Every couple of months, Dr. Terry Shintani (author of The Good Carb Revolution and Eat More, Weight Less) does a Healing Seminar for people in Honolulu, Hawaii. Approximately 30 people typically register for each program. They show up on a Saturday, the first day of their program, for a 12-hour long day of cooking demonstrations, lectures, chi gong, and whole foods meals. Since they have medical conditions, they are all medically monitored. The next 9 days of the program are not quite as intense, but they do have more lectures and we consistently prepare meals for them. For the most part, these people have been eating a standard American diet for their entire lives, and in many cases, it shows. Seminar after seminar, the participants are dealing with obesity, auto-immune disorders, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, and diabetes, including other lifestyle related diseases. They somewhat go into shock with everything they are being taught, and despite this, they are courageous and persevere, but not without some humor (where’s the pizza? where’s the salt, sugar, pork, shrimp, beef?!!). They were all very curious about what quinoa was. Why did it have those snake-like tails in it? What was it? HOW DO YOU SAY THAT AGAIN? HOW IS IT SPELLED!!!! Last night when I cooked for them, they were on day 5 of their program, and some of them had already lost 10 pounds, their blood sugar levels dropped by half. They were starting to come around, and their taste buds actually coming back to life after years of being bombarded with overdoses of sugar, salt, and other additives. By the end of the 10 days, for many of them, their lives have been altered forever, equipped with the knowledge of how to prevent many common illnesses and to maintain strong health with the power of food.
When I was growing up, we had a very rustic cabin, with a woodburning cast iron stove to cook in and heat hot water for doing dishes, no electricity, a root cellar to store fruits and vegetables in, and we got spring water from a fresh water spring nearby. We chopped wood, carried water, and bathed in the lake. This lifestyle is no longer possible in the area we had our cabin, due to different factors, but we still are able to go there and enjoy the incredible natural landscape and natural living lifestyle. Here’s a photo of our outdoor shower that looks up into the treetops. It’s a revelation to have warm showers instead of dunking in the icy cold lake.
to see how cool and handy these are!
Wednesday night I returned from about 9 glorious days cut off from the world in the wild and wooly mountains of Northern Idaho where I saw moose, deer, hawks, chipmunks, and other wildlife, plus the very colorful human inhabitants! Luckily there were no bear or cougars to be seen, though they are an accepted part of the landscape. I woke to see this gorgeous view each morning, though the photo hardly does the area any justice! The water was super refreshing.
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At the beginning of the month, I went to the Hawaii State Farm Fair on the Bishop Museum grounds, where they had an open air farmer’s market, games and rides for kids, animals like pigs, ponies, sheep, and chickens for the young people’s 4-H projects, and a huge tent filled with exotic tropical plants for sale. There were several I had never seen before, such as this wonderful example in the photo. I can’t recall the name, but there were several similar to this one in pink, white, and yellow. Amazing!!
For whatever reason, Monsanto was there at the event, after just purchasing thousands of acres of land on the North Shore, and it was frustrating to see them there. I had to walk away from their tent before I started spouting angry words. My friend spoke to them, however, and they had well-scripted BS answers to his questions about organic farming.
The 4-H projects reminded me of how I grew up in a rural part of the mainland US. The smells of hay and sounds of animals were comforting. Watching the newborn baby chicks popping out of their shells and the older ones scurrying around was very sweet.
This is one of those very specific nights when I feel so lucky to live in diverse, multicultural, and colorful Honolulu. On the last Friday of every month, The Academy of Arts puts on an event called ARTafterDARK where they open up the galleries and magically transform the entire museum, including all the courtyards and gardens, according to that month’s theme. Tonight was “So Sari” (Indian). There were rose petals and marigolds all over the entire museum including floating in enourmous Asian style ceramic pots, flickering candles to light the city night, breezy gauzy tapestries that fluttered gently in the tropical breeze to partition off gardens and create a romantic atmosphere. They had an “open air street market” with henna artists, Indian snacks, jewelry, clothing and even some absolutely hilarious Indian God action figures like Hanuman all beefed up and ready to rumble. In another courtyard they offered Indian food (too much eggplant for me though), and the definite highlight was a Bhangra DJ from New York. People from all walks of life were getting in on the dancing, from infants to senior citizens, and I mean really getting into the groove!! Everyone was completely friendly, dressed to the nines, glowing, smiling and happy tonight. Yep, LUCKY I LIVE HAWAII.
Each weekend over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten to play in the dirt with a pick, shovel, and rake. It feels fantastic to work hard and sweat this way, working the earth.
I have to say, it was amazing to take the compost that I made (complete with all my cute wiggly earthworms) and pour it into the ground, and to then see the land come back to life. After adding the compost, the soil had a richer smell, was softer, moister, fluffier, and had a more vibrant color.
In went the lettuce and cilantro last week, and after just a few days, their little tender heads appeared.
Meanwhile, the beans, radish, kabocha, marigolds and daikon are all growing like crazy!! The carrots are on their own slower time schedule, but they are definitely healthy and vibrant. It’s wonderful to eat breakfast, gaze outside, and see all the green life popping up. Great way to start the day.
In different parts of the garden, my expert gardener friend built “frog doors” so that the frogs could hop right in to eat up all the slugs. There’s even a “frog house” so some happy and lucky frogs can take up residence around the lettuce. It’s a ceramic pot turned on its side and placed in a cozy corner…. Once the lettuce grows in, I’m sure we’ll get a resident or two.
Building community around a healthy diet and lifestyle is something I feel is paramount to enjoying life. When I lived in Japan, I initially felt very isolated, but when I met all of the fellow students at Macrobi Garden, I felt so much more at home in a foreign country. We may have spoken two different native languages, but we certainly shared the language of macrobiotics.
My goal has been to bring that camaraderie back to Honolulu.
We often have potlucks, thanks to Ruth, who opens up her home to all of us. This photo was from one of the various evenings that we enjoyed together.
To my right was a visitor from Japan who happened to be in town at that time, so I invited her along. If anyone is coming into town, get ahold of me to see if there are any events going on! We love to get groups of people together and enjoy the food everyone prepares.
I also encourage other people to start similar communities. It can take time to build one, but it’s worth it. Even in one’s own country, it can be isolating to be the only person who babbles on about “yin and yang”. People who don’t get it think that’s kinda freaky. So if you have friends to share it with, the world doesn’t seem so unfriendly!!
Every three months or so I head to Kailua to teach at the American Institute of Massage Therapy, Hawaii. I spend the day cooking a typical vegan macrobiotic seasonal organic meal for the students, and then talk to them about what macrobiotics is all about. This was one of the groups – there are a few other people scattered about the room or on the floor who are not visible. It’s always fun to go there! Thanks to Elizabeth Reveley who invited me to be a part of their faculty.
I picked up the book Sugar Blues again recently by William Dufty as I was preparing for teaching a dessert class. The points in the book were a good reminder for me to consider not only the health implications, but also the political implications of sugar. The following information below outlines some of the points I felt were very noteworthy in the history of sugar refining, marketing, and consumption. One of the overall health effects of sugar is that while it can relax you, it makes you feel weak.
Pre-sugar humans enjoyed chestnuts, almonds, pistachios, apples, figs, grapes, olives, mulberries, barley, wheat, rye, millet, cucumbers, melon, carob, mint, onion, anise (fennel), garlic, leeks, lentils, mustard, milk, honey, and a wide variety of other whole foods that were grown locally, in season, and had a natural sweetness to them.
No ancient texts mention having sugar. When it does finally show up in historical documents, it’s in the form of sugar cane. It is most likely from India rare, imported, and expensive and traditionally used as medicine.
Around 325 BC, Greek and Roman soldiers are first reported to have chewed sugar cane. Persia is the first known country to process it around 600 AD. The Persians started trading it and then Islam overran Persia. It’s thought that the Arab armies started indulging in its sedative and tranquilizing properties and that this consumption may have contributed to their downfall. Soldiers chew the sugar cane, are reported to have “soldier’s disease” and become gluttonous and less courageous. They experience bleeding gums, hemorrhagic skin spots, and swollen legs.
Arabia falls to the European Crusaders. From this time, the 7 deadly sins flourish across the 7 seas. Slavery, genocide, and organized crime are directly related to sugar processing, trade, and sales. Illnesses such as the plague, beri beri, cancer, scurvy, and other unusual diseases parallel sugar consumption. As sugar consumption goes up, fatal diseases increase.
In the 1500’s, the Dutch and other Europeans finance palaces and sugar fuels politics. The British control the islands where molasses and rum are first made. White people make fortunes in taxes and tariffs.
In 1812, Napoleon’s army takes sugar rations. The French army who had never seen sugar before defeat Napoleon.
In 1905, Japan fights Russia. The Japanese carry salted fish, dried seaweed, pickled and umeboshi plums. Russia falls to the Japanese. The Japanese adopt habits of the western world and fall prey to new diseases.
The sugar business was the model for other agribusiness conglomerates that were to follow decades later. It has a low cost, everyone can use it, it’s supported by the government, and it’s mainly marketed towards children.
The processing of sugar follows the same trail as the opium poppy. It has habit forming sensory pleasures just as heroin, opium, and alcohol.