Welcome to Kitchn's series My Healthy Morning, where we show you how one person greets the day in a way that makes them feel their best. Each post will chronicle how that person defines healthy for themselves, and the habits and recipes that make their morning a little bit better.
If you've admired (or drooled over) a recipe photo here in the last year, then you're already familiar with CC Buckley, Kitchn's food stylist. When she's not making recipes like Cuban black bean soup or blueberry cheesecake breakfast bake look incredible for the site, however, she's making and talking about all things herbalism and wellness. As a graduate of Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism, Buckley now has her own website, Ripe, where she writes about all things plants. It's really cool, you guys.
As someone who is new into plants as medicine, it has been such a joy talking with Buckley about what she does to feel her best. She makes the wellness space exciting and approachable, which can be hard to to do. That's why I'm so excited to be sharing CC's healthy (and unhealthy) morning with you. I had the chance to visit her apartment in Brooklyn and get a peek into her routine.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! I'm CC. I am the food stylist at Kitchn. I am also the herbalist behind Ripe, a site dedicated to practicing herbalism in real life. Herbalism is the people's medicine. All over the world, with different systems, for thousands of years we have figured out how to support ourselves, each other, and the earth by partnering with plants. I make herbie things and write a newsletter where I think a lot about how those of us in cities can make alliances with plants. I am currently working on a medicinal plants book for Roost.
I have two cats and lots of plants in pots and jars in my weird little apartment in Brooklyn.
2. What does healthy mean to you?
My definition of health changes week to week — okay, it changes hour by hour, but the foundation of my fluid definition of health is abundance and experimentation. I am repulsed by restrictions and have a low tolerance for boredom. The minute I hear "no" or "not allowed," I fly into a rebellion spiral. So, instead of making anything off limits, I try out a lot of different things and in the process I try to take note of how things make me feel.
By paying close attention to myself and having data that I can trace back to about what works and what doesn't work, I've learned to trust my intuition and intelligence about my body.
3. What does your healthy morning look like?
In an ideal world I wake up between 6 and 6:30 a.m., which means I fall asleep by 9:30 p.m. I put a high priority on sleep: When my best friend was a pediatric resident, and sleeping almost never, she told me that every hour of sleep we lose is like putting a brick in the metaphorical backpack you carry around every day. Since I carry a real backpack, I'm trying to keep that thing light.
Since the election I instituted a "no news before noon" rule, so I can't wake up to WNYC anymore, which is a bummer, but in its place is the peaceful WQXR. They tell me what time the sun rises and do this "My Daily Bach" bit, which at this point is a total crutch to get my day going.
When I wake up I drink a warm herbal infusion and stretch a little bit. I also try to eat within an hour of getting up, which is what my acupuncturist says I should do, but is hard for me. Lately my go-to is a couple of seven-minute eggs, sprinkled with za'atar and served on top of whatever greens I have left over. I'll usually sauté the greens and finish them with grated fresh garlic, which builds my immune system to help me resist colds and flu in the winter. If I'm craving something sweet I'll have Anita's coconut yogurt with some of Kitchn's seedy granola. It's so satisfying.
3. What does your unhealthy morning look like?
Sometimes my life is together enough where my morning is easy, but more often than not, one of my cats is pawing my face 10 minutes to 6 a.m., WQXR plays for a half hour before I finally emerge from my bed, and I grab my phone on the way to the kitchen to drink plants out of various mugs and jars.
Then I go to the computer, work on my book, get distracted by a million other interesting things, shower quickly, make sure I have clean clothes on, and go to work. I didn't stretch, I definitely didn't have breakfast at home, I'm pretty sure I remembered to brush my teeth.
I pick up a tamale from the lady on the corner near my office and I eat standing up while we set up the first shot of the day on set. I live for a savory breakfast, and some of the best tamales in the city are at the farmers market (where I am many mornings) and at construction sites, which are everywhere in New York.
4. What are the recipes and rituals that help you feel your best?
As someone committed to the benefits of plant-based medicine, I feel better when I have a lot of wild things pumping through my veins: they're supportive and nutritive, and the small moments where I can care for myself make a big difference in my well-being and how I interact with the wide world (read: they make me less of a nightmare).
So, in the morning I wake up to an infusion, basically tea that brews for an extended period of time — in this case, my nettles brew all night. Nettle is one of my favorite plants: packed with calcium, among other good-for-me things that support my circulatory, immune, and endocrine systems. I add hot water to it and sip while I make my "coffee."
I recently weaned myself off of coffee by increasing my intake of coarse-ground bitter roots like chicory, dandelion, and burdock until there wasn't room for coffee anymore. This time of year, when it's cold out, I add a mix of adaptogens to my replacement coffee blend. Put simply, adaptogens are plants and mushrooms that help our bodies and minds adapt to stress.
After I make my coffee, I usually take another plant medicine that is appropriate for how I'm feeling: I'm getting through a cough right now so I'm taking elecampane root and honey.
I ride my bike to work every day and anywhere else I might bop to; it is my primary source of transportation. I love it because it's a great way to decompress physically and mentally: It gives me space between work and home and also gets the blood moving in my legs, which generally feel heavy after standing all day. Any exercise I get on top of that makes me feel like a professional athlete, which I'm clearly not.
Thank you for sharing your healthy morning with us, CC!