A DAY AT GERSON INSTITUTE

Yesterday, I volunteered to help out in the kitchen at the Gerson Institute. I didn’t realize their office was located in San Diego as I’ve seen the documentary film, Food Matters, quite some long time ago. Gerson Therapy is an alternative, non-toxic treatment for cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases. I haven’t researched into the effectiveness of this therapy and I am not qualified to offer my opinion. What I do know is that Gerson Therapy is a VERY strict diet of selected organic vegetables and fruits. No sodium except those that come natural in the vegetables. Please note Gerson Therapy has been studied for those with a chronic degenerative disease so adhering to the strict diet and guidelines are imperative.

Once I found out Gerson Institute was located just 16 miles away from me, I had to check them out and see what they were all about.

The office is located off Adams Avenue in Normal Heights, San Diego, which is known for its great restaurants, bars, coffee shops, vintage stores, and a burgeoning art community.  It takes place of a former bank institution where the drive-up window is still in place. The thought of having a drive-thru juice bar and farmers market quickly comes across my mind. Upon first entering the building, I noticed a large room sectioned off by bookshelves and house plants giving each employee its only personal office space. There was a maple dinette set in the guest area with a couch,  yoga ball, and mini- trampoline. I was immediately welcomed by their admin and she introduced me to their two in-house chefs, Jen and Eric. Another volunteer also showed up to help prep. Gerson has 2 volunteers a day in which most show up weekly. I was a step-in volunteer for the day.

The employees of Gerson are treated to 2 free juices and lunch everyday. What a wonderful treat! It’s good to know that the Gerson coaches aren’t providing vital health information to people over the phone and then chomping on MickeyD’s fries on the other end. :) All of their employees look bright, young and healthy.

Eric showed me the ropes around the kitchen and got me washing the veggies for the juices.  Eric has worked there for three years. He is really into music and introduced me to wonderful bands I’ve never heard of. We found a keen liking to each other when we both discovered we were big fans of the musician/artist, Daniel Johnston.  Eric bikes to and from work daily, roughly 10 miles each way! He started a small garden in the back of the office. Where ever there was a patch of dirt, Eric filled it with food. Pretty cool to see kale and a small vineyard growing alongside an asphalt parking lot. There’s one thing to preach and talk, and then there are the people living it.

All their veggies and fruits soak in a bath of tap water and a bit of hydrogen peroxide for cleaning to offset the heavy fluoridated water.  A large plastic bin is filled with distilled water in which the vegetables are then transferred for another bath before going into the juicer.

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I guess the day I volunteered I was lucky for a couple reasons. I was the first person to try an older but classic model of the king of juicers, Norwalk, that someone had kindly donated. And being a chef, I love heavy duty, effective appliances. The Norwalk Juicer is a two step process juicer where it first grinds the vegetables and fruits and then presses them. This powerful machine extracts an enormous amount of juice from the grinds than most other juicers on the market resulting in more minerals extracted. The amazing workmanship and build of the juicer does come at the hefty price of $2400 brand new. But it gets more out of your vegetables and fruits and they are built to last. So in my mind, those dollars don’t mean much when they save you on hospital bills.

At around 9-10 o’clock every morning, the lucky employees are served the green juice. This juice contains green lettuce, bell peppers, watercress, red cabbage, chard, and apple (preferably green apple, but they only had fuji since they were cheaper). It’s a great tasting juice as the greens in it are not very bitter like other green veggies. It’s got the perfect amount of sweetness without being overly sweet. I find it quite refreshing.

The second juice is a carrot-apple juice that is served with lunch. This juice is a bit sweeter than the green juice as the carrots they had were naturally sweet. But, my definition of sweet will vary according to your taste buds, as I don’t eat much sweets and I dislike things that are sugary sweet.

Because I was lucky to arrive on a day no one was on the Gerson Therapy, both the chefs Jen and Eric, were able to stray away from their usual offerings. How dare they add a pinch of rosemary to the soup! :) They made lentil-potato soup packed with garlic and other veggies, a wonderful veggie lasagna layered with butternut squash, tomatoes, and eggplant, quinoa, and fresh vegetables for DIY salad. This consisted of spring lettuce, spinach, lemon, beets, zucchini, tomatoes, green cabbage, and this great topping mixture that included chopped onions, garlic, and dill.

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At precisely 12:05pm, lunch was served. Employees gathered around the kitchen filling their plates. At their tables offered a variety of seasonings and oils like olive oil, balsamic, flax seed oil, srirachi, himalayan pink salt, and some homemade salad dressings.

I sat next to Diane, the volunteer coordinator, and a couple of other volunteers. We talked about Gerson’s programs and offerings. I found out they have a Health Restoration Center located in Encinitas, northern San Diego, where they offer a 6-day program for healthy clients interested in educating and experiencing a modified version of Gerson Therapy. It includes all the meals, juices, and a private room. The place has ocean views from the second story and within short walking distances to nearby beaches. Sounds like a wonderful retreat to detox and relax.

Everyone at Gerson Institute was very nice and there’s a great calming energy about the place. You just get the vibe that all their employees truly believe in what they do. There was no major differences in their work and home lifestyles. I will return and most definitely volunteer my time again.

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Here’s a pic of my version of the Hippocrates Soup. I just added ginger, turmeric, and pink Himalayan salt. The smell of the leeks and celery root will leave a relaxing and beautiful aroma filling your entire house.

Here’s the Daniel Johnston song, I’ll do anything but break dance for ya darlin’, that Chef Eric, introduced to me. I can’t believe I haven’t heard this gem yet. But then again, considering the endless list of songs Mr. Johnston has written, I’m not surprised.

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I feel ya Daniel!