Chilliwack cancer survivor shares 'the spice of life'
Raj Bining's hands are a whirlwind of activity, mixing chana flour, cumin, an assortment of vegetables and other spices into the bowl before her.
She dips a spoon in for a taste; squints her eyes; wiggles her nose.
"Needs more spice," she says, a smile of satisfaction creeping across her face, teaching the secrets of Indian cuisine.
Watching Bining – smiling as though she didn't have a care in the world; playing out her own version of Guess How Much I Love You with her young, bilingual daughter; cooking her traditional Indian fare as though it were the most relaxing activity in the world – it's hard to imagine the sickly woman she was not long ago.
Two years ago Raj Bining was given two months to live.
She had an aggressive brain tumour. Her doctors had exhausted all resources.
But Bining refused to give up.
She had two daughters, one just six months old – they, alone, were reason to live.
When one doctor gave up, she went to another. She saw oncologists, specialists, naturopaths. She underwent numerous chemotherapy treatments, and when that failed, expensive alternative treatments not covered by medical.
But when one doctor suggested she start taking turmeric pills, her eyes popped.
"Why would I do that?" she asked. "I eat it all the time."
Turmeric, a bright yellow, pungent Indian spice, contains curcumin, a powerhouse ingredient that's been clinically proven to slow the progression of various cancer cells.
And it's not the only one.
Several Indian spices contain cancer-fighting qualities – fennel, saffron, cumin, cinnamon – all of which were common ingredients in Bining's kitchen cupboards.
Bining, now a Chilliwack resident, was born in a small village in India; she grew up with a mixture of Indian spices, masala, incorporated into everyday eating. When her doctor enlightened her on the health benefits of Indian spices, though, she wasn't comfortable taking it in pill form. Instead, Bining immediately got on the phone with her mom, and requested an assortment of recipes from her earliest eating memories. She also increased her intake of turmeric, now going through at least one cup a week.
The key was keeping it healthy.
For more than a year, Bining has kept strict to a wholesome, healthy diet heavily featuring Indian spices.
As of her last brain scan, the tumour had significantly shrunk. She's now in remission.
"I'm still alive," she laughs.
"I personally believe I was healed by these spices."
And now, Bining wants to help introduce Chilliwack to the magic of Indian cuisine.
Bining recently started a home business called Spice Me Up in which she will be conducting cooking lessons on Indian fare and selling authentic Indian spices.
Either in her kitchen or yours, Bining will be teaching a variety of courses that include such foods as samosas, sabji, aloo gobi, pakora, butter chicken, curries and more.
Cooking Indian isn't just in her blood, she says, it's in her heart.
"I've been cooking since I moved out," and before that helping her mom in the kitchen, she says.
"It just feels so natural."
For those not yet versed in Indian cuisine, "it will wake up your taste buds, it will make them say 'Wow!'" she says.
One hour in Bining's kitchen, before even taking one bite, the strong, mouth-watering scent that's filled her house, through the halls, down the stairs, into the front foyer, will surely have you begging for more.