Natural West of East

Macrobiotic & Vegetarian

Cooking in Your Home


The Standard Macrobiotic Diet

According to tradition in Macrobiotics, we eat in season so that the body can function optimally. In our culture, there are traditionally four seasons and we eat appropriately in each season. For instance, we eat more warming foods in the winter so we can tolerate the cold outside. In summer we eat more cooling foods so we can tolerate the heat outside. Eating tropical foods in the winter can cool the body, thus possibly compromising the immune system.

All around the world, traditional diets include locally grown vegetables and dried beans and whole grains. We want to eat foods that are traditionally grown in our areas. It is important to consider how far foods have to go to arrive at your doorstep.

In our climate, Macrobiotics divides the year into five seasons. Let's take a tour of the seasons:

Winter is the time to withdraw, deep into the hidden recesses of the earth and self. The foliage falls and the earth appears barren. It is the time to store energy and strengthen reserves. Buckwheat and beans, especially aduki, and sea salt, miso and tamari (soy sauce) nourish the kidneys and strengthen the blood. More fire is needed in Winter cooking. Stronger oil-sautéing, deep frying-and baking, pressure cooking and longer cooking are effective in maintaining strength and bodily warmth.

Spring is the renaissance of life. After a long Winter of storing energy, the earth releases its concentrated life-force, stimulated by the expanding warmth of the sun. Grasses unfold with the fresh taste of water. Spring brings us foods such as sprouts, wild onions, celery and scallions, mustard greens and mugwort, other young leafy greens, wakame, strawberries, green apples and green tea. Grains are also expanded, forming the double lobes of barley, wheat and rye. There are also fermented foods, such as sourdough steamed bread, brown rice and barley vinegars, tempeh and natto, sauerkraut and pickles. The cooking becomes lighter than the long cooking of Winter. As weather gets warmer, we can gradually use more greens than roots. Less oil-sautéing, more water-sautéing, boiling, and occasional steaming on hot days are appropriate.

Summer is the ripening of the year in all its fullness. The rising potential energy of adolescent Spring buds explodes into the bloom of realized maturity, blazoning their glory to the world. The wild, fresh, and sour Spring flavors ripen into a light and juicy sweetness, characterized by corn, sweet vegetables, and fruits. These are balanced by the strengthening bitterness of dark, leafy greens such as lettuce, watercress, chicory, bok choy, and dandelion-both the greens and the roots. The cooking becomes still lighter than cooking in the Spring. Less fire is needed, little to no oil, and less salt. Grains may be boiled or steamed and mixed with vegetables. Vegetables, too, can be quick-boiled or steamed.

Late Summer signals a subtle but palpable shift, between the high, hot energy of summer, and the cooler quiescence of Autumn. The days are hot, but the nights begin getting cooler. The harvested foods slowly shift from Summer's juicy offerings to the hardier fare of Autumn. It is a time of balance and abundance. Many foods are available and appropriate in Late Summer: all squashes, artichokes, beets, chard, collards, millet, onions, parsnips, peas, rutabagas, shiitake mushrooms, string beans, and sweet corn -just to name a few!

In Autumn the colors on the trees and bushes start to change. Leaves fall to the ground. It's time to rake all those leaves-I like to think of it as good natural exercise. There is still a wide variety of food. I personally love Autumn for all the choices I have in cooking. We still have some Summer and Late Summer foods, and the beginning of Autumn foods. There are corn, zucchini, and some summer fruits, winter squashes, turnips, onions, daikon, and collards.

In Autumn, I start to cook more warming foods-thicker soups, smaller grains, longer cooking methods. We use a little more oil and a little more salt, depending on one's health.


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