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What can humans do that no other species does?

Posted in articles on October 24th, 2012 by Kevin – Be the first to comment

A report in the Guardian yesterday, about a new study which adds to the mounting scientific evidence that our ability to cook has played a significant part in our evolution as human beings. In this study, it speaks specifically about ‘brain power,’ but it’s not such a jump to suggest that this applies to the development of our consciousness. To my knowledge, evolution hasn’t stopped. Perhaps there is more in store for us, when we engage with food and cooking, consciously.

‘Gorillas, they suggest, already live on the limit of viability, foraging and eating for 8.8 hours a day, and in extreme conditions increasing this to as much as 10 hours a day. In contrast, humans’ move to a cooked diet, possibly first adopted by Homo erectus, and their bigger brains yet smaller bodies, left spare energy which allowed further rapid growth in brain size and the chance to develop the big brain as an asset rather than a liability, through expanded cognitive capacity, flexibility and complexity.

“We propose that this change from liability to asset made possible the rapid increase in brain size that characterises the evolution of Homo species, leading to ourselves. We may thus owe our vast cognitive abilities to the invention of cooking – which, to my knowledge, is by far the easiest and most obvious answer to the question, what can humans do that no other species does?” Herculano-Houzel commented on the paper, published in the journal PNAS, the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences of the USA.’

For the full article, click here.

(Why) Have we fallen out of love with Organic food?

Posted in articles, writings on September 5th, 2012 by Kevin – Be the first to comment

An interesting read in the Guardian today in followup to a study released which suggests that ‘organic produce is no better for our health than conventional food.’ It’s hard to take such a claim seriously. Invariably studies are very good at confirming the expectations of those who sponsor or conduct them. The only studies I pay much attention to are the ones I carry out myself, in the kitchen: where I notice the effects different foods I cook and eat have on me personally, my energy levels, wellbeing and sense of overall satisfaction. This comes not from just the food itself, but all the steps in between. It’s true, my predilection for foods which carry the organic ‘label’ has softened considerably over time. My go-to source for veg remains Growing Community’s weekly Organic Farmers Market, but I am also happy to visit local fruit and vegetable suppliers such as the Newington and Stoke Newington greengrocers, which are a welcome addition to the mix. Although their produce is predominantly non-organic, it is fresh, of high quality, and mostly locally sourced. Simply having an organic label doesn’t tell the whole story either: I prefer to buy from non-organic greengrocers or local markets where I get a ‘feel’ from the produce, and the journey it has taken; rather than buy Organic produce at supermarkets which can feel just as processed and packaged as conventional food, and often lacks the vitality of Organic food bought direct from the farmer. The article provides an interesting overview of the situation, observing that this is not a black and white issue. (‘News Flash! Life occurs in shades of grey!’) Yet it concludes with a useful statement: ‘If we want food that is good for humans, animals and the environment, the priority now is not to praise organics or to bury it, but to accept we must look beyond it.’ Amen! Read the full article here.

Mindful Eating

Posted in articles on February 24th, 2012 by Kevin – Be the first to comment

‘The rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves,’ said Dr. Cheung, who, with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, co-wrote Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. ‘That’s why mindful eating is becoming more important. We need to be coming back to ourselves and saying: ‘Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m so sad and stressed out?’

From a recent NY Times article ‘Mindful Eating as Food for Thought’ passed to me by Peter Kanning.

Wond(e)rous Herbs

Posted in articles on September 15th, 2011 by Kevin – Be the first to comment

An article from Melanie Waxman’s website:

‘According to research we have been using herbs in medicine and to improve the flavor of the foods for thousands of years. Scientists are now discovering that the early doctors and herbalists knew a lot more than they were given credit for. Many historians believe that herbs were used for medicine and healing because they either resembled a part of the body or from simple observation that the person improved after taking the herb.

Today herbs are often only used as garnishes to add a colorful aspect to our meals. However, they do so much more than make a plate or soup look pretty. Herbs are packed with nutrition and by enjoying them on a daily basis, provide that extra burst of energy to keep us feeling and looking great.’

full article

A passion for sauerkraut

Posted in articles, nourishing traditions cookbook on January 15th, 2011 by Francoise – 3 Comments

Pickles, pickles… what would we do without them? Over the last few years studying with macrobiotic cooks and reading Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, I have realised how fermented food has been for a long time an essential element in all traditional diets and how we can include it today. I am fascinated by the processes devised over the life time of humanity to transform food, whether it is grain, fruits, pulses, vegetables, milk, fish… into bread, wine, cheese, pickled vegetables, miso, soya sauce, tempeh, etc.

So I look out for pickles but there are very few unpasteurised pickles around, some unpasteurised misos are available in some wholefood shops. There are some pasteurised gherkins and sauerkraut made with sea salt and no sugar etc also in some wholefood shops. Fermentation is how our ancestors preserved food but what is amazing is that fermentation also makes the food more nutritious and helps with digesting and balancing other food (eg. oily fish, meat, grain etc). Our ancestors found these properties much before we could come up with the scientific evidence.

I sometimes make very simple fermented vegetables (grated carrots and ginger for example work very well – recipe in the Nourishing Traditions Cookbook), yoghurt is very simple to make and I keep my sourdough starter which seems so full of life!

When I go to France, I love going to the ‘BioCoop’ which sells organic unpasteurised sauerkraut from Alsace… here is a picture, a 1kg pot is about Euro 2.60… amazing. I am planning to go in March and if you would like some, let me know. It keeps several weeks in the fridge.

There is an interesting note on the side of the pot which suggest eating the sauerkraut (choucroute) as it rather than cooking it. It specifies that it is forbidden to cook it in a microwave oven :-). The taste will vary from pot to pot, some are really gentle, some slightly stronger but still very delicate. It is good to eat as it so as not to destroy the enzymes I guess. I use it mixed with cooked greens or mixed with salad leaves etc. it adds crunchiness and a little sourness. There are traditional recipes using cooked sauerkraut to eat with meat (pork in particular) and it is really good cooked in a tempeh stew or with fish… I will have to make another post with a recipe….

A picture of the delicately shredded white cabbage fermented in sea salt only, the other ingredients? Time and pressure.

Five Pillars of Well Being

Posted in articles, writings on November 4th, 2009 by Kevin – 3 Comments

Body
Bodywork
Eat well
Cleanness
Drink clear water

Mind
Clearing the mind
Clearing the space
Clearing relationship
Freedom from the past

Spirit
Meditation
Deep breath
Inner peace
Be present

Cooking
Balance
Wholesome foods
Seasonal
Be Aware
Be Creative
Be Now
Be Love
Be Peace
Be Happy
Joy of serving
Joy of sharing

Work
Contribution to the community
Contribution to the world
Flow of energy of money
Prosperity
Self expression

Three Bites of Japan

Posted in articles on October 10th, 2009 by Kevin – Be the first to comment

I spent three delicious weeks in Japan this August.  Three meals in particular remain with me which I’ll try to conjure up for you:

First Bite

We had spent the morning weeding and strimming at a family holiday house on Akagi Mountain, in Gunma Prefecture. It was 3.30pm by the time we finally made it back to town and we were hungry. Lunch was in a tiny, family-run restaurant in the town of Maebashi. When I say tiny, I mean a handful of tightly-packed wooden tables, each of which could seat four people comfortably, six at a push. And I gather it is a push, every day, at noon, when office-workers stream out of neighbouring work-places and into ‘Rai Rai Ken’ (‘Come! Come! Shop’). The walls proudly bear photos of the current owner’s ancestors making noodles, alongside certificates that I presumed to be prizes or accreditations or some such recognition of noodle-making excellence. For they were exquisite, those noodles. I went for the plainest option: soba noodles in a cold broth (dashi), with a few simple condiments on top. The dashi summoned up timeless memories of sea (from the kombu seaweed) and earth (from the shiitake mushrooms). The noodles were the crowning glory of contemporary man –  succulent, velveteen and yet (how is it possible?) almost crunchy! The modest sprinkle of nori and grated daikon radish somehow wedded soba and dashi, man and nature, present and past. I was worried I might never dare to eat soba again.

Second Bite

In a suburb to the west of Tokyo I was treated to a medley of dishes, each distinctly different, but united by a shared origin. It was a ‘tofuryouri’, a restaurant celebrating the humble bean at the heart of Japanese cuisine. (Think tofu, shoyu, tamari, yuba, natto, miso, kinako; flavours so distinct, but each a unique expression of one and the same bean). What first comes to mind from that night was the yuba. I had only ever eaten freeze-dried rehydrogenated yuba. But the yuba at ‘Ume no Hana’ (‘Plum Flower) Restaurant was home-made by boiling tonyu (soya milk) until the yuba appears on the surface: a thick silky layer of pure protein. It was served in fat ribbons floating in a creamy soup, presumably a spiced-up variant of the milk from which it came. Then there were the deep fried, golden chunks of Koyadohu, crispy and sweet, messengers of the sun in which they were dried on the sacred slopes of Mount Koya. And how about the fragrantly-flavoured black and white cubes of gomadohu: sesame-coated, for a bit of bite; inside, slippery smooth, barely there, gone before it even reached the back of the throat. And of course, the mother dish, that without which none of the rest would be possible: a platter of triumphant edamame beans: boiled, salted, eaten.

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Third Bite

Saibashi is a restaurant in Takasaki City, whose every ingredient is organically grown within the Gunma region. The meat comes from Akagi Mountain, the vegetables from Mount Haruna, the cereals and grains from Myougi Mountain. The chef, I was tickled to hear, describes himself as a ‘vegetable sommelier.’ I had a delicious rice dish served in a donburi (rice bowl) containing no less than 25 different vegetables, topped with prawns and scallops. This came with miso soup, – perfectly traditional – and also with something rather surprising:  a basket of utterly raw, elaborately chiselled vegetables such as shards of pumpkin and corn on the cob dissected into dainty rings. The basket was floating in ice water, and accompanied by two feistily-flavoured dips – one miso the other cheese. Dessert was ice-cream made from a shocking collaboration of banana, miso and pumpkin (yum!) and three cubes of gomadohu (sesame tofu).

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The Story of Rice

Posted in articles, writings on October 9th, 2009 by Kevin – Be the first to comment

The technique of growing rice was introduced from China to Japan about 2,400 to 2,500 years ago. Over 2000 year old prehistoric sites of rice fields have been discovered in several different locations in Japan. When ancient people began to grow the rice, the population grew dramatically and villages began to occur, the leader evolved, all the villages together created the foundation for the country of Japan.Growing rice required great teamwork, which developed cultural events such as celebrating harvest, protecting rice fields, dancing for the rain if there were droughts etc. The country of Japan evolved around rice farming. Japanese culture has also been created around rice farming. Therefore, Rice is part of the foundation of Japan and Japanese culture. By the seventh century it was firmly established as the staple food and has remained so until today.

Japanese cooking has developed around rice as the main food. Japanese people have developed a deep appreciation of the importance of rice and love of its delicate textures and flavours. There are several different kind of rice and a number of types of products such as Sake, Mirin, Vinegar and Miso have been created. Mainly Japanese people eat short grain rice. People began to eat white rice during the shogun period, the same time that Sushi was created as a way of preserving rice. Japanese ancestor’s rice is the wholegrain Brown rice.

It is fascinating to see how the country evolved around the food of rice. Therefore Japanese people have full respect of rice as a main food. Niiname-Sai, there is special ceremony demonstrated on behalf of Emperor to present fresh harvested brown rice to the Grand Shrine of Ise on November 23rd, This day became Thanksgiving day in Japan. The Emperor also enjoyed fresh harvested brown rice. Rice is deeply appreciated and respected as foundation of our life in Japan.

Its incredible how much the development of human cultures is linked with food. Farming is the most important way to get food in the ancient history and created farming culture in Japan. As an island country, a rich variety of seafood is available throughout the year. Meat was forbidden food according to Buddhism and Shintoism until the end of the Shogun period in the mid nineteenth century. Today meat has become popular and at the same time people are beginning to be concerned with consciousness of wellness, therefore many people are beginning to cut down their meat intake, as they are in the US.

During the World War II, My father was sent to China, and the hard battlefields of war and came home safe, I have no idea how he survived. It was a miracle. During the war my mother told me there was nothing to eat. My grandfather worked in a government office. She was a young woman, she would pack up her kimono and take an over-crowded train to visit farmer for exchange of the brown rice and sweet potato.

My father told me over and over again, don’t worry War will never happened again. He kept a water bottle, perhaps saved his life during the war, to remember the battle of the war. I was a little girl, and didn’t understand why such an old thing was so important to him.

After the war, Japan began to grow the rice again and developed special kind of rice to grow Northern Hokkaido Island to Southern Okinawa island to mountains, Rice can grow anywhere in Japan. That is how much the country of Japan respected Rice. As rice started to grow again, Japanese people were being nourished, and worked very hard to re-establish the entire nation. The Rest is history. Not only that but also Japan declare the Permanent Peace after the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Rice (Grain) symbolises the Peace in Japan and perhaps everywhere in the world. I am grateful that we have a variety of foods to enjoy cooking each and everyday. Cooking creates life. Foods nourish our body. What a great energy is in the grain of rice.

Farmers worked very hard to take good care of the rice from early spring to harvest of fall. The Sun energy, the Earth energy, the Water energy is condensed into the grain (as it is for vegetables and fruits) After the harvest, Rice is stored in a warehouse, packed, carried by the boat, train and truck to the store. It passes through so many people’s hands. All that energy is also condensed into the rice and foods we eat.

Then the final touch is in the cooking!

Put all your love energy into cooking. How fascinating it is! Cooking connects us with Nature. Wholegrain Rice creates Love and Peace.

Genmai (Brown rice)

Rice is the main staple of Japan and people are beginning to eat more Wholegrain Brown Rice. Short grain rice is mainly eaten in Japan. Genmai (Brown rice) retains bran and germ and only the husk is removed. It is the most nutritious rice and high in fibre, and very easy to cook with a pressure cooker. Brown rice has a nutty sweet flavour.

Cooking: Boil, pressure cooked, soup, sauté, salad, bake, deep-fried. As the staple food of Japan, rice is served in a different way for every meal. Rice is used as the main food with soup and other foods as side dishes.
Medicinal use
: energy source.
Spiritually
: to ground us.
A strong energy food.

Mochigome (Sweet Brown rice)

The short, opaque grain and glutinous rice is very sticky and sweet after it has cooked. It has a high sugar content. Cooked sweet brown rice can be pounded to make Mochi (rice cakes) and Senben (rice crackers). Sweet brown rice is the main ingredient to make Mirin and Amazake.

Foods for Children

Posted in articles on October 9th, 2009 by Kevin – Be the first to comment

Children are very active and are growing every day.
It is important to watch the level of salt you give.
And it is important to give them a variety of foods.
Wholegrain cereals are very important to eat every day.
I recommend cook from the grain, not processed or boxed cereal as much as possible.
Please watch out with fast food and junk foods, which creates too many problems.
Also be careful with food additives and white sugar.
And watch out how much snack food they eat.
If they eat too many snack foods they don’t eat main meal.
Be sure to have enough liquid such as spring water, fruit tea, fruit or vegetable juice.
When they eat healthy, they are well nourished, well grounded and well behaved.
They will play well with friends and study when they get older.
When children are well, parents are happy. It creates a win/win situation.
Simple home cooking maintains our wellbeing.
Home cooking creates our life.
When you cook for the family, you use less salt. Put some food aside for children before adding any salt.
Cut carrots in the shape of a flower and it creates a joyful dish.
Be aware of the coordination of color of vegetables, it is always balanced.
It is not necessary to use too many spices. It will affect the liver.
It is good to learn the sweetness of vegetables and cooked grains.
For grain add extra water to cook softer, it is easier for children to chew.
I recommend soaking the grains. It is much easier to cook and digest.
For vegetables cut into smaller bite size. It is easier to eat.
For noodle or pasta for small children cut in half. Easier to eat.
It is good to have condiments, nuts, dried fruits on the table.
Use natural sweet for cooking such as brown rice malt, barley malt and maple syrup.
Soy sauce – diluted with water half/half.
Bancha tea – diluted with hot water half/half. You can mix with apple juice half/half.
Barley tea – make a pot and give cool through the summer.
If your child is advised in a certain way of eating by a specialist, please follow their advice. Such as egg, yoghurt and goats milk etc.

General Information

Children are growing very fast and need to eat much wider than adults.

Foods to avoid (as much as possible)

White Sugar, Junk foods, Fast foods, Soda, Red meat, Chicken and Pork, Daily foods etc. White sugar creates all kind of problem to our body. White sugar weakens our teeth and bones. Also it could be the cause of obesity.

Junk foods, Fast foods: Just fills the stomach. In the long run it will create all kind of problems beginning with obesity. Too much salt, too many additives, low quality oil etc.

Soda: Too acidic and full of sugar. (One school teacher put baby tooth in the cola and it melted completely in a few months) It is very scary.

Red Meat: From a Macrobiotic point of view, it is too Yang. Children become wild. Look at the animal kingdom: Meat eating animals are wild. When people eat red meat, it creates an extreme inbalance and urge to drink soda and eat lots of white sugar, sweets, even alcohol. One day they reach for drugs. It all makes for extreme inbalance inside our body. No inner peace. Researchers say it takes four days to digest red meat. It blocks the flow of energy.

Chicken and Pork: Watch hormones they feed. Kids hormones became very active. Maybe there is a relationship with teenage pregnancy with the amount of chicken children eat.

Dairy foods: Milk is for baby cows.

Cheese: hard to discharge especially around lower body. You can tell people who love cheese have often got heavier lower bodies. It is very hard to discharge. It blocks the flow of the energy. We don’t want children to look heavy. We want to children to have a balanced body.

Ice cream: Become too sentimental. We don’t want crying children.

It may be very hard not to eat any of the foods above. But it is important to learn where to draw the line. They can eat with a wide variety. They love to eat junk foods with friends. Occasionally it’s OK too have fun. But watch out, and do not give them too much. If children want to eat chicken, be sure to get organic or free range. If they want to eat beef, It’s ok too for special occasion. But please do not give everyday. And keep an eye on quality. Always remember flexibility is name of the game. At the same time you need to watch what they eat. Otherwise stuff builds up in their body.

Recommended foods

Grains
Brown rice
Brown rice with aduki bean
Onigiri (rice ball)
Sushiroll, Hand roll sushi
Five taste rice
Fried rice
Ohagi
Risotto, Spanish rice

Other Grains
Oatmeal
Grits
Millet cake
Barley soup
Barley risotto

Soup
Miso soup (with different vegetables)
Bean soup such as Lentil soup, Orange Lentil soup, Kidney bean soup, Chickpea soup
Aduki bean soup (make sweet)
Seafood soup
Minestrone soup
Vegetable soup

Root Vegetables
Daikon, Carrot, Lotus root, Burdock root, Turnip, Beetroot, Yam etc

Green Vegetables
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery, Kale, Turnip green, Bok choy, Watercress, other leafy greens, Zucchini, Lettuce, Cucumber, Green Pepper, Onion etc

Sea Vegetables
Nori, Wakame, Hijiki, Arame, Dulse, Green Nori flakes,

Mushrooms

Round Vegetables
Onion, Squash, Pumpkin, Cabbage

Nightshade vegetables
Occasionally, not too much.
Potatoes, Tomatoes, but not Eggplant/Aubergine

Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan

Children love tofu anyway I cook it.
When you cook Seitan, be sure its not too salty.
Grilled tofu
Tofu burger
Agedashi Tofu
Stir fried tofu with vegetables
Tofu scrambled
Tofu soup
Marinated Tempeh
Deep fried Tempeh
Sweet and sour Tempeh
Seitan sukiyaki
Seitan fried
Marinated seitan

Seafood
Be sure to choose wild caught.

Noodles and Pasta
Children love noodles and pasta dishes. Udon noodle and Soba noodle has salt in it. If you make noodle soup be careful not to use too much soy sauce.
Pasta with red and white sauce
Pasta with vegetable sauce
Pasta with sea food
Pasta salad
Tofu lasagne
Tofu quiche

Condiments
Furikake condiments with very little sea salt
Toasted Sesame Seeds (no salt)
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Sunflower Seeds

Light meals, Sandwich and Snacks
Pancake (Blueberry pancake, Buckwheat pancake etc)
Waffle (Pecan waffle, Walnut waffle)
Mochi waffle
Okonomiyaki – Japanese pancake with vegetables
Fish sandwich
Seitan sandwich
Tempeh sandwich
Tofu sandwich
Hummus sandwich
Corn bread
Muffins
Oatmeal cookies
Dried nuts (no salt)
Dried fruits

Fresh Seasonal Fruits
Organic apples can be eaten with skin.
If it is not organic, please peel the skin.

Dessert
Homemade dessert made healthy.
No white sugar
No dairy products
No egg
Carrot cake
Banana bread
Strawberry shortcake
Blueberry shortcake
Apple pie
Pumpkin pie
Fruits Kanten

Tea and other drinks

You don’t have to use all of them, but it is good to have a variety.
Spring water
Bancha tea – if it is younger child, dirtied with hot water half/half.
Bancha tea and apple juice – mix bancha tea and apple juice half/half.
Barley tea – Make pot and serve in cool through the summer.
Fruit tea – non caffeine tea is good to serve cool in the summer.
Apple juice and Pear juice
Ameyu – 1tsp of brown rice malt mixed with cup of hot water.
Amazake
Fresh carrot juice
Rice milk
Soy milk
Oat milk
Almond milk