I met Ranna Bigdely in November of 2017. I spent a month getting to know her, then my partner accepted a job in another state and we relocated. Although I had been looking forward to this potential relocation for a number of months, I found myself disappointed and experiencing a feeling of loss over a very new friendship that would be left unexplored. Social media is a great thing and has allowed us to remain connected but Ranna’s friendship does not manifest itself primarily in the abstract. Her love and her intentions create a tangible experience. Ranna’s communicates beautifully with her words but where she is an artist is in her food
Ranna Bigdely is an Iranian American entreprenuer. On the surface, she is a café owner. Spend your lunch break with her and you will find she is also an educator and has a vision for how she wants to integrate that into her business model. With knowledge inherited from her Persian grandmothers, she is working to help others empower themselves over their health and become the experts on what they put in their bodies.
To understand Ranna, you must delve into her family history. On Ranna’s father’s side, they were orcharders. His mother was a professional healer and midwife, and she was paid for her work in chickens, spices, and fabric. She cured ailments, turned breached babies, assisted women through every step of the childrearing process, coached women through lactation difficulties, and aided infertility issues. Ranna spoke especially on the topic of turning a breached baby saying, “she could turn a breech baby from the outside…she used a fabric to perform the procedure. It almost always worked and was uncomfortable but not an especially painful process, which made her even more desirable as a midwife.” Physicians today would refer to this method as an external cephalic version (ECV). Modern physicians using this technique may find their patients experience quite a bit more discomfort than those who sought Ranna’s grandmother’s services. Just ask Kim K. (http://www.health.com/pregnancy/kim-kardashian-breech-baby-procedure).
Ranna’s people on her mother’s side were nomadic. Nomadic people are the original minimalists, though their lifestyle has been perfected to an art-form as opposed to a pop-cultural movement. Their way of life was not an experiment or an escape from a materialistic world. It was the only foreseeable option for many born into that lifestyle and their practices, particularly their homeopathic practices, were necessities. Her grandmother eventually moved to a village but she retained her healing wisdom that brought other villagers to her for health advice.
Ranna’s mother was outspoken and rebellious. Prior to the 1978 Regime change (the Iranian Revolution which replaced a pro-western monarchy with an anti-western theocracy), her mother worked for a literacy corp, which was created by the Shah. As the regime changed, the world she knew became more conservative…as did the uniform. She refused to comply with the newly enforced dress code and also refused to keep her opinions on the new government to herself. She had been paid with a living stipend which included coupons for groceries, and leaders in her community began to punish her by withholding her coupons and docking her pay. One evening, the Imam came to dinner and warned her that there were plans in motion for her to be made an example of. He warned her that she and her husband needed to flee the area.
That is what they did. Her mother and father sold the house in two days. They fled to the United States and began their new life in Oklahoma because it offered the most affordable international student tuition. Ranna’s father attended Langston University and Oklahoma State University. Her mother began college but left after giving birth to Ranna’s older brother. She later held positions as a nursing assistant and secretary.
Ranna was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma is well known for it’s poor health statistics.In the United States, many of the leading causes of death are preventable (https://www.cdc.gov/healthreport/publications/compendium.pdf).
In discussing her inspiration, Ranna said, “I realized in my mid 20’s that I came from people that had babies in the dirt and cured their own illnesses. Grew medicine, grew food. And I knew how to do none of that. And I thought…shit….don’t put that in there.”
“Can I please?”
“Okay, Well shit is what I felt so yes.”
She recalled a time when she was 6 and visited Iran.
“I became violently ill—I know now it was my body being exposed to different microbes my gut flora wasn’t accustomed to, and our bodies do not react well to that adjustment. To help make me better, my grandmother made me a tea. And it was putrid. She sweetened it but it was still vile. Thick and yellow. I don’t know what was in it because she was illiterate and nothing was written down, but I drank it. She had me sleep on my stomach and I woke up feeling so much better.
“Modern medicine made her methods common—peasant-like. Proper people went to the hospital. People were still coming to her until the day she died, but not like they did before her village became what some would call—civilized.
The way people lived—it was trying, it was challenging—but it was self-sustaining. They could hunt and gather, feed themselves, prepare their food. They lived off the earth. They didn’t eat the garbage that has become synonymous with the American diet. And, they handled stressors better because of the type of work they did every day. They moved around—none of this sedentary lifestyle that’s engulfed us today. They lived how people should live.”
Ranna preaches about balance, about the natural order of things. Eating food when it’s in season, understanding what herbs can do for your body. Wellness isn’t from the outside in—it comes from inside then makes its journey outward. If you are physically healthy, it will usually manifest itself in your emotions, lifestyle, and relationships. About 18% of adults in the USA have some type of anxiety disorder, and around 30% of them seek professional treatment. What if we can take control of some of that by being healthier?
I asked Ranna about seeking medical services. “I am not saying to neglect your kid. Take your kid to the doctor, take your kid to the hospital if it is an emergency! But if there isn’t a medical reason that you’re sleepy every day at 4:00 p.m., or can’t go to the bathroom, if you don’t have a sex drive…often these problems can be explained by what is or isn’t in your pantry.”
She is, like most of us, the product of a line of forgotten women, whose names are not the names you will find when searching the Internet for inspiration, but their footprints remain. To keep them alive, we must treasure those pieces of wisdom that survived generations prior to the world of social media. We are more connected than ever, but Ranna made me realize that many of us are missing something. She’s inspiring because she is on a mission to find it. She’s tapping back into her roots,
“Why are we unhappy in America? Why are we unhealthy? Okay, that happens, but why are we SOOOO unhappy and unhealthy? Why were people living simple lives happier and healthier than us.
This began my journey. I’ve put the word out so my parent's people know that I’m looking for information. Any memories or information or remedies, or food that no one eats anymore, I want it. I want to know everything. At first, it was slow going but bit by bit my collection has grown.”
Ranna gave me some insight on one of her biggest pet peeves in modern health remedies. “All these lovely people beside themselves with pain and discomfort and taking 6 turmeric pills a day. In healthy pursuits, they are bastardizing and destroying good benefits. Cook it! You would not eat an avocado pill, would you? Tumeric is best consumed with fat, black pepper and heat. Not in a gelatin or hypromellose capsule.”
How is Ranna encouraging wellness through what you eat in her community and empowering others to take charge of their life and their body? She went to an underground pop-up dinner and realized she wanted to do that. She realized she would need a commercial kitchen and found someone willing to rent their restaurant out to her at night. She cooked multiple courses of food, primarily Persian. She provided a little bit of food education including the history of the foods and the recipes she used. She’s taught classes at several venues including Whole Foods. One of the more recent events she put on was for 42 individuals at the Myriad Botanical Gardens in OKC. This led to her current role as an owner of the Paisley Café, a library café in Norman, OK. The Pioneer Library System recently received a government grant to combat food-related illness. Ranna was the obvious choice for one of their educators.
Ranna is in the process of starting her own teaching kitchen. One thing that will not be on the menu? Smoothies. Ranna calls smoothies pre-chewed food and a fad. She wants you to throw away the concept of a diet, stay away from food fads, and stop worrying so much about carbs. Eat mindfully, eat informed and eat with the intention to nourish yourself.
Ranna’s Inflammation Fighting Bone Broth
-Farmer's chicken or at least free range chicken if you don’t know a local farmer.
-Use Scraps. Like turkey carcass from Thanksgiving (save it) and make soup out of it. Or bones. Chicken wings. Buy a package of wings with skin, bones, joints, etc. I avoid beef because to get the joint of a cow bone it’s too large so they cut it into pieces and you miss out on the joint which has the marrow but missing on the collagen and gelatin.
-A pound of the chicken with bones and joints and skin.
- 1 c. chopped celery.
- 1 c. chopped carrot.
-1. c. diced onion.
-1 tbsp minced garlic. (4 cloves)
- 2 bay leaves
-1 tsp peppercorn
-1 tbsp Tumeric
-1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp of dried thyme or half fresh thyme.
- Cover with water plus inches
- Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer for 4 hours.
After done, strain all of it out. Save the broth. You can freeze it, but it will last up to a week in the fridge. Drink it when you’re sick, fasting, or incorporate it into your daily menu.
If anyone is interested in learning more or setting up a consultation with Ranna please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org