Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Alternate Routes

Sunday night's macrobiotic dinner (see menu and shopping info on May 14 blog) was a success, for more reasons than just the healthy food. Through my research, I learned that macrobiotic food needs to be cooked and served in natural containers (glass, ceramic, wood, etc.). As well, it should be cooked according to the season you're in (e.g., boiled or raw for summer) and the microwave should be avoided. Although I've decided I will never be a hard-core adherent to the macrobiotic diet, I can see the merit in so much of its recommendations, especially the avoidance of plastics.

As I looked around my kitchen for suitable containers for serving the dinner and ultimately storing the leftovers, I realized just how much plastic is in our lives. This article at the Ecology Center summarizes the range of plastic materials and its purported effects on humans: "Adverse Health Effects of Plastic". My husband and I feel we are avoiding long-term health problems by not drinking Delaware's tap water, but here I sit staring at a 5 gallon plastic jug of Wissahickon mountain spring water sitting on our cooler. What am I trading for what?

I'm trying to be extra-conscious now of what is in my home environment, and--gall-durn-it--there are loads of plastic toys in this house. This will take some thinking about, especially as I shop and make decisions about adding more unnatural things to our lives.

Macrobiotic living, I have found, involves creating and then maintaining a yin-yang balance in one's life in order to stay healthy and live consciously. It was developed by a Japanese fellow, and can be in tune with Buddhist principles. However, it is my conclusion that I don't need to follow the diet strictly to benefit from it. Basically, it espouses that eating things in their most "whole" state is the most healthful. For example, white sugar, white flour, and white rice are eschewed in favor of barley malt syrup, whole wheat flour, and brown rice. I predict that no nutritionist would quibble with the above assertion; it just seems common sense now that we know what we know about what processing does to foods.

Since the diet is Japanese in origin, many of the recommended flavorings are traditional Japanese condiments, such as miso, shoyu, gomashio, and umeboshi plums. BUT, the philosophy of the diet is to eat locally and in season, and goodness knows that no one makes umeboshi plums 'round Delaware, much less ferments natural soy sauces. So, I'm thinking that the basic idea behind the diet is sound, but the ingredient list is a bit too "out of town" for me. I plan to collect more whole food ingredients from the U.S., and hopefully from the mid-Atlantic, as I find the money and the time. We already have signed up for another year with a fairly local CSA to provide us with organic produce and dairy every Wednesday (starts tomorrow--hooray!). The brown rice syrup sweetener I bought from our health food store around the corner is made in northern California by Lunberg Family Farms, but I do not know of a closer supplier of that natural sweetener. I'm not sure what the macrobiotic take on honey is, but that is made near and far. I would also think that pure maple syrup would be acceptable as a natural sweetener, and I know I can get some from makers more local than CA.

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