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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Ingredients to Watch For in 2016

Uploaded: Dec 28, 2015

The Top Ten and Best of lists hit the papers this week, as we prepare for the arrival of 2016. Yesterday's Associated Press list made me smile because the six things listed all have base in macrobiotics, a topic we've Food Partied! on in the past:

Michio Kushi and One Peaceful World

Like Horse Penis

Little fish
anchovy, sardine, bonito, niboshi...
kombu, dulse, hiziki, nori...
Complex carbohydrate sweeteners
brown rice syrup, barley malt, apple cider syrup, date sugar...
Umeboshi plums
teff, triticale, buckwheat, millet, kamut, freekah....
red lentil, lupini, fava, azuki...

The first two ingredients, little fish and seaweed, are gaining notoriety in part because of their contribution to umami, considered the Japanese fifth taste (savory) in addition to the old classics: sweet, sour, salty and bitter (plus pungent if you like). They are also becoming popular as our Top of the Seafood Chain Diet is examined more closely. We don’t eat the lions, tigers or bears, so it’s notable to acknowledge we eat mostly the kings and queens of the sea, and how devastating this must be to the health of our oceans.

Growing weary of high fructose corn syrup, the nation also appears to be turning to alternate sweeteners distilled from fruits, grains and other plants such as apple, barley and agave. As you see more in stores, remember a sugar is a sugar, no matter what form it comes in. Always eat in moderation.

Umeboshi plums are considered the macrobiotic antibiotic, guaranteed to aid what ails you.

At Vega Macrobiotic Center, a cooking school I trained at in the 90’s, we were taught they are the “least sweet fruit,” and pickled them instead with a bit of shiso herb for a dark red color. For years I have taught ume is one of the “best kept culinary secrets,” offering a rich, unique flavor whether used as a whole plum, a paste, or a vinegar made from the plum. At Vega we added the whole plum to a delicious morning twig/bancha tea, accompanied by a little soy sauce and kudzu (a thickener and stomach soother). We also mixed the plums with tahini for a flavor-packed salad dressing, or spread the plum paste on corn-on-the-cob in place of butter. Cornellia even used to tape plums to the sides of students foreheads to prevent car sickness on the long and winding road up to macrobiotic summer camp in the Tahoe Forest. God bless her home remedy soul. It worked!

One of the best, fastest lessons I can share about whole grains comes from my book, Cool Cuisine – Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming. Most of us only cook grains by steeping or boiling – one part grain to two parts liquid. But did you know you can bake grains, pop some like popcorn, or boil like pasta? Or if you toast a raw grain in a dry skillet before cooking it deepens the flavor profile? Different applications yield different results. As you experiment with new grains, consider new cooking methods too. Your 2016 homework is to match new grains with the cooking style you most prefer.

Maybe that, and the effort to actually look into the eyes of the person you’ll be toasting this holiday, are the New Years resolutions you’ve been looking for?

Wishing you many great Food Parties! in 2016.

Local Flavor
Looking for meaningful work in the food industry? Check out this interesting job for Santa Clara County as Food Rescue Coordinator

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 28, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Thanks Laura for your insightful comment on sugars (a level of perspective rare these days amid the nutritional fads, eagerly embraced misinformation, and websites standing ready to buttress any favorite notion whatsoever, no matter how clueless).

It may be worth mentioning that the dominant sugar components in ripe fruit and vegetables, and in many syrup sweeteners that might be opportunistically marketed as "complex" carbohydrates, are exactly the same simple sugars making up high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS): glucose and fructose. (Honey is essentially natural high-fructose corn syrup plus some important trace nutrients; sucrose or table sugar is a compoumd of fructose and glucose, which split apart early in the digestive process and thereafter are indistinguishable by the body from HFCS -- a point so basic that it causes my professional biochemist friends to roll their eyes when they see people clinging stubbornly to a misconception that table sugar and HFCS are somehow fundamentally different.)

To get truly non-sugar metabolism, you must to go to starches (the real "complex carbohydrates") or non-saccharide sweeteners, the "sugar alcohols" (glycerin, erithrytol, xylitol, mannitol, etc., also found in ripe natural produce, and which have different metabolic paths from sugars).

None of this, though, either stops manufacturers from skillfully marketing the fashionable "health-food" sugar source of the year, or people from embracing its commercially-driven rhetoric. There's more depth than many realize in your comment "a sugar is a sugar, no matter what form it comes in. Always eat in moderation."

Posted by Apostrophe Challenaged, a resident of another community,
on Dec 28, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Does "Yesterdays Associated Press" get an apostrophe?

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 28, 2015 at 11:03 pm

USA is a registered user.

Thank you, Max.

Hipsters are not just annoying. Their food fads can be downright unhealthy.

Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Dec 29, 2015 at 8:45 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Apostrophe Challenaged, Thanks for the heads up. That's not the only challenge though!

Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Dec 29, 2015 at 8:47 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

And Max Hauser, thanks for the additional info. I appreciate your insights and comments this year.

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Dec 29, 2015 at 12:04 pm

LOL, so next year's trendy foods are what some ninety-year-old Japanese woman has been eating all of her life?

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Dec 29, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Everything old is new, eh Reader? Guess that gives me another chance too.

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Dec 29, 2015 at 7:58 pm


I don't think there is any excuse not to try to start doing the right thing.

That said, I don't believe one can ever reset the clock back to zero. If that were the case, there would be no lung cancer deaths from former cigarette smokers.

Good living starts at an early age and must be consistently maintained over a lifetime. Gimmicks and fads aren't a sustainable, realistic practice.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Dec 31, 2015 at 6:07 am

Well said Reader. It's encouraging that the AP food trends are based in that ideal. Times they are a changing...

Posted by phil nations, a resident of another community,
on Dec 31, 2015 at 6:44 am

My first visit here and certainly not my last. Between your love for ingredients and some thoughtful responders, I find inspiration. Happy New Years! !!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Dec 31, 2015 at 9:39 am

Phil Nations - now that is a movie star name! Thank you for the kind words. Flattery will get you everywhere, kind Phil.

Posted by Plane Speaker, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 4, 2016 at 12:52 am

Oh ... glad I looked at this.
I just started using some of these things, so thanks for posting the nice cooking chart.

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