“What has a beginning has an end.”
– Ohsawa, The Seven Principles of the Infinite Universe
It makes me sad to write this post, as I’m now back in New York and no longer surrounded by the lush and scenic Berkshire Mountains. I left with the sky a sapphire blue, fall leaves with glints of gold and amber, a half-melted vanilla Rice Dream ice cream in hand and with a lot of memories, inspiration, and new friendships. The reality today is a sky of tepid gray, a smokier air and a crazy energy that keeps this city alive. But it’s good to be home.
Going back and forth between country and city is like abandoning a certain flavor for a month and then indulging in a tiny spoonful and letting it melt in your mouth slowly. You can taste every detail; a detail perhaps before you once rushed over. And though it doesn’t have the nectary beauty of a fall’s peak, the city’s spicy edge is endearing in its own way. I’m sure it will be the same when I return to Becket in the future.
Dessert goddess and chef extraordinaire Zara June left me with a goodbye present of macro oatmeal cookies, nestled in a little brown paper box. How sweet is she? Zara also has a wonderful blog I recommend checking out called The Macro Muse and posts her personal recipes.
With that said, I hope all of you try something new today, let it melt slowly, and enjoy.
I was introduced to Yukiko Sato, better know as the Berkshire Vegan, the minute I bit into her cashew cream vanilla cake. Turns out this talented vegan/macro lass has her own catering business and offers classes around the general vicinity. I’ve personally been inspired by vegan desserts and dairy alternatives in cooking and baking, Yukiko clearly has it down. You go girl!
First off, where did you get that recipe for that cake? Was it a recipe you improvised from the book you were mentioning or did you alter it? Everyone at Kushi Institute was raving about how delicious it was!
Thank you! Sweet and Natural by Meredith McCarty is the book. The book gives some leeway as to what sweetener or milk substitute you use but it’s pretty much based on the recipe. I like to use half maple syrup and half brown rice syrup for sweetener. If you use only rice syrup, the cake tends to get dense and heavy and if you use only maple syrup, the taste is a bit overpowering.
Yukiko’s scrumptious vanilla cakes
So, what got you in the kitchen in the first place? And what inspired you to become vegan/macrobiotic?
I always loved cooking when I was a little kid. My mom’s a good cook and used to bake a lot. Soon I kind of took over when I was young. I’ve been health conscious and became interested in making healthy desserts. In the beginning, I would make really dense and heavy tasteless desserts and made my mom say, “I like it better with butter and sugar and heavy cream.” Taking some macrobiotic dessert classes in Tokyo inspired me and that made me want to learn about macrobiotics.
What’s inspiring you these days?
What’s your motto when you start making delicious creations like the vanilla cakes we consumed that evening?
To have a clear vision of what I want to make, taste wise and presentation wise. I like to be organized so I can proceed in a calm manner.
What’s the most essential ingredient you use in macro/vegan cooking and why?
Love! I really believe energy you put in food makes a lot of difference.
What knife brand do you use?
NHS, the one that the Kushi Store carries.
Actually, what are other must-have kitchen weapons that any macrobiotic ninjas must own? Any recommended brands?
Good blender (I love Vita-Mix). I know too much creaminess is not so good but it’s important to be able to make something that has a creamy/comforting mouth-feel especially if you are cooking for someone that’s just transitioning to macrobiotics. Stainless steel cookware, wooden spoons and a rubber spatula (my favorite kitchen tool!) are important, I think.
What music do you rock out to while cooking?
Depends on my mood that day. Sometimes jazz, sometimes rock. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Hawaiian music.
Anything on your bookshelf that you love?
I have too many books that I love. Christina Pirello, Jessica Porter, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. A lot of times I don’t strictly follow recipes but like to flip through cookbooks to get ideas. The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld is a good one if you want to make something nice and fancy. Simple Treats by Ellen Abraham has a lot of nice cookie recipes.
You have the whole day off. Where do you go to chill out?
I like hanging out at health food stores or kitchen specialty stores to check out new products and gadgets. Or bookstores to flip through cookbooks.
What’s your 9 Star Ki?
I’m a 3 tree. Yep, creative and organized but wishy washy!
For any cheese fanatics, Yukiko left me with a quick and simple recipe of hers. She recommends to eyeball the proportions if the measurements are off.
BERKSHIRE VEGAN’S PASTA WITH CASHEW CHEESY SAUCE
1/2 cup cashews
1 cup water
1 tbs sweet miso
2 tsp ume paste
2 tbs nutritional yeast
Little bit of onion powder and garlic powder
Blend everything until smooth in a blender and heat up in a saucepan. Throw in some cooked pasta and veggies you like (peas, cooked broccoli, onions, etc.), add salt if necessary, crack some black pepper and serve.
“Pay full attention to your work in preparing the meal; attend to every aspect yourself so that it may turn out well. When washing the rice, remove any sand you find. Keep a sharp eye on everything, so as not to waste even a single grain. When you prepare your food, never view the ingredients from some commonly held perspective, nor think about them only with your emotions. Maintain an attitude that tries to build great temples from ordinary greens. Handle even a single leaf in such a way that it manifests the body of Buddha. This is a power which you cannot grasp with your rational mind. It operate freely according to the situation, in the most natural way. Of old it was said, ‘When steaming rice, treat the pot as one’s own head; when rinsing the rice, know that the water is one’s own lifeblood.'”
– Dogen Zenji, 12th century
One of the most important things I’ve learned about cooking for a community is understanding the overall needs of what people want. The temperature of Becket is dropping daily, elderly and youth are running around in fleece and scarves. Perhaps some are sleeping restlessly. The job of a chef is to see this and compose a balanced meal to fit the overall mood. Today seemed to be something a little warmer, fried, oilier. Maybe this was the wish of our head chef – to tuck us into our beds a little earlier or take off a layer before yoga class. In any case, the crisp, vegetable-filled tempura and sweet potato soup and beans most certainly hit the spot.
Vegetable tempura. The last ode to summer’s harvest, as seen in our weekly veggie shipment every Tuesday.
Rice garnished with nori and black/tan gomasio.
Been very busy in the kitchen, especially with the arrival of new students this week. I’ve been lucky enough to squeeze a few classes in, which I will definitely share more of in some upcoming posts. In the meantime, here are a few more meal shots, including a hijiki salad (with carrots and shiitake) and a rice and bean dish with squash, sweet potato and brussel sprouts.
I’ve been enjoying the idea of macrobiotic sauces, derived from seeds (the meal above uses sunflower seeds). I drizzled some over my kale that day, but on other days I put some over my grains.
Becket Beach, a lake nearby that actually has sand.
My roommates and I have also been borrowing a few books from the library. I’ve been reading The Order of the Universe by George Ohsawa and skimming a few other cookbooks.
The book list as of this week also includes:
Zen and the Fine Art of Cooking, by Jon Sandifer
Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide To Macrobiotic Cooking, by Aveline Kushi
The Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook, by Aveline Kushi and Wendy Esko
The Kushi library has a lot of interesting items from the 70s and 80s. Vintage macrobiotic material is readily available, as we are able to borrow items such as cassette and VHS tapes. The other day, my roommate and I unsuccessfully borrowed a rather dull video on the Lundberg Farms and growing rice, filmed in the 80s. Perhaps we will luck out tomorrow with another video, with young Ohsawa talking about the benefits of legumes.
Welcome to Kushi Kitchen! Here’s a day in the life in making today’s lunch. As usual, I started off with assisting with the preparation of veggies, spent an hour and change scrubbing the floor…
helping to make a pressed salad of thinly-sliced apples and scallions….
(Just add a rock on the top of the bowl and let it sit!)
watching the Shaun make tempura (half whole wheat and regular flour or cornmeal for those who cannot stomach the former)…
observing how to make dashi (today we used leftover veggies and kombu)…
helping wheelbarrow out the compost…
(check out our cute compost pile!)
helping to put the spread on the table….
ringing the lunch bell…
That’s it for today. Bye for now!