Macrobiotics?.....now that's a weird word. If you've studied it, the common question people ask is, "What does it actually mean?"
I'm rethinking my answer, after the recent passing of Michio Kushi (May, 1926 ? December, 2014). Kushi was one of the four main students of George Ohsawa (Japanese founder of Macrobiotics) who introduced this lifestyle and eating philosophy to the United States. Kushi and his wife Aveline founded the Kushi Institute in Becket, Massachusetts. I never studied with them, but did with their counterparts, Herman and Cornellia Aihara. The Aihara's settled in Oroville, CA and founded Vega Study Center and the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation.
Macrobiotics was the first seasonal-local-organic-whole (SLOW) food happening in the U.S., and is credited with ushering in the natural foods movement. The history is rich; it's impact vital. Macrobiotics introduced the country to foods such as brown rice, whole wheat berries, miso, tamari soy sauce, sesame seeds, rice cakes, and rice syrup, and popularized many dried beans and other whole grains. In 1966, Kushi started Erewhon, a small retail store, to supply his students with the foods they were learning about. By 1969, Erewhon (name from Samuel Butler's utopian novel) was the nation's first natural foods distributor. Kushi sold the company in 1983, but one of the original stores still stands on Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles.
Herman (my teacher) was part of a group that founded Chico-San, the Chico, CA-based pioneer of organically grown brown rice in the United States (teaming with farmers such as the Lundbergs). Chico-San was also the first (?) to manufacture rice cakes in the U.S. ? made by heating brown rice in a round mold until it puffed.
Herman and Cornellia used to talk a lot about the meaning of macrobiotics with students, and I know Michio did too. It was wild being a student at Vega in the early 90's, submerged into a Japanese culinary school plopped down in the heart of California. During morning tea (bancha/twig tea with umeboshi plum and kudzu) we sat on cushions around a big wooden table and learned that "macro = large" and "biotic = life." The idea is to cleanse oneself physically, mentally and spiritually through food, thought and action, so you could indeed live a life that is large. Not an easy thing if you consider that 50% of the population suffer from constipation. (And could that constipation be of mind or spirit too?)
Herman would say the goal of macrobiotics was to obtain a flexible, healthy mind and body so no matter what happened, "you could bend, like the trees, in the wind." If we could eat better, we would think better, and then live more in peace with our surroundings. We would learn that violence and war are a waste of our energy. If we got out of own our way, and let the body and mind bring us back to the natural state of health and balance, we might even see that we, the people, are all in this crazy thing called life, together.
One peaceful world.
Lofty goal? Sure, but a lasting one for me. Herman and Cornellia remain two of my greatest teachers in life, and Michio is considered the same. We are all still waiting on the world to change, but these senseis remind us to go out there and make it happen, rather than look to someone else to do it for us.
Michio Kushi died Dec. 28 in Boston. He was 88 years wise.
Photo credit: internet
Herman Aihara (September 27, 1920 - February 25, 1998) teaching at Vega
Photo credit: Laura Stec
Cornellia Aihara (March 31, 1926 - February 25, 2006) and me at French Meadows Summer Camp, still held every year in a remote area of the Tahoe National Forest. An amazing experience and you are invited! Learn more here.
Photo credit: unknown
For more information, please see: History of Erewhon ? Natural Foods Pioneer in the United States.