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The Art of Cooking with the Seasons
THE STANDARD MACROBIOTIC DIET
The recipes in this cookbook are based on standard macrobiotic dietary recommendations that can be applied to your own kitchen. Certainly there is no one diet that is suited to every need. Modifications are always necessary, depending on where you are living, the type of climate there, the particular season, and your sex, age, job, personal condition, and level of activity. In the temperate, four-season climate that characterizes most of the United States, an optimum daily diet consists of the following general proportions of foods.
General Proportions, Optimum Daily Diet
The general proportions in the standard macrobiotic diet are based on the traditional dietary patterns that protected our ancestors from many of the degenerative disorders that we suffer from today. The diet also enables us to achieve harmony with changing environmental conditions. Until recent times, for example, cooked whole cereal grains were eaten as staple foods throughout the world: rice in the Orient; wheat, barley, rye, and oats in Europe and America; buckwheat or kasha in Russia and Central Europe; corn in the Americas; the millet, wheat, and other whole grains in Africa and the Middle East.
Plus Beverages, Occasional Supplementary Foods, Seasonings, and Condiments
In Western countries, bread was the traditional “staff of life,” eaten in its whole, natural form until this century. The central place accorded to whole cereal grains in Europe and America is recorded in the prayer with which generations of people have begun each day: “Give us this day our daily bread”—meaning food in general. In Japanese, the term used for a meal is gohan, which means rice, indicating the significance of whole cereal grains in the traditional Japanese diet.
Throughout the world, traditional diets have included fresh local vegetables and beans and their products along with whole grains. In many parts of the world, sea vegetables and other products from the oceans, together with a wide range of fermented foods such as naturally aged sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, miso, shoyu, and tempeh, were also traditional. In general, animal proteins, including meat, eggs, and dairy products, were used much less frequently than at present, while people in temperate climates rarely ate fruits and other products imported from the tropics.
Using whole grains, local vegetables, beans, and sea vegetables as our primary foods complements the structure and function of the human digestive system. Our thirty-two adult teeth are better suited for crushing and grinding plant fibers than they are for tearing animal flesh. We have twenty-eight incisors, premolars, and molars, which are best suited for grains, beans, and vegetables, but only four canine teeth, which can be used for tearing animal foods. According to the structure of our teeth, the ideal ratio between vegetable and animal foods is seven to one.
The length of the human digestive tract also favors the consumption of more plant than animal foods. Carnivores generally have relatively short intestines, to prevent the buildup of the harmful bacteria and toxins that accompany the decomposition of animal flesh. Because the human digestive tract is long and convoluted, it is not well suited to the consumption of a large volume of animal protein. The overintake of animal foods often leads to the buildup of harmful bacteria and toxins in the digestive tract and bloodstream, contributing to a variety of disorders.
MODIFYING THE DIET
In addition to eating according to our physical structure and traditional dietary practices, it is important for us to eat in a way that brings our condition into harmony with the environment around us. This can be done by relying primarily on foods that are grown in a climate similar to the one in which we live and by adjusting our selection of foods and cooking methods to accommodate the changing of the seasons.
In general, those who live in cold polar climates may consume a greater volume of animal food, while those in a hot, semitropical or tropical region can rely almost entirely on vegetable quality products. People living in an in-between, or four-season, climate may follow the traditional macrobiotic order in their diets, with cereal grains as the main foods; soup, vegetables, beans, and sea vegetables as secondary foods; fruits, nuts, and seeds as their third food group; and animal foods such as fish and seafood, which are biologically distant from the human species, as the fourth supplement.
If we move to another climatic region, we need to change the types of food that we select and our style of cooking to adapt to the new environment. Similarly, our diet can also be changed to suit fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and other conditions that come about as a result of the changing of the seasons. For example, we can harmonize our diet with the environment as follows:
MODIFICATIONS FOR CLIMATIC FACTORS LowerHigherTemperatureMore thorough cooking;
stronger seasoningShorter cooking times;
less seasoningHumidityMore water in cookingLess water in cooking
Sometimes it is best to select foods from the immediate locality, and sometimes you may choose foods brought in from greater distances. The table on the following page provides some guidelines you may use for determining the ideal geographic range for foods imported to your area.
It is better not to import foods across the equator because atmospheric, oceanic, and electromagnetic conditions in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are opposite to one another. These differences also appear in the food products of each region and result in subtle, but opposite, effects on body and mind.
As mentioned previously, each person needs to eat according to his or her individual condition based on factors such as age, previous dietary history and tradition, activity, racial or cultural background, and physical constitution and condition. These modifications may appear in the types of grains, vegetables, and supplementary foods used, along with the way of cooking and combining food. Thousands of varieties of dishes are possible within the general principles presented above, and just a few of the many varieties of dishes used in macrobiotic cooking are included in this book.
Ideally, at least 50 percent of every macrobiotic meal will consist of cooked whole-cereal grain, prepared in a variety of ways. Whole organic cereal grains that are best for regular daily use include brown rice (short- and medium-grain brown rice), millet, barley (pearl and pearled) corn, whole oats, wheat berries, rye, and buckwheat. Other grains and grain products suitable for occasional use (once or twice a week) include sweet and long-grain brown rice, whole-wheat noodles (udon and somen), buckwheat noodles (soba), unleavened whole-wheat, whole-rye, or other whole-grain breads, rice cakes, cracked wheat, bulghur, steel-cut oats, rolled oats, cornmeal or grits, rye flakes, couscous, seitan, and fu. As you can see, whole grains are preferable to flour products. Flour products tend to be more difficult to digest.
You may consume approximately 5 percent (one or two cups) of your daily food in the form of miso or shoyu broth. The soup should not taste overly salty. Include a wide range of vegetables, especially wakame sea vegetable, every day. Grain and bean soups may also occasionally be eaten.
FOOD OR BEVERAGEIDEAL GEOGRAPHICAL RANGEWaterImmediate environment; ideally from a well or spring near your home.FruitSame climatic and geographical area; for example, the New England area for someone in Massachusetts.VegetablesMore extended area, but similar to the place in which you live; for example, the Mid-Atlantic or Midwestern states for someone in New England.Whole Grains and BeansFurther extended areas that share similar geographical and climatic conditions; for example, anywhere in North America for people living in the United States.Sea VegetablesEven further extended than the above; generally anywhere within the same climatic belt; for example, people living in North America or Europe may eat sea vegetables from either place or from the temperate zones of the Far East.Sea SaltThe entire hemisphere, either Northern or Southern, depending upon where you live.
About 25 to 30 percent of each macrobiotic meal may consist of vegetables. Two-thirds of these may be cooked in various styles (sautéed, steamed, boiled, or baked). The remaining third may be eaten uncooked—pressed in sea salt, umeboshi vinegar, or shoyu and water, pickled according to traditional methods, or prepared as raw salad. Enjoy the many kinds of vegetables that are available (green leafy, root, round, and ground vegetables) and learn to appreciate their different tastes, colors, and textures. Please note carefully the three lists below. Unless you live in a tropical climate, avoid the foods of tropical origin (listed in the last column) whenever possible, because they are difficult to balance in the body.
VegetablesREGULAR USEOCCASIONAL USEAVOID OR MODERATE USE acorn squashalfalfa sproutsasparagusbok choychivesavocadobroccolicucumberbamboo shootsbroccoli rabeendivebeetsBrussels sproutsescaroleeggplantburdockgreen peasginsengbuttercup squashgreen snap (string) beansgreen and red peppersbutternut squashkohlrabi and greensJerusalem artichokescarrot topslettuceokracarrotsmung bean sproutspotatoescauliflowermushroomsspinachcelerypatty pan squashsweet potatoeschicoryred cabbageSwiss chardChinese cabbagerutabagataro (large ones)collard greensshiitake mushroomstomatoesdaikon, fresh or driedsnowpeasyamsdandelion greenssoybean sproutszucchinifresh cornsummer squashes garden or wintercresstaro (small ones) gingeryellow wax beans green cabbage Hokkaido pumpkin Hubbard squash kale leeks lotus root, fresh or dried lotus seeds mustard greens onions parsley parsnips pumpkin red radishes and greens scallions turnip greens turnips watercress
Beans and Sea Vegetables
About 5 to 10 percent of your daily diet may consist of cooked beans and sea vegetables. The most suitable beans for regular use are azuki beans, chick peas, and green lentils. Other beans that may be eaten on occasion include kidney beans, split peas, red lentils, navy beans, soybeans, turtle beans, Japanese black soybeans, pinto beans, and lima beans. Delicious bean products such as tempeh, natto, and fresh or dried tofu also may be enjoyed several times per week. Sea vegetables such as hiziki, arame, kombu, wakame, nori, green nori flakes, dulse, agar-agar, and kelp can be prepared in a variety of ways—cooked with beans or vegetables, added to soups, or eaten separately as side dishes—and flavored with a moderate amount of shoyu soy sauce, sea salt, or miso.
This category may make up 5 to 10 percent of the overall food intake. The foods in this category include sweeteners, fruits, nuts, and beverages. They are optional in the sense that in some cases they may be included while in others they may need to be avoided. In general, those in good overall health may enjoy the supplementary items mentioned below. Persons with specific disorders are advised to seek the guidance of experienced macrobiotic friends or counselors regarding modifications of the standard diet.
Once or twice a week, a small amount of white-meat fish may be eaten if you desire and your present condition allows. Fruit desserts, as well as fresh and dried fruits (locally grown fruits only) may also be eaten on occasion. If you live in a temperate zone (most of the continental United States is temperate), avoid tropical and semitropical fruit. The use of fruit juice is not advisable. However, occasionally in warm weather it is all right, provided you are in good health.
Roasted seeds that have been lightly seasoned with tamari soy sauce may be enjoyed as a snack or supplement. These include squash, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds.
Snacks such as rice cakes, puffed whole cereals, and popcorn may also be enjoyed from time to time, together with low-fat, northern varieties of nuts. Like seeds, nuts may be roasted in a skillet with a little tamari soy sauce.
Beverages. The beverages recommended for daily use include roasted bancha (kukicha) twig tea, roasted brown rice tea, toasted barley tea (mugicha), dandelion tea, and cereal grain coffee. Any traditional tea that does not have an aromatic fragrance or a stimulant effect may be used on the macrobiotic diet.
Sweeteners, Fruits, Seeds, and NutsOCCASIONAL USEVERY OCCASIONAL USEAVOID OR MODERATE USE amazakealmondsbananasapple ciderfilbertsBrazil nutsapple juicelemonscashewsapples, fresh or driedpeanutscoconutsapricotspecansdatesbarley malttangerinesfigsblackberrieswalnutsgrapefruitsblueberries kiwicantaloupe mangoescherries orangeschestnuts papayasdried temperate-climate pistachiosfruits tangelosgrapes honeydew melon peaches pears plums prunes pumpkin seeds raisins raspberries rice syrup sesame seeds squash seeds strawberries sunflower seeds watermelon
Condiments. It is beneficial to use condiments with your food, particularly with grains. The main condiments used in macrobiotic cooking are umeboshi plum, sea vegetable powders, roasted sesame seeds, sea salt (gomashio), and tekka.
SUGGESTIONS FOR DAILY LIFE
Together with eating well, there are a number of commonsense practices that we recommend for a healthier and more natural way of life. Practices such as keeping physically active and using natural cooking utensils, fabrics, and building materials in the home were once part of most people’s daily lives. With each generation, we have gone further and further from our roots in nature, and have experienced a corresponding decline in vitality and a rise in chronic illness. The daily-life suggestions presented below complement a balanced, natural diet and can help to guide you toward more satisfying and harmonious living.
- Eat two to three times per day, making sure food proportions are correct and chewing is thorough. Avoid eating for approximately three hours before sleep. For thirst, in addition to the beverages listed above, an occasional sip of spring water, not iced, is okay.
- Live each day happily, without being preoccupied with your health, and keep mentally and physically active.
- Greet everyone and everything with gratitude, particularly offering thanks before and after each meal.
- Chew your food very well, at least fifty times per mouthful.
- Try to retire before midnight and get up early in the morning.
- Avoid wearing synthetic clothing or woolen articles directly against your skin. Wear cotton garments instead. Avoid excessive metallic accessories on the fingers, wrists, and neck. Keep such ornaments simple and graceful.
- If your strength permits, go outdoors in simple clothing and barefoot if possible. Walk on the grass, beach, or soil up to one-half hour each day.
- Keep every corner of your home in good order—the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and living rooms.
- Maintain an active correspondence, extending your best wishes to parents, children, brothers and sisters, relatives, teachers, and friends.
- Avoid taking long, hot baths or showers unless you have been consuming too much salt or animal food.
- Every morning or every night before retiring, scrub your entire body with a hot, damp towel until your circulation becomes active. If this is not convenient, at least scrub your hands, feet, fingers, and toes.
- Avoid chemically perfumed cosmetics, soaps, and shampoos. Brush your teeth with natural preparations or sea salt.
- Exercise regularly as part of daily life. Exercise includes scrubbing floors, cleaning windows, washing clothes, etc. You may also participate in systematic exercise programs such as yoga, martial arts, aerobics, and sports.
- Avoid using electric cooking devices (ovens, ranges, blenders, food processors, toaster ovens) or microwave ovens. Try to convert to gas or wood-stove cooking at the earliest opportunity.
- Avoid or minimize watching television, especially color TV, as it exposes the body to a great deal of unnatural electromagnetic radiation. Try not to watch TV during meals.
- Include many large green plants in your living room and bedroom to freshen and enrich the oxygen content of your home.
PREPARATION FOR COOKING
Everyone knows that one of the most universal laws of nature is that everything changes. At all times the weather and seasons are changing. Day changes into night and night changes into day. Spring changes into summer, autumn changes into winter. As actors on the stage of life, our roles are also always changing. Our physical and mental conditions are changing constantly. We must at all times be very flexible or we cannot participate fully in the drama of life. The recipes in this book are based on this awareness. There is one full week of menus and recipes for each of the four seasons. These include full breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes. This will give you a general idea of how to plan your daily menus and adjust your cooking from one season to the next. As many of these recipes require soaking the ingredients and long, slow cooking, advance planning is essential.
If you observe nature, garden, or farm, you will learn what grows in your area and when various grains, beans, and vegetables are planted and harvested. This practical knowledge can then be applied naturally to your cooking, eating, and daily life. Each season has its peak, and during this period different foods, especially garden vegetables, are at their best, tasting most delicious and appearing most beautiful. As you use this book, remember that it is best to choose foods for your daily menus from seasonal foods growing in your local area.
Unlike fresh vegetables, grains, beans, and sea vegetables require no special measures to store or preserve them and can be enjoyed all year long.
Whether you live in a tropical, semitropical, or temperate area, changes in vegetation regularly occur. You can easily adjust your daily menus according to these changes. During each of the four seasons, there is a variety of foods that have a sweet taste. During the spring, for example, the sweet flavor can be provided by snowpeas, fresh local fruits, carrots, daikon, and other sweet vegetables. In the summer, a sweet taste can be brought out with dishes that include sweet corn or with desserts made with fresh local fruits. Autumn offers an abundance of naturally sweet products including squashes, onions, cabbages, carrots, turnips, and others. In winter, we often use chestnuts, azuki beans sweetened with chestnuts and raisins, mochi (pounded sweet rice), dried fruits, squashes, and various root vegetables for a naturally sweet taste. Cereal grains such as rice, millet, and sweet rice are naturally sweet (the more you chew them the sweeter they become), and these, of course, are used throughout the year. The natural sweet tastes can be accented or brought out in various ways by alternating many different cooking methods.
When planning your daily menus, keep the standard diet in mind, and try to include a whole grain, soup, vegetable main dish, bean or bean product, and sea vegetable in the course of each day. Breakfast and lunch are generally simple, while the evening meal is more elaborate and may include many or all of the above-mentioned foods. Also try to include a variety of other tastes within each meal or each day.
By following these basic principles, we can create simple but elegant menus which we can easily adjust with various condiments, pickles, etc.
INGREDIENTS AND BASIC COOKING METHODS
In macrobiotics, we always try to obtain the best-quality natural ingredients. Rather than highly processed, artificial foods, we prefer naturally grown and minimally (if at all) processed items. For example, mineral-rich sea salt and cold-pressed oils are better than refined table salt and chemically processed oils. The quality of the factors used in preparing food is also important. Clean, natural water for rinsing fruits and vegetables, and a natural wood or gas cooking flame are preferable to chemically treated water and electric or microwave stoves or ovens. As much as possible, strive for naturalness in your kitchen.
It is ideal to purchase organic natural food to prepare your daily meals. If you cannot locate organic food items, try asking your local supermarket or natural-foods store to locate and stock them for you and for others who may be interested. They can locate these much more easily than you might be able to. Try to use whole, unpolished, uncracked, or unmilled grain. When shopping for root vegetables, purchase the entire plant—leaves and roots—whenever you can. Some root vegetables that generally should be used in their whole form are carrots and carrot tops, daikon and daikon greens, turnips and turnip greens, and scallions and scallion roots. The entire vegetable does not necessarily have to be used in the same dish but may be used in the same meal or within the same day.
Good-quality sea salt is recommended for daily use in cooking. Many people have recently become very concerned about the use of salt. Sea salt that has a high amount of balanced minerals and a lower concentration of sodium is best. A high concentration of minerals in salt does not present as much of a problem as a salt that is high in sodium. If the balance of trace minerals such as zinc, iron, selenium, and magnesium in sea salt is good, your cooking will be healthful and satisfying to those who eat it. You can judge the sea salt quality by tasting it. If the salt has a high concentration of minerals and lower concentration of sodium, it will have a slightly sweet, mildly salty taste. If the concentration of sodium is high and the mineral content is low, the salt will not taste sweet. The taste of food becomes sweeter and is enhanced with good-quality sea salt. Good-quality sea salt is one of the most important factors in influencing how your food tastes and how it affects your health.
The best-quality oil for sautéing is unrefined dark sesame oil. For deep-frying, light sesame oil is recommended. These oils are of the best quality if they are cold pressed. Occasionally unrefined mustard-seed oil, corn oil, or safflower oil may be used. If you are living in a warm tropical climate, good-quality traditionally made olive oil can be used. A nutritionally good source of whole oil is roasted sesame seeds. You may use these often as a garnish, condiment, or snack.