Our understanding of the energy of food and eating in harmony with the changing seasons is a sacred pathway for our health and well being. Our developing consciousness is our greatest asset as we determine which foods and which season of the year will best cleanse and purify us.
I believe it is through the understanding of the macrobiotic philosophy that reveals the spring season as the optimal time for cleansing as well as which foods are most purifying and cleansing to us.
In the last 2,000 years, Catholics and Christians used Lent, (during the time period from Ash Wednesday in April to Easter in May), as a time for purifying. This was a disciplined mandatory event, in which one was supposed to “give up” or sacrifice something in the form of fasting.
Based upon my study of Macrobiotics, a 5,000 year old philosophy about the natural order of the universe, I believe I found a reason for this tradition. I believe this fasting, purifying period came about naturally because of the scarcity of food during the spring season. Ages ago, we harvested what we could in the fall, (September, October, November), ate our bounty throughout the winter, (December, January, February,) and by springtime, (March, April, May), we were mostly out of food. It was natural then to fast until greens started to sprout again.
Macrobiotics is the study of the order of the universe as an endless vibrational energy of infinity manifested as yin and yang. When applied to the changing seasons, the macrobiotic philosophy can be illustrated as a circle of five (5) transformations as follows.
The above figure shows the ever-changing cycle of the extreme contracting yang force of winter, to the upward yin energy of spring, to the extreme expanding yin force of summer, to the beginning downward yang energy of late summer, and to the downward yang energy of fall.
Springtime is an upward energy providing a natural time of cleansing. It is the time of the year when people have more colds, flues and allergies as the body naturally tries to cleanse itself. I suggest allowing this cleansing process to take its natural course. I believe that suppressing it with drugs not only makes lots of money for doctors and pharmaceutical companies, but also deprives the body of a natural healing, eventually resulting in a worsened condition.
The liver and gallbladder in our bodies are the organs most strongly influenced by the upward spring energies. If one were to superimpose the circle of five (5) transformations onto the human body, the liver and gall bladder, which are just under the right rib cage, would be represented by the upward spring energy located at the upper portion of the circle.
We often hear of liver cleansing and liver purifying. This is easily accomplished by eating lots of sprouts and greens, which are most beneficial. You take in the energy of the sprouting plants, a manifestation of the rising energy of the earth in the springtime, and you will purify.
The purification process involves cleaning the fatty, oily, and heavy stagnant foods of winter from our bodies. Feelings of short temperedness and anger during the winter are signs of an imbalance of the liver. Frequent complaining are signs of an imbalance of the gall bladder. We are generally stiffer and move less. Even though we need the extra fat for insulation against the cold in winter, we do not need the excess. Excess usually gets stored in the liver, usually in the form of toxins, manifesting psychologically as anger and a short temper. In health, the liver is strong and vital, manifesting as patience and endurance. As we cleanse in spring with the energy of food such as dandelions, chives and scallions, we rid the body of the unwanted fats, toxins and compacted or contracted foods. Springtime is a beginning time for activation, for movement of the life force called “chi”, “ki” or “prana.”
The following predominantly upward earth energy foods help to release the stagnation we experience during the winter season and to enhance the activation needed during the spring season:
• Grains planted in late fall and harvested in the spring, such as soft spring wheat or barley, are energetically beneficial.
• Sour foods or naturally fermented foods that break down and decompose through bacteria are in effect taking advantage of the earth's rising energy and can thereby give us more vitality. These include foods like sauerkraut, quick pickled vegetables, rice vinegar and umeboshi plum.
• Newly formed greens like watercress and especially the tops of mustard greens, lamb's quarters, dandelion greens and daikon greens are vibrant in the spring. Definitely such energetic plants are beneficial.
• Sprouts, such as mung beans, alfalfa sprouts and broccoli sprouts, have a rising energy which helps us to cleanse.
• Seaweeds flowing upward in the inter-tidal pool, such as wakame and dulse, not only give us various macro and micro trace elements but also terrific flexibility.
• Sweeteners such as Maple Syrup produced from the upward movement of sap in the maple trees is best during the springtime.
As for Cooking: Light cooking, Sautéing, Blanching or Quick Boiling of leafy green vegetables with sprouts is the way to go in the spring. Try these beneficial dishes.
Nabe Cooking: This dish is always a hit as a part of our ongoing Friday Night Dinners. In a decorative Japanese ceramic or metal Nabe pot or plain old large pot with a cover, add the following:
2 –3 cups of fresh water,
A 4 inch piece of wakame seaweed,
4 chopped-up shitake mushrooms
A good dash of Nama Shoyu, a quality soy sauce.
Note: To keep the liquid in the pot hot, use a small butane burner stove.
Now chop thinly or leave whole 5- 6 of any the following foods:
Flowers of broccoli
Flowers of cauliflower
Mung Bean Sprouts
Julienne sliced Carrots
Small slivers of Napa
Green Head Cabbage
Small Cubes of Tofu
Thinly sliced Squash Etc. etc.
Very fine slices of seitan
Arrange these on a large platter with thongs or chopsticks for dinner friends to use as they dip the choice foods into the Nabe Pot of boiling hot broth. You can't get anything more freshly cooked! A terrific vitality will be received from the freshness of the upward food and the rising energy of the steam.
What a combination!
Serve with a Grain Medley:
Rinse and soak overnight 1/3-cup sweet rice, 1/3-cup whole-wheat berries, and 1/3-cup whole barley.
Place the 1-cup of grains and 2 cups of water in a pressure cooker. Add a pinch of Celtic Sea Salt. Cover with the pressure cooker top. Over a medium-high flame, bring to pressure.
Allow to simmer for 30 – 40 minutes.
Release pressure or allow pressure to come down slowly.
Serve piping hot with scallions or chives.
NOTE: Start the grain medley first and then go to cut the vegetables for the Nabe Cooking.
Enjoy this refreshing spring dish anytime!
For a Quick Breakfast dish, try this:
Scrambled Tofu with Pan Toasted Dulse and Quickly Pickled Greens:
First, finely chop one cup of Napa , one cup of bok choy, one cup of collard greens, and grate a carrot. “Sweat” them in a crock by kneading with 4 tablespoons of Celtic Sea Salt. Place a dish and a weighty object on top so as to press the vegetables. Set aside.
Crumble and toast dulse in a skillet. This takes about 2 minutes.
In the same hot skillet, add olive oil and finely chopped scallions or a sweet vadalia onion with chives or dill. Sauté thirty (30) seconds and then add a block of tofu squeezed through your fingers.
Stir quickly like scrambled eggs.
Serve all three immediately.
David Snieckus is a graduate of the world-renowned Kushi Institute, and has been practicing Macrobiotics since 1977. His passion is to share his knowledge and experience and invoke self-awareness in others so that they may experience optimum health and happiness.
For information on Macrobiotic consultations, cooking classes, catering services (including for retreats), community dinners, and "David's Take-Out", contact David at (617) 964-2951 or firstname.lastname@example.org