Brown Rice for Macrobiotic Beginners

Adrianne, my mother, Grandad Richard Dennie 94 with Grandma Betty Dennie 94.
Adrianne, my mother, Grandad Richard Dennie 94 with Grandma Betty Dennie 94.

Macrobiotics is Great for Anyone

But is it great for everyone? No, not really, especially if you don’t have interest in denying yourself the pleasures of eating whatever you feel like.

What happens when you turn macrobiotic? You give up meat, dairy, sugar, white flour, all processed foods, and even resist the temptation to eat fruits and vegetables grown in far away climates and out of season.

Expect a growling stomach the first time you pass an ice cream cart and reach into you pocket for the apple slices you packed from home. Expect rolled eyes and looks of dismay-possibly being hit with a frying pan for refusing your mother’s food that she slaved away to prepare for you–not knowing you were on a serious mission to eat healthier than she does.

It’s hard enough to get your parents to love you after you turn macrobiotic. For me in Japan, turning macrobiotic just days before I met my Tokyo in-laws for the first time could have been the beginning of the end of our relationship.

But since my in-laws-to-be were already used to their son Aki’s macrobiotic diet, they were generous in respecting me as an accomplice and not a challenger who had come to wreak havoc around the dinner table.

Excerpt from The Wagamama Bride: A Memoir in Progresa

The sweet things in life often start off as treats of the rich coveted by the rest of us, and how over time inventors find ways to make these enticements that we don’t necessarily need available to us all.

It happens over and over again, until what is coveted loses its value.

I’m trying to make sense of what happened with Aki’s grandfather’s invention, the rice polishing machine. With its development and mass marketing, Japan went from milling white rice via a water wheel to a small machine no bigger than a TV console.

So it’s not that Japanese weren’t eating white rice. They were, but this made the polishing process much faster and cheaper.

Aki was feeding his grandfather brown rice porridge about the time we met. He was brainwashed, he said, to believe that macrobiotics could cure anything, even his grandfather’s stroke.

So here’s Aki when I meet him at the clinic proposing to come over to my house not for a lesson in the history of white rice in his nation but in order to teach me how to handle a pressure cooker safely and accurately enough to make brown rice that didn’t stick or burn onto the bottom of the pressure cooker. No small feat, making brown rice, that looks appetising and tastes as good as birthday cake—Aki tells me. He says that brown rice cooked to perfection is sweet and most delicious.

Macrobiotics is a Family Affair

Macrobiotics for the Wagamama Bride was no simple matter because I wasn’t just adopting a diet against the collective common sense of a nutrition starved, post-War Japan mindset that continues to this day. But I was up against the family who prided themselves on inventing the modern day rice polishing machine that led to the near extinction in Japan of brown rice consumption–until macrobiotic founder George Ohsawa declared war on white rice over 50 years ago.

My grandfather Dick in England had a quaint expression he’d used whenever my grandmother Betty would challenge his thinking. Chaque un a sont gout — to each his own– he’d say with a little grin. He just would not let someone else’s divergent opinion bother him. And I think that unconsciously, we chose to give the people we love little uncomfortable pricks, to challenge their belief systems in order to become acquainted with what we really are ready to fight for.

We are what we eat, and we become who we eat with

Was macrobiotics worth the fight? No, my in-laws decided from the start. And around a tension-free dining table, I came to learn that it’s not just what we eat but who we share our food in peace with that nourishes us.

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