Within 6 months of my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with AML, an acute form of leukemia and the prognosis did not look promising. They gave me a mere nine months to live, even with conventional intervention, like chemotherapy.
It was like living in a bad TV movie. You know the ones; the young woman with everything to live for diagnosed with a terminal condition. Cue the violins and the tears. The end.
But it would not go that way for me. A dear friend of mine introduced me to his buddy ate whole grains, veggies and beans. He said it cured cancer. I thought, “Whatever.”
Prince Charming and a Radical Life Changing Moment
But I agreed to meet Robert Pirello, who introduced me to macrobiotics. He gave me a book by Michio Kushi called ‘The Cancer Prevention Diet.’ I read it in about 36 hours because I couldn’t put it down, and I thought it was either the biggest crock I’d ever read or the best-kept secret on the planet.
While my doctors were not offering much hope, this man was. And so my adventure with plant-based macrobiotics began. Robert convinced me that I had a future when no one else saw it that way.
The Power of Food
We went shopping at a local co-op loading tons of unfamiliar food into my basket. We emptied my cupboards and loaded them up with new foods; Robert gave me a few quick tips and I was off…cooking my way back to health.
Brown rice, azuki beans, kale, tofu and sea veggies became as familiar to me as my diet soda once was.
I cooked and cooked. It was hard at first, with under-cooked beans and over-cooked rice, tasteless tofu and boring vegetable dishes. But then it hit me. All the techniques I had mastered in my cooking life could be used here. Only the ingredients had changed…and the goal. I was cooking as though my life depended on it…because it did.
It took a year and a half to regain my health and there were lots and lots and LOTS of ups and downs.
My blood was tested every month throughout my healing period. In the beginning, some months showed I was in remission and sometimes not. After about nine months, I showed steady improved blood health they called ‘spontaneous regression,’ an explanation that seemed to satisfy their need for order and balance.
It was a long year and a half, but after that period, my blood tests showed no sign of cancer and haven’t since. When I think back to those days, they seem other-worldly, distant. They have become a part of the tapestry of who I am, but not only who I am.
My Mission Is to Rock Your World…and Transform Our World
What I’ve discovered since those early days about the power of food in the body is what drives me in my passion every day. If people understand the energy of food and how it affects our health, they can make choices best suited to them.
I was given a second chance and I have decided to dedicate my life to helping people make better choices for their health and wellness. I wanted to help people discover that if we eat as if life…all life…matters, we can change our health and change the health of the planet by making a lighter, more gentle and sustainable footprint.
Since 1988, I have been teaching whole foods cooking classes, conducting lifestyle seminars and lecturing all over the United States and in Europe about the powerful role food plays in our lives…from natural food stores to corporate boardrooms. My goal is to give you the information and tools you need to create your own path to wellness.
One Big Platform for Wellness
It was the mid-1990’s when Robert had the idea that we should conceive and produce a television show about healthy cooking and ‘Christina Cooks’ was born. Who could have predicted that cooking on television would garner me an Emmy Award and result in a show that has helped people change how they think about food?
Let Me Help You to Get Smart About Your Food…
I never thought I would write one, let alone seven cookbooks, including the bestselling ‘Cooking the Whole Foods Way’, which was named the "Healthiest Cookbook of the Decade" by the Washington, D.C. based Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine. My other books take on all sorts of natural lifestyle topics, like Chinese medicine in ‘Cook Your Way to the Life You Want;’ beauty from the inside out and how to create health with diet, ‘Glow, A Prescription for Radiant Health and Beauty;’ quick and easy healthy cooking in ‘Christina Cooks: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Whole Foods, But Were Afraid to Ask;’ a 21-day diet plan designed to get you on the path to a fit and slim body with ‘This Crazy Vegan Life;’ and then there’s’ I'm Mad as Hell and I'm Not Going to Eat it Anymore,’ designed to educate you about what’s going on with our food supply and how to get the best quality food on your table. Each book is packed with unique information and delicious recipes to get you on the path to wellness, deliciously.
My first e-book, ‘Christina Pirello’s Wellness 1000,’ gives you 1000 reasons to get in the kitchen and cook your butt off! With 32 how-to videos and more than 70 photos, it’s a mouthwatering way to prepare plant-based foods.
I also write for The Huffington Post and The Examiner and am a featured columnist for VegNews magazine.
I hold a faculty position at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, where I lecture as a professor of culinary arts and nutrition. I can’t imagine anything better than influencing the young chefs who will take the culinary world by storm!
I serve on the board of The Farm Market Trust, The Green Council of Philadelphia, The Green City Youth Council of Philadelphia, The Chefs for Humanity Chef’s Council and am a member of IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs.
Finally, I earned both my Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Fine Arts from the University of Miami, and was awarded a Masters Degree in Food Science and Nutrition in 2003.
With our food as a tool, we can change our personal health, our family’s health and ultimately change the world. It may sound like a tall order for broccoli, but what do you have to lose? Nothing, but you have everything to gain…your health…and to naturally become a better steward of this planet we call home.