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Chemist Jennifer Hoyt Lalli pens ‘spiritual cookbook,' says prayer and chemistry can heal

Jen Lalli
Headshot of Jen Lalli, 2022 |

Jennifer Hoyt Lalli, a chemist who specializes in nano-technology, believes that prayer and chemistry, through nutrition, can contribute to healing.

In her book, Hunt & Gather: The Healing Powers of Whole Grains, Lean Meat, and Prayer, Lalli, an avid bow hunter, shares her testimony about how “eating less fatty red, more and more whole grains, and reading the Bible” changed her life.  

Doing those things “healed my body and soul,” Lalli shared in a recent interview with The Christian Post.

Lalli and her husband were struggling to conceive children for several years, and after her husband convinced her to begin bowhunting, she changed her diet. Around that time, they began attending church, forever changing their lives. 

After her health improved due to her newfound diet, Lalli decided to share what she learned with the world through her book. 

She's also head of the mission Hunt for Joy, which she told CP seeks to "lead others to God through cooking and faith to have a more enjoying life while helping others."

“My dream is to sell enough books to donate all of the proceeds to build a Catholic High School in our area," she shared. "I am a chemist by day and writing is a hobby that I have less and less time to do these days now that I’ve been blessed with children and a new puppy.”  

The following is an edited transcript of CP's interview with Lalli, who shared how God used macrobiotics, lean meat and prayer to bless her beyond what doctors told her would be possible.

The Christian Post: Can you share your testimony with our audience?

Lalli: In short, I reached a point in my life where I can undeniably say, "It is done, and I believe." In layman’s terms, my testimony is how I “found” God, why I believe in Him and how I finally allowed myself to trust Him. I didn’t actually “find” God; rather, my husband and I found friends at exactly the right time in our lives who led us to Him in a different way than we had known Him before.  

I was born and raised as a Catholic in Swoyersville, Pennsylvania. I went to church on a regular basis as a child and always believed in God. I said the Lord’s Prayer every night before sleep, but without analyzing the gravity of each sentence. During college, I was also working full-time, and I stopped going to church. In grad school, I met Chris (now my husband). When we moved in together, I soon learned that he was an avid hunter. He tried to convince me to hunt, but I was adamantly against it. Not against the act itself, as I’m a carnivore, but I couldn’t see myself sitting quietly anywhere for any period of time “doing nothing” and in the cold, no less.  

A few years later, when Chris began bow hunting, his friend asked us if we knew God. I said, "Of course I do! I pray every night and believe in karma, but I don’t have time for church." After a few arguments, we agreed to visit Auburn Baptist with him. Pastor Shake Smith’s message was life-changing. We loved it. And we needed it. It was on believing in Jesus and trusting God with the little things. If we truly believe in Jesus Christ and that He died and rose again for us, and if we trust God with our eternal souls, how can we not trust Him with the little things? It clicked. It became crystal clear what “it is done” means.

Why I Believe in God:  

When Chris and I began going to church, we were going through a difficult time in our lives with identity theft and trying to conceive. We had tried for several years naturally and had also failed a round of IVF, then only to find every parenting magazine published waiting for us in our mail.  It was a mentally and physically painful time. We were forced to face individuals and situations that we were not spiritually trained to handle. The more we tried to solve our problems, the more harm we did. Finally, one afternoon I recall praying in earnest to God while looking at a rainbow in the sky. I said, “God if you handle this prayer request for me, I promise to never send a meddling email again and intervene in Your plan.” A few minutes later, an email came through that solved nearly three years of fraudulent activity. I was awe-struck.  

How I finally allowed myself to trust Him:  

I started going to church on a regular basis to hear God’s word through Shake’s message. I felt enlightened and happier than I had been in years. Going to church reminded me to look for God everywhere, literally everywhere. It opened my eyes and ears to the message of God that is all around us, in His beautiful creations, in the beautiful emotions that humans share with one another, and how hardship leads to appreciation. I began to see the world, others, and myself differently. I was introduced to the concept of JOY: Jesus, Others, You. If you prioritize everything you do in that order, you can find JOY. It is not always easy, but it almost always works.

My specific miracle was the act of finally letting God take the wheel with respect to our challenges in conceiving. This happened through hunting, prayer and faith.

CP: How did you see God come through such heartbreak during the time of your infertility journey?

Lalli: After our first failed IVF attempt, my husband bought me a hot pink bow for my birthday.  I reluctantly shot it and immediately fell in love. It was like a lightning bolt. I knew it was something I had to do. A year later, he bought me hunting gear and a Hunter Safety System and convinced me to try hunting. Another lightning bolt. I recall climbing up the ladder stand and watching him walk away. I was alone for a bit and then realized I wasn’t. I sat in utter awe of God’s beauty. I watched squirrels play until the sunset. And I sat and talked to God. We became friends. It was as simple as that. I stopped praying for myself and stopped asking for a child. Rather, I praised Him incessantly for all of the blessings in our lives and started praying for others. I spent a few years in ladder stands and blinds doing this. I’d bring my Bible or the works of Watchman Nee to educate myself on Christianity.

Then, we tried IVF again. It failed again. I was heartbroken but decided it was time to shift my focus. I decided to write Hunt & Gather. As I neared the end of the book, I was working on the dessert section and felt compelled to develop a recipe for French macarons. The problem was that I didn’t have the ultimate macaron from Paris available for comparison. This was at the same time that I was contemplating a third round of IVF, by the way, none of which is covered by insurance. I recall telling my husband that I had a choice to make: I could use our money to focus on a family that we may never have, or I could use the money to focus on the ones that are here and now.

I called my mom, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and invited them to go to Paris with me to taste the cookies. I explained that I needed to do this for the cookbook and that we weren’t going to do museums or the usual Paris experience, but rather go to a macaron cooking class and visit the ultimate macaron French bakery, La Durée, multiple times. I booked a four-day macaron adventure for four. My husband also booked a hunt in Saskatchewan for us. And then it happened. We found out four days before we were leaving for Canada that I was pregnant. It happened naturally and I believe it was because I finally focused on God and others.  

The miracle is that I wrote Hunt & Gather because I couldn’t have children, but because I wrote the book for God, He blessed us with children. I still have tears in my eyes when I say this out loud.  

CP: How has your journey led you to where you are today? 

Lalli: This journey has led me to understand that the less I meddle, the better off my life is.  The journey has opened my eyes to more Godwinks and miracles than I can count, and we today have two beautiful, healthy children because of it despite the fact that we were told by numerous doctors that it was not going to be possible for us.

CP: How did your cookbook come about?

Lalli: The cookbook came about from my time in grad school. My best friend and I would save our daily per diem to get one great meal on every conference trip we took. I photographed nearly every great meal we ever had and I wanted to capture this in a cookbook where I recreated the recipes from our travels. I began with chapter one by inserting what I thought were my best photos. They looked nothing like what you’d see in a cookbook and I realized that without them, there really was no book.  

So, what now? Since I had just finished reading the Bible, was an avid carnivore, and also facing health issues due to my lack of grains, I thought it might be good to document what I was cooking with venison and grains. This was amusing to me as these are the first foods mentioned in the Bible. So, I thought a spiritual cookbook might be interesting.  

CP: How is it that prayer and chemistry work together? 

Jen Lalli
Photo of Jen Lalli |

Lalli: Prayer and chemistry work together through faith. Many of the materials that exist today are nothing short of miraculous. I believe in the power of faith. When you are told that you cannot medically have children and do, that is a miracle. After living through this miracle and others, I believe that nearly anything we propose to do in our lab is possible. The power of positivity and spirituality is undeniable!  Also, there goes a saying, “Never trust a chemist who’s a bad cook.” 

Another item for me that brought chemistry and prayer together was the photography in my book. My company developed a nanoporous shape memory polymer foam for thermally responsive comfort. We put that material in my hunting jacket and photographed it for a report. I loved the photo and realized that was what I needed for the cookbook. Our photographer at the company gave me an overview of how to use a DSL camera. I taught myself the basics of photography and took thousands of bad photos, but managed to edit enough that I found worthy of using in Hunt & Gather. I got permission to use Tammy’s photo of my DARPA-funded jacket photo on the cover of Hunt & Gather and am eternally grateful to her and chemistry for making the book what it is today.

CP: How does nutrition really affect someone's life? Can you share why Christians should really take it seriously?

Lalli: Nutrition is key to Christian’s lives. C.S. Lewis and the Bible stated it best, though.  Nutrition comes in the form of food and the Word. You are what you eat. So eat well and read well! Surround yourself with good food, good people, and good vibes. Remember that misery loves company. Avoid it all costs! For me, eating less fatty red more and more whole grains, and reading the Bible changed my life. This healed my body and soul.  

CP: How can one stay disciplined in this diet and not fall back into back eating habits?

Lalli: Here is where I like to say: the complaint department is closed. I always hear from people that they don’t have time to cook. I have two young children, so I get it. Although, when you have a problem or something you’d like to do, find the solution and make the change. Eating some healthy food is better than no healthy food. Make time to honor yourself and what God has created.  

The Instant Pot is your friend here! When I wrote Hunt & Gather, I relied on my old Cuisinart electric pressure cooker before Instant Pots were a thing. I loved experimenting with grains and dried beans. Another thing that has helped me immensely is finding a way to meal plan. I like to make a large pot of grains; any grain (quinoa, rye, millet, oat groats, wheatberries – anything) and then sauté several pounds of greens. This gives me two pallets to add other items to during the week for lunch. I can add broth and mushrooms to the grains or greens for a quick miso soup that’s also packed with detoxifying sea vegetables. Or, I love to add chopped greens (avocado, green onions, lime juice, and cilantro) to the quinoa and make "Greenwa Quinoa" for the week. I can’t explain it, but eating a bowl of plain brown rice is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable things to do. The aroma and calmness while chewing slowly is something that always makes me feel better.  

For more recipes or to learn more about Lalli, order her book and visit her website.

Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: jeannie.law@christianpost.com She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic

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