Saturday, June 30, 2012

Raw Milk Pasture-Fed Cheese

5 Spoke Creamery Cheese

When I found a selection of four artisanal small batch cheeses by 5 Spoke Creamery at Whole Foods Market the other day I could not wait to try them.  What really got my attention is that the 5 Spoke Creamery Cheese meets both of my cheese criteria. 5 Spoke cheese is both RAW and PASTURE-FED!

Because raw milk cheese is not made from milk that has been heated and pasteurized it is a rich source of probiotic bacteria which help colonize the digestive tract and keep us healthy.  Raw milk and raw milk cheese, unlike pasteurized milk products, also contain important enzymes which help us to digest the fat, protein, and sugar in the milk.

Pasture-fed cheese is superior to conventional cheese because the cows have eaten a natural diet, in fact, the diet nature intends them to eat, and they are treated humanely.  Grass-fed dairy products contains a good ratio of essential fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, vitamin A and vitamin E.

TUMBLEWEED cave-aged eight to nine months is a salty semi-hard cheddar with a nice crumble. 

REDMOND CHEDDAR aged six months is a buttery well-balanced cheddar.  Redmond Cheddar is my personal favorite.

WELSH CHEDDAR is a mild, sweet, creamy cheese without any hint of sharpness.

HERBAL JACK flavored with herbs, chives and garlic (the garlic really comes through) begs to be melted on quesadillas.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lemon Curd Parfait With Strawberries

Lemon Curd Parfait With Strawberries
Brett and Charlotte introduced me to a delicious new flavor sensation, an absolute favorite summer indulgence, that we have been enjoying with a variety of summer berries, such as fresh sliced strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.  We haven't tried raspberries yet!

I am admittedly a huge fan of lemon curd.  While some may nostalgically remember a first kiss, I, on the other hand, nostalgically remember the exact time and location that I had that first luscious puckery spoonful of lemon curd.  Lemon curd, a traditional British food, is usually spread on the likes of scones and crumpets or used as a filling for tarts, pies and cakes.  Homemade lemon curd, by-the-way, tastes infinitely better than ordinary lemon pie filling because, unlike your standard commercial pie filling, lemon curd is made with REAL BUTTER and is thickened with EGG YOLK and PECTIN (which is naturally present in the lemon) rather than ubiquitous cornstarch.  And though I won't deny that lemon curd is delicious in its own right I am especially partial to lemon curd parfait.

If you are a fan of lemon desserts, as I am, and have not tried lemon curd parfait what are you waiting for?


5 pastured eggs
3 pastured egg yolks
1 c. organic sugar
3/4 c. fresh lemon juice
pinch of sea salt
1/2 c. cold grass-fed cultured butter, cut into cubes
1 c. organic heavy cream - raw cream is best
1 T. organic cane sugar or sugar substitute
1 t. vanilla extract


4 - 5 c. mixed fresh berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries
3 T. sugar (optional)

Whisk eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in the top of a double boiler until well mixed.  Set over a saucepan filled with simmering water at medium heat.  Add the lemon juice and sea salt.  Cook and whisk constantly until thickened, about 0 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in butter cubes until smooth.

Cool slightly and then refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

Combine cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat on high speed until soft peaks form.  Fold half of the whipped cream into the chilled lemon curd.

Gently toss the berries with sugar if desired.

To assemble spoon lemon curd into the bottom of 6 parfait glasses, top with berries and alternate layers of lemon curd and berries.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream.


For those of you that are sensitive to sugar, as I am, you may substitute birch sugar for cane sugar in the recipe. I have made it both ways and with magnificent results. The birch sugar version was truly unmistakable from the cane sugar version.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Moveable Feast

Edible Adventures On The Road

We took Edible Adventures on the road this week and visited Yellowstone National Park.  The car literally bulged with five fully loaded ice-chests (one per adult in the party) along with two big boxes of food.  You would think we planned on being snowed-in in July, and despite picture perfect weather, that hovered in the low seventies, we still managed to make quite a dint in our cache of provender.

One of the most memorable eatables of the week, we have Carrisa to thank for.  She brought a beautiful Le Crueset pie pan full of that iconic Scottish dish rumbledethumps.  It was quite the hit, cut into thick delicious wedges, and served as an accompaniment to our crock pot chicken dinner.

Carrisa's Rumbledethumps

2 1/2 lbs. organic russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 head organic green cabbage, thinly sliced - about 8 cups
1/2 c. unsalted pastured butter
1/2 c. organic sour cream
1/4 c. chopped chives
1 c. grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (4 oz.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter an 8-cup baking dish.

Cook cabbage in a large pot with boiling water until tender- about 2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer cabbage to a bowl.

Return water to a boil and add potatoes.  Cook until tender.   Drain and return potatoes to the pot.  Add butter and sour cream and mash the potatoes.

Mix in chives and cabbage.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake about 35 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Local Loquat Conclusion

Loquat Muffins

The suspense surrounding the local loquat food adventure is finally drawing to its conclusion, and those of you who like happy endings will be particularly satisfied to learn that all three sister condiments, loquat-rose butter, loquat chutney, and loquat ketchup, have found their perfect food compliment.

The loquat-rose butter has been transformed into delicious little gluten-free muffins, the loquat chutney into a brilliant dish of moroccan rice, and the loquat ketchup, which we have been eating with gusto and tastes good with everything so far, as we continue to discover new ways to enjoy it, is particularly yummy with chicken, salmon burgers, and sweet potato fries.

The highlight of my day was baking these extra tasty loquat muffins and sharing the loquat muffin debut with Brett and Charlotte.  My baking adept, Carrisa, was conspicuously missing from the mix today as she packs for a much needed holiday.

Gluten-Free Loquat Muffins

1 c. loquat butter
1/2 c. honey
2 organic eggs
1/3 c. organic butter
1 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cardamom
1 1/2 t. baking soda  - see recipe below
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Mix the wet ingredients - loquat butter, honey, eggs, and butter until thoroughly blended.
Stir the dry ingredients together - flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and pecans.
Create an indention in the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring to incorporate.
Pour into silicon lined muffin tins and bake at 325 for 25 minutes.

Homemade Baking Powder

2 t. cream of tartar
2 t. baking soda
Mix together.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Local Loquat Chutney

Local Loquat Chutney

Those of you who have been following some of my recent loquat food adventures and misadventures will be interested to learn of my most recent loquat food triumph.

The effort to "marry up" loquat chutney, one of the three sister condiments I prepared this month, with her perfect food compliment, has been fraught with frustration and disappointment, at best.

Yesterday, still wondering what to do with the local loquat chutney, and growing a bit discouraged, I might add, I decided to give it another try.

Last night I roasted a panful of organic chicken thighs, (what could be simpler?), in the oven for dinner.  I made a pot of brown basmati rice in Brett and Charlotte's buttercup-colored Le Cruiset cook pot.  (I wish they still made that particularly food-compatible color of cookware by-the-way)  When the rice was cooked and fully tender I added the zest of one whole organic lemon, a squirt of two of lemon juice along with a generous handful of fresh minced parsley.  In addition, I prepared a side of cooked greens with crumbled feta.

As I plated up dinner last night I cautiously placed a spoonful of loquat chutney, seasoned with lemon, lemon rind, raisins, cumin, thyme, fennel seeds, coriander and red pepper flakes, beside each serving of basmati rice.  After a first hesitant nibble I decided to throw caution to the wind and stir the loquat chutney right into the rice to see what happened.

Voila!  Perfection!  Yes!  Food perfection!  I was SO excited.

Local loquat chutney is a fantastic accompaniment to rice!  It is a marriage made in heaven.

Initially, the true character and flavor of loquat chutney, obviously not readily apparent to me, remained undiscovered and unappreciated, until I combined it with its perfect food compliment, rice, and viola! an unmistakable distinctive Moroccan character came clearly through.

What would, otherwise, have been quite an ordinary meal suddenly became extraordinary.

The chutney fully lived up to expectation, in fact, exceeded expectation.  Not only did the loquat chutney make the rice taste better,(certainly the primary requirement of a condiment!), but, as an added bonus, the loquat chutney, with delicate flecks of orange fruit, bits of raisin and spice made the rice look better too!  To fully appreciate that particular food fact please consider what globs of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, or any other food condiment for that matter, do for the esthetics of a dish.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Much Ado About Loquats

Three Sisters

Well, here I am 700 miles away from home and about to conduct the first taste test.  Drum Roll. The three well-traveled sister condiments, also about 700 miles away from home, loquat butter, loquat chutney and loquat ketchup, are assembled and ready for their debut.

We did the preliminary preview tasting yesterday evening.  Carrisa said that the loquat-rose butter tasted like she had a rose pompadour in her mouth. It was a bit too flowery for her taste.  Brett and Charlotte, who are recovering from colds, which might be a factor in how well they taste, did not find the flowery rose flavor over-powering or objectionable.

What we ultimately have in mind for the loquat-rose butter is to make it the base for gluten-free loquat-rose muffins.  I am sourcing ingredients as we speak.

I did try the loquat chutney with toasted baguette and a couple of different cheeses and I can't say I am over the top about it.  Charlotte said that the chutney reminds her of salsa and she would like to try it on a taco.  Charlotte also suggested that we roast a chicken and serve it with parsley-lime rice and loquat chutney.  Brett could not decide what kind of meat would be most compatible with the chutney.

We all feel that we are trying a bit too hard to "marry up" the loquat chutney.  Brett, put it well, when he said we have been trying to find food to make the loquat chutney taste better.  Since the whole idea of a condiment is to enhance the flavor of food and give it some "wow" and "pizazz" I have to admit I am disappointed.

Everybody agreed that the loquat ketchup was very tasty.  It was definitely everybody's favorite.  Brett and Carrisa said that it reminded them of barbecue sauce and would like to try it with french fries or sweet potato fries.  Charlotte suggested that it be used to marinate chicken.

Overall it was a good first effort at condiment making and I want to especially thank my intrepid and willing taste testers.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What Happened To the Local Loquats - Part 3

No Ordinary Ketchup
The highly perishable loquat fruit has a short season and shelf life that lends itself to traditional methods of food preservation such as preserves, chutney, and condiment preparations.  I hear the inventive Japanese make loquat wine.

In an effort to preserve this most time sensitive fruit I experimented with several different condiment preparations.  My most recent posts, (have you noticed how often things appear in clusters of three?), Tuesday's loquat butter, Wednesday's loquat chutney, and today's loquat ketchup, are sister posts that take their parentage from the same prolific loquat tree.

Without the notoriety that her attention-getting sisters have received in recent posts, the ill-flavored loquat rose butter (that Carrisa will be working on), or the spicy and assertive loquat chutney that I hope to marry up with goat cheese, loquat ketchup, the rich color of umeboshi plum, on the other hand, has a complex flavor that I find surprisingly pleasing.

I honestly don't know how I came up with the idea of making loquat ketchup.

I found a recipe for traditional tomato ketchup in Sally Fallon's cookbook "Nourishing Traditions" and randomly wondered what loquat ketchup would be like.

Here is the recipe that I made based on her ketchup recipe:

Loquat Ketchup

4 c. loquats, washed and pitted
1 T. sea salt
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. fish sauce
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. whey or 1 t. probiotic powder

Cook the loquats in a little bit of water in a covered pan until they are tender.  Cool slightly and blend in blender or food processor until they are smooth and creamy.

When the loquats are room temperature mix all of the ingredients together until well blended.  Place in two pint-sized wide-mouth Mason jars.  The top of the ketchup should be a least 1-inch below the top of the jar. Leave at room temperature for about 2 days before transferring to fridge.

As a food aside, I did a little internet research on the history of ketchup making and found that if you go back to the 17th-century, when ketchup was still a regional artisanal food preparation and not the ubiquitous product, synonymous only with the tomato, that it is today, you will find that ketchup, first brought from China by British sailors, could actually be made from any number of ingredients. Pontac ketchup, popular in the 19th-century, for instance, was made from elderberry juice, shallots, anchovies and spices.  I am not a huge tomato lover myself, tomatoes are way too acidic for me even on the best of days, unless absolutely dead-ripe and fresh from the vine. This loquat version of traditional ketchup, which features garlic, fish sauce, maple syrup and a little fermentation, is just the tasty ticket.  Most importantly, though there are sure to be a few refinements, I LIKE IT!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What Happened To The Local Loquats? Part 2

Loquat Adventures

Before I leave town, loquat butter in tow, I have another little confession, another little loquat adventure to report.

This second loquat adventure comes by stages.

From the original loquats, harvested from my mother's tree, I made the, so far, ill-fated subject of yesterday's post, loquat butter, the little food orphan that is about to be packed up and sent straight off to Carrisa, (there will be more to report, no doubt), AND I made from the same harvest, a batch of loquat chutney, seasoned with lemon, lemon rind, raisins, cumin, coriander, green peppercorns, thyme, and fennel seed, which I set out on the counter to ferment (yes!) for two days.


First Taste:  The first day, the day I make it, the chutney tastes a bit raw to me and not too exciting.  I add the probiotic culture and let it set for a day or so on the kitchen counter.

Next Taste:  The taste has improved.  It is a bit better, in fact, but I don't like the texture.  I unpack it and chop it up good in the food processor with an S-blade.  That helps a lot.  I repack it into the jar and let it set out on the counter.

Next Taste:  There is still something missing.  I take chopsticks and stir red pepper flakes, that I was already dubious about adding, into the mixture, and since the chutney has already spent quite a lot of time out on the kitchen counter, and the weather has been quite warm which speeds up the process, I decide to put the jar into the fridge.

Next Taste:  After about 5 days in the fridge the flavor of the chutney is mellowing and settling in. Interestingly, it is the addition of the red pepper flakes that seems to have turned on the flavor.

Sorry I did not take more photos, but, I was never convinced that this would become the subject of a blog post!

So now that the loquat chutney is sufficiently interesting to get my attention - what am I going to do with it?

You will probably think that my next confession, goes beyond mere food fascination, and borders on downright food mania, (it does), but I already have my favorite Grindstone Bakery gluten free baguette, baked Monday, in fact, on the way, shipped to the same destination that I will be arriving at in a day or two and where I intend to marry it up, the toasted baguette, that is, with a slice of tart and slightly warm goat cheese, topped with, you guessed it, spicy loquat chutney, of coarse, for a totally non-tomato, totally non-garlicky, totally non-traditional bruschetta!  Sounds like a date!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What Happened To The Local Loquats?

Loquat-Rose Butter

This will be Part One Of - What Happened To The Local Loquats?

I have been in a particularly experimental mood lately.  Dangerous?  Well, yes, actually, though, I do realize that not all of my food adventures are going to become future blog posts or even be edible for that matter.

I am thinking of a particular batch of loquat butter I made recently.  You are probably wondering what could go wrong with a batch of loquat butter?  Especially since I have made loquat butter before with Carrisa, summer 2010, when we were both very pleased with the result.

Well things went off for me this time when I reached for the jar of wildflower honey and grabbed double-delight rose honey instead, and a rather assertive double-delight rose honey at that.

I did not even realize what I had done until I tasted the loquat butter.  And even then, it took me a moment or two to figure out what the flavor configurations were that were happening on my tongue.  The unlikely rose/loquat combination, oddly enough the loquat tree and rose bush that the petals are harvested from actually live in close proximity to one another in my mother's backyard and have unfortunately managed to get into even closer proximity, falls into the category of flavor confusion to downright flavor weirdness.  Don't bet me wrong.  I have nothing against double-delight rose honey, in fact, I think it is delicious, but it has no business with loquats.  Big sigh.

So I did what I almost always do when faced with a food crisis.  I fermented it!  Of coarse, what else!

So, I added some salt and some probiotic powder, for beneficial bacteria, and left the offending jar on the counter for a couple of days. 

It did not help.

My next plan is to take the little food orphans to Carrisa and see what she can make of them.  She is much more of a baker than I am.  Perhaps she can reinvent them and bake them into luscious loquat quick bread or spicy loquat muffins?  I AM STILL hopeful.

I am heading out of town tomorrow, and you guessed it, I am taking the loquat butter with me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sweet Potatoes - The Taste Test

Sweet Potato

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite foods, the large starchy sweet-tasting tuberous root vegetable known as the sweet potato.  Always fond of a good sweet, I decided to conduct a taste test.  I baked four different varieties of sweet potato, if anybody knows of other varieties I will gladly taste test them too, pictured above, which I got from one of my favorite local growers at the farmer's market.

Sweet Potato - Four Varieties

The sweet potato, believed to have originated somewhere in South or Central America, is a member of the same plant family as the morning glory flower.  The orange fleshed variety, often mislabeled as a yam, is actually a sweet potato and not a true yam at all.

The garnet or jewel variety of sweet potato, pictured above in the right hand corner, a good source of complex carbohydrate, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and Vitamin B-6, has beautiful coppery-red skin and brilliant orange flesh.  The flesh of the orange sweet potato is moist, almost sticky, and deliciously sweet.

The yellow sweet potato, pictured on the top left corner, has light brown skin and yellow flesh.  The flavor is delicate, mild, and pleasantly sweet.

The dazzling purple sweet potato, or Okinawan sweet potato, pictured above, is amazingly rich and sweet tasting.  The skin of the Okinawan is a light buff color and the flesh is truly a magnificent velvety, over-the-top purple.  The Okinawan is a great source of the antioxidant anthocyanine, don't try to say that one too fast, which is only present in red, blue, and purple food.

Other foods that are rich in anthocyanine are blueberry (my favorite berry!), elderberry (I am always on the look-out for them!), cranberry, billberry, raspberry, blackberry, blackcurrant (makes suburb jam!), cherry (another favorite!), chokecherry (my mother's favorite childhood jelly), eggplant peel, black rice (my favorite rice!), concord grapes (my favorite grapes!), muscadine grapes, purple cabbage, and violet petals (my favorite edible flower!).  Oh!  And red-fleshed peaches contain anthocyanine.  I just discovered that I am rather enthusiastic about anthocyanine containing foods!

Kindly, nature and agriculture have provided us with some additional and uncommon sources of anthocyanine containing foods such as the blue fleshed potato, purple broccoli, purple cauliflower, purple carrots, blue corn, and blood orange.  Love that color!

And finally, getting back to to our subject of the day, the Japanese sweet potato, pictured above on the bottom right, sometimes called Satsuma-imo, is a beautiful tuber, (does that sound oxymoronic?) with rose-violet skin and white flesh that deepens to a marbled translucence when baked.  It has a lovely sweet flavor that is especially appealing.

My current sweet potato preference, though subject to change when I get a random sweet potato that is so unexpectedly near perfection that it becomes the sweet potato of the moment, is Satsuma-imo, with Okinawan being a close second, followed by the vivid orange fleshed sweet potato, and finally, last but not least, the yellow fleshed sweet potato.

Though there are many, often elaborate, ways to prepare sweet potato I like mine simply prepared, either baked or roasted with butter.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Make Simple Pressed Salad

Pressed Salad

I realize that I have mentioned pressed salad in any number of posts.  So this time I will include pictures and detailed instructions.

Pressed salad, delicious and refreshing, is a lovely compliment to just about every meal.  Vegetables can be pressed for a minimum of two hours and for upwards of two days.  The longer the vegetables are pressed the more they will resemble probiotic-rich pickled vegetables.  The shorter the vegetables are pressed the more they will resemble a vegetable salad.  The idea is to prepare a raw enzyme-rich salad that is easy to digest.

Sliced Organic Green Cabbage

Slice about 4 cups of green cabbage, napa cabbage, or purple cabbage.  You can add a few stronger greens such as collard greens, kale, or dandelion greens for variety.

Sliced Root Vegetables

Cut root vegetables such as red radish or daikon radish into thin slices.

Celery, Red Radish, And Carrot

Add a variety of your favorite garden vegetables for variety, color and flavor.

Combine Vegetables in Glass Bowl

Mix vegetables in a glass bowl with about 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. sea salt per 4 - 8 cups of vegetables.

Pound With Surigogi

Massage vegetables by hand or pound vegetables with a wooden surigogi for about 10 minutes.  The vegetables will begin to soften and become  juicy. The salt and the pounding, or massaging, helps to break down the cellulose in the vegetables.

Press with Weight

Press the vegetables by nesting another glass bowl on top of the salad and weight it with a bottle of water or vinegar.  Let the salad press for a minimum of 2 hours and upwards of two days.

Simple And Elegant Pressed Salad

Squeeze out the juice and serve pressed salad just as it is or with a squirt of fresh lemon juice, lime juice or rice vinegar.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

On The Subject Of Macrobiotics

In case your introduction to Japanese food culture was not sushi then it was most likely macrobiotics. 

In yesterdays post "Japan - My Adopted Food Culture" I highlight some of the health benefits of traditional Japanese food practices.   In today's post we will take a look at macrobiotics, which is essentially a variant form of Japanese food culture, which was introduced to this country in the 1960's by its creator George Ohsawa. 

The macrobiotic diet consists of the following: 

Whole grains, especially brown rice: 40 - 60% 
Vegetables: 25-30% 
Bean and Legumes: 5 - 10% 
Miso Soup: 5% 
Sea Vegetables: 5% 

In addition to these basic guidelines seafood, fruit (with the caveat that one not eat fruit from the tropics), natural sweeteners such as brown rice syrup and barley malt, and nuts and seeds may be enjoyed two to three times a week.  There is a list of vegetables that are recommended as well as those to be avoided.

At a glance, the macrobiotic diet, which bears a striking resemblance to the U.S. government food pyramid dietary recommendations, may seem like a "healthy" diet.   In fact many, believing that to be the case, have adopted this variant form of the Japanese food culture in order to claim or re-claim a "healthy" lifestyle. 

One of the things I appreciate about macrobiotics is the sincerity and fervor of its community. 

While I appreciate the diligent allegiance of its proponents, ultimately, I must question the efficasy of a diet that is conspicuously lacking in important macro-nutrients such as protein and fat, not to mention the fat-soluable vitamins, Vitamin A, D,E, and K2.  My primary criticism of the diet is that it essentially removes all of the virtues of the traditional Japanese diet, all of the most nutrient dense and nourishing parts of that food culture, the fish, shellfish, eggs, and fish roe and leaves you with a rather drab nutrient-deficient diet enhanced only by a smidgeon of pro-inflammatory seed oils such as sesame oil, corn oil, and tahini. 

While the traditional Japanese diet has ample omega-3 fatty acids, from fish, the macrobiotic diet is almost totally devoid of EFA's.  The diet, with its exclusion of meat, eggs, and cheese is deficient in B-12, folate and other important B-vitamins.  It is very low in protein and without adequate animal fat it is low in vitamin A, D E, and K2. The diet is notoriously low in calcium, magnesium and zinc.  It can be deficient in vitamin C as well.

In my mind the macrobiotic diet is a psuedo-Japanese diet fashioned to fascinate an American public, who bereft of a national food identity, are quite literally "starving" for authentic food traditions.  While many of us have adopted, or attempted to adopt, this restrictive form of Japanese food culture I wonder how many have actually thrived on it? 

While there may be a place for a macrobiotic diet in the short-term it is not a diet that will sustain long-term health and growth.  At best the macrobiotic diet, with its emphasis on whole, unprocessed organic food, could be an improvement on the SAD diet, and be beneficial as a sort of modified and temporary "food fast" for those recovering from extreme dietary excess.  It is not, however, a diet for young children or those who are in their reproductive child-bearing years. 

Sally Fallon, author of "Nourishing Traditions" has this to say:

Macrobiotic enthusiasts consider rice the most perfect grain, in which the yin and yang energies are in equilibrium.  But the Westerner should not necessarily adopt Oriental rice-eating habits. Asians have larger pancreas and salivary glands in proportion to body weight than Westerners, and these traits make them ideally suited to a grain-based diet.  The Westerner who adopts the strict macrobiotic or Oriental diet, with rice at every meal, may develop serious health problems."

As an aside there is a yearly macrobiotic gathering in the Tahoe National Wilderness each year which I have enjoyed attending periodically.  One has the opportunity at camp to listen to many lectures, often heavy on the theoretical side of things, on the subject of macrobiotics, while the kitchen and cooking classes pick up the more practical aspects of macrobiotics. 

As you may have gathered from previous posts, despite my criticism of macrobiotics, I am really quite fond of the food.  I can wax eloquent on the subject of sea vegetables, pressed salad, and baked kabocha squash.  But, I am not a fan of extreme diets. 

That being said one of the better stories I heard at camp that year came from a fellow of German extraction.   He told us that he had made a trip to Germany and while at a German beer hall was invited to join in with others for a meal of sausage and beer.  Faced with the uncomfortable prospect of compromising his restrictive dietary ideals he wondered how he could "gracefully" get out of the situation.  He wondered if he should not order a cup of chamomile tea and retire early to his bed.   Eventually at some point in his mental cogitations he was able to move from "dour compliance" to rigid dietary principles to "hail fellow well met" in his decision to partake in the food and fellowship that was being offered him with gusto.  He ended up having a marvelous and memorable evening, I am told, and, most importantly, I might add, without suffering any adverse effect from his dietary dalliance.  In fact, he was surprised to find that the next morning he felt wonderfully refreshed and revived for it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Japan - My Adopted Food Culture

Beautiful Daikon Radish Greens

Today we will look at some of the many health benefits of my favorite adopted food culture.

Rather than focus on recent Japanese food trends such as an ever-increasing appetite for imported western-style food or the super artificial "kawaii" cutsy/adorable (aka Hello Kitty) bento box convenience meals that are so popular with the young, we will take a look at traditional Japanese food culture and see what it brings to the table.


Japanese food is all about perfection and seasonal timing.  The traditional Japanese diet does not only favor seasonal food, it CELEBRATES seasonal food!

While it is true that seasonal eating will require that we periodically "suffer" through times of scarcity when a particular food is not abundantly available or in season, please bear in mind that when the food IS in season that it will taste SO MUCH BETTER. Think of styrofoam-out-of-season pink tomatoes.  Is anybody tempted?  The big pay off with eating seasonal food, not food imported from half way around the world, is that you can fully enjoy the food at its most exquisite moment of perfection.


Traditional Japanese food is authentic honest food that derives its character from its native land and sea.  Japan is an island nation and the essence of traditional Japanese food is the delicate balance of flavor - the distinct briny flavor of the sea married to the earthy flavor of the land.  The marriage of land and sea (did you see the film documentary "Jiro Dreams Of Sushi?') is the magical essence of traditional Japanese food culture.

One of the most powerful and provocative things we can do on a daily basis, no matter where we live, is to eat food that is locally produced as often as we can.  Local food is fresher, more nutritious, and tastes better.  Local foods are authentic foods that strengthen health and connect us to our place in the world in an intimate and authentic way.

Rather than imitating the Japanese genius for food flavor, unless, of coarse, you happen to live in Japan, what would be an authentic expression of your food culture?


Traditional Japanese food is beautiful to look at.

When we make food look beautiful and appealing to the eye, even taking into consideration the beauty of negative space on the plate, food is infinitely more satisfying.  We can eat slowly and savor the flavor and texture of the food.  When food is beautifully and artfully prepared we literally eat the food with our eyes before we take the first bite.


From the land of the rising lifespan, the Japanese being the longest lived people on the planet, comes this old Japanese saying, "hara hachi bu," which roughly translates to "eat until you are 80% full."

Coming from a society that glorifies the "all you can eat" mentality this may seem counter-intuitive at first, but, as we train ourselves to be satisfied with less food we will reap health benefits, if only in increased energy and improved digestion!


FISH AND SEAFOOD - Most people think that the Japanese diet is primarily a vegetarian rice diet, but, fish and shellfish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are actually the staple food of Japan.  The average person in Japan consumes roughly 154 pounds of fish a year.  That is about one-half pound per day.

VEGETABLES - The Japanese consume about five times more green and cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress, Chinese cabbage, radish, cauliflower, and turnips, than the average American.

SEA VEGETABLES - Kombu, nori, arame, hijiki, and wakame are plentiful in Japan.  Sea vegetables are an important part of Japanese cuisine and contain high amounts of iodine, which helps protect thyroid health, as well as other minerals and important micro-nutrients.

PICKLED VEGETABLES - No wonder I love Japanese food!  Fermented vegetables are served with every traditional Japanese meal!  Pickled vegetables, which are high in B-vitamins, are usually eaten at the end of a meal to aid digestion.  Daikon radish pickled in rice bran is one of my favorite Japanese pickles.

RICE - Rice, short grain rice being most highly favored, is the staple grain of Japan.  Interestingly, rice is relatively low in phytic acid, compared to other gluten-containing grains, and according to Sally Fallon, rice does not require the overnight soaking and special preparation methods that other grains require.