By Life Positive
Text: Kavita Mukhi
Macrobiotic food balances our yin and yang energy creating vibrant health and well-being.
There’s far more to food than just taste and texture. As most ancient philosophies assert, food is one of the most important determinants of our health, happiness and spiritual evolution. The cultivation of the right principles of cooking and eating have therefore been the subject of much thought in holistic cultures. Macrobiotics is one such approach. Macrobiotics applies the ancient philosophy of yin and yang to the art of longevity and rejuvenation. Twentieth century Japanese philosopher, George Ohsawa, is credited with its conception and popularity. In his book, Zen Macrobiotics, Ohsawa affirms that adherence to its rules leads to true and supreme health, eternal happiness, infinite freedom and independence, and a sense of absolute justice.
Ohsawa wrote that our blood would be, ‘entirely transformed and completely renewed in 10 days if we follow a natural way of eating and drinking.’ He advocated the following rules: 1. Eat organic food. 2. No medications or surgery. 3. No inactivity. 4. Maintain yin and yang balance. This last would mean balancing the food we eat with the weather, climate and other conditions. In warm weather (more yang than yin), yin foods like fruits are tempting. The body naturally craves the balancing opposite if we follow our intuition rather than a set of rules. If we get too yin from drinking alcohol, the body will crave very salty yang foods like potato chips. Extreme yang foods are eggs, meats and dairy. Extreme yin foods are refined sugars, chocolates, aerated drinks, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. All these should be kept to a minimum. Macrobiotics favors foods in the middle spectrum. These foods are brown rice and other unrefined grains, vegetables in various forms including soups, soya beans (and its preparations) and other beans, fruits, nuts and seeds (especially sesame). Brown rice and vegetables are the principal foods. Light seasonings are all that are recommended together with various forms of using the middle spectrum foods.
Eating so builds your immunity, balances you and helps you cope with life’s stresses. You will be able to control your very mood. You will experience weight loss, rejuvenation and freedom from disease. Your intuition will also get heightened. You will be able to make the right choices, avoid accidents, and even project into the future, making your dreams come true.
The fifth rule of macrobiotics is creative cooking. This is a natural outcome of adapting to the needs of the season, the health of the people eating, the preparation of the food, its balance and its presentation.
Macrobiotics is quite close to the ayurvedic system of culinary balance. Where they differ is in the macrobiotic preference for whole grains as compared to refined ones, the absence of dairy food and sugar, and the use of lightly cooked vegetables, sea salt, and unrefined cold-pressed oils. The not so subtle difference is the use of seaweed, which makes the sweet craving disappear since it satisfies your cells with many trace minerals.
The subtlest difference is in the cutting and cooking. Macrobiotics encompasses different styles to suit the different seasons, age of the person, health and work schedule. Most foods are cut on a slant to balance yin and yang.
These apart, the similarities are striking. Our awla is similar to their umeboshi plum in its medicinal value. Both ayurveda and macrobiotics abjure the use of night-shade family vegetables (brinjal, tomato and capsicum). Except for some differences in the kinds of foods available, we have all the ingredients for a perfect macrobio-tic/ayurvedic diet.
Our fermented dosas (when made of whole rice) give us the fermentation that their miso (fermented soya) gives them. Tofu is now available and can easily be made at home and is the best substitute for our paneer. We, in India, have innumerable indigenous and whole cereals, including millet, which make a natural diet not only diverse in nutrients but in taste too.
Seaweed is the only ingredient we do not have a replacement for (of late spirulina is available but cannot be used in cooking).
Bear in mind that this is not just a diet but a healing system based on 5000-year-old wisdom. Happy, healthy eating.
Basic Brown Rice
1 cup organic brown rice
2 cups water for sikander brown rice/
3 cups for Indrani brown rice
Salt to taste (rock/sea salt only)
Place all of above in a stainless steel pressure cooker. After one whistle, lower flame to simmer, place cooker on skillet/tava and let sit for 45 minutes. Open only when ready to eat. Rice cooked this way is good yang and encourages achievement in your life. It is a bit mushy, rather than separate as you may be used to. But this is the way brown rice is meant to be eaten for its best benefits.
Brown Rice Balls
200 gms of white and black sesame
50 gms pickle of your choice
1 cup cooked brown rice
Roast sesame in an iron pan until
you smell its exotic fragrance. Grind lightly, preferably by hand for better flavor and energy. Lightly knead rice into balls, make a centre into which you fill a bit of pickle. Form back into balls, roll on bed of sesame so it is coated all around. Great snack dish and for carry-to-work lunches and picnics. Very satisfying, a complete meal in itself.
4 medium onions
4 tbsp sesame oil
4 large mushrooms or 8 small ones
2 tsp miso paste
200 gms cooked whole wheat or buckwheat noodles
Sauté sliced onions in a pot, add four cups water and bring to boil. Add sea/rock salt to taste.
Add sliced mushrooms. Cook for a minute. Mix miso paste (fermented soyabean; you will have to buy this from a health store) in half cup of water.
Add to soup. Stir for half a minute and switch flame off. Serve 4 bowls, evenly distribute onions and mushrooms into bowls, stirring constantly. Drop equal portion of noodles into each bowl and serve. Seaweed can be added to this soup if you wish.
Tofu (Soya Paneer) For Soya Milk:
Soak 2 small cups (about 125 gms each) soya beans overnight. The next morning, throw this water away and discard beans that keep rising to the top. Rinse well. Remove and throw away skin that peels off easily. Wash well again. Drain off all water. Grind in a mixer or hand-grinder with 10 cups (same cup size as used to measure soya) of fresh drinking water. Grind to a fine paste using all the water with all the soya beans. Put ground mixture into thickish muslin cloth with a stainless steel pot underneath that will collect the soya milk that seeps through the cloth. The fiber (called okara) that collects inside the cloth should be collected separately in a bowl. (Okara has several uses too). The cloth may be rinsed after intervals of grinding to enable milk to go through better. Now boil the soya milk for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly. For a lighter consistency, 4 to 5 cups of boiling water may be added as you put the pot to boil. The soya milk is now ready. Cool, put in glass bottles and refrigerate. Use in any way you would use dairy milk.
To this ready soya milk, do not add extra water. Add salt to taste (only rock salt or sea salt). Then add 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (or apple cider, vinegar or other natural vinegar) slowly until it curdles. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. At this stage you may add spices, garlic or herbs if you wish. Then pass through thickish muslin cloth just as you would do to make paneer. If you have a tofu box (available with Conscious Food), you can form the tofu into a slab or, once the liquid has drained, you can set it in any shape you like. The more liquid you press out, the firmer the tofu you get will be and vice versa. When cool, remove from cloth, place in container and cover tofu in drinking water. Refrigerate. It will remain fresh for a week if the water is changed once a day.
Similarly, the soya milk can be made into yogurt just like you make regular yogurt. For the first few times, the starter has to be from dairy yogurt. Once you get it going, you can use the soya yogurt itself as a starter.
Tofu can be used following any Chinese recipe or as one would use paneer. Makes a satisfying bhurji. Since it is quite bland it takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it. The macrobiotic way is the simplest way with minimal sautéing or adding to vegetables with touches of soya and oil.
Lotus Root and Carrot Vegetable1 foot long lotus root (a typical macrobiotic vegetable, also Indian)
2 medium-sized carrots
1/2 inch ginger root, grated
2 tbsp soya sauce (preferably one free of sugar, wheat and too much salt)
Few ends of spring onion
Cut lotus root and carrots diagonally. Steam both until done; the lotus root will take much longer, so begin by placing it to steam first and then add carrots. Meanwhile mix ginger and soya and rock/sea salt (to taste). In bowl place this mixture and steamed vegetables together. Mix well with your hands and leave. This can be eaten as is or after setting aside for a while it can be tossed with a dash of cold-pressed sesame oil on a high flame for just a minute or two before serving. Garnish with finely chopped ends of spring onion. Seaweed is a good addition to this dish, if you wish.
150 gms sesame (black or white or both)
10 gms sea salt
Roast sesame on iron pan until you get the aroma of sesame and before it is burnt. Grind this together with the salt, preferably in a stone or ceramic grinder by hand. The consistency should not be too fine or too coarse. This gomasio supplies the body with calcium that is easily assimilated amongst other things. Gomasio can be sprinkled on salads and steamed vegetables. When sprinkled on brown rice, it enhances flavor.
Millet with Vegetables
1 cup millet
Few French beans or any other
Small piece of red pumpkin
1 large onion
6 curry leaves
Small bunch of coriander leaves
2 tbsp cold-pressed sesame oil
Sauté chopped onion in oil in a pot.
Add curry leaves. Add chopped pumpkin and beans when you can begin to smell the curry leaves. Brown for a minute or two. Then quickly add washed millet. Brown for another minute or two. Add 2 cups water and salt to taste. Let cook on medium flame until air pockets are seen. Lower heat to simmer, cover pot, place something heavy on it so steam will not escape. Place pot on skillet/tava and cook for 20 minutes. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves. The curry and coriander give this macrobiotic dish an Indian touch. Seaweed is a good addition if you like. Millet is an important indigenous food that gives us necessary nutrients and variety in our diet. It also allows for diversity on our land, so very essential for the health of our soil – sound reasons to re-introduce this forgotten grain.
Pressed Macrobiotic Salad
5 small or 2 large red radish
1 medium white radish (popular macrobiotic vegetable)
1 small bunch lettuce
2 spring onion
1 lemon, juiced
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp soya sauce (sugar and wheat-free preferably)
Slice the radish slim and diagonal. Place on flat plate, rub into it a tablespoon of sea salt and cover with another flat plate. Put a weight on this for an hour or more if possible. Remove and brush off salt. Place in a bowl with lettuce that is also cut diagonally. Mix last three ingredients and add sea salt to taste to make dressing. Add to salad ensuring that all parts of salad get the dressing. Top with chopped spring onions.
Kavita Mukhi is an eco-nutritionist.
Food and ingredients courtesy Conscious Food;
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50% unrefined cereals like brown
rice / jowar / bajra / ragi / wheat /millets.
20% vegetables and seaweeds.
10% beans / pulses / tofu / fish /meats.
5% soups and miso.
5% teas and umeboshi / awla.
5% fruits and nuts and seeds
5% whatever you crave for, if you have to…