Remembering Herman This Father’s Day
by Cynthia Briscoe
On Father’s Day, we honor the men in our lives who lifted us up when we fell and raised us with the hope we would grow to be strong, happy, resilient functioning adults. These values and more were centerpiece in Herman Aihara’s teaching, and for that reason I celebrate Herman this Father’s Day. Through his dedication, hard work, wise counsel and thought-provoking teaching style, he helped raise many of us “macrobiotically”. Generationally, Herman was a key link in carrying forward the lineage of macrobiotic teaching for future generations.
For those of you who spent time with Herman, I hope these words bring smiles of recognition to your face. For those of you who never met Herman, I hope these words bring smiles to your face as well and convey something of Herman’s teaching spirit.
The last evening of every two-week program at the Vega Study Center, Herman and his wife, Cornellia, made it a point to join students and staff for the farewell celebration dinner. Many students passed through the Vega doors and many asked the same questions. Even though a hundred different students had asked Herman the same question, he still enthusiastically launched into an explanation as if this was the first time someone had posed this most interesting question.
I don’t exactly remember the preceding conversation, probably some question about insomnia or kidney health. All I remember is Herman’s response: “Night time, I go Infinity. Morning time, I come back.”
Herman had this way of understating something profound. He could ‘haiku’ a complex thought in very few words. He also had a habit of wrapping the words in a space large enough to magnify the thought. His teaching style was not one to aggressively launch into any immediate extrapolations. He would simply unmoor some dirigible thought and give it ample time to float around freely, watching to see where it might travel.
During this silent intermission, Herman passed his attention around the dinner table as generously as the food. Each person’s eyes were a destination along the way as his gaze travelled around the table, his eyes inextricably lit like a smile tickled free from some child within.
Next, he would typically lean back, peering skyward into some far off place like a fisherman who had cast his line and hooked a star. Then he would reel that thought back in and repeat the same question: “Night time, I go Infinity. Morning time, I come back.”
Sometimes, a brave soul would offer his or her reflection on his statement. Whatever the response, Herman considered it “veery inter-resting.” Even if it the response was way off the mark, he would simply say, “Aah. You think so?”
Revisiting that evening dinner and reflecting on it, Herman”s words still inspire me years later. I set forth these notions as an ongoing student with the caveat being that there is no solitary “correct” interpretation. I love it that Herman’s idea is still alive in its movement and evolution. So please carry your own thoughts forward.
At night, when we pull down the shades on our windows, we also pull down the shades on our active daytime mind. When we sleep, our minds rest in the infinite field of conscious vibration letting rest the waking consciousness of everyday living in the relative world – the world of me and mine, everyday worries, the concerns and doubts born of the bifurcate world.
At night, we lie in bed flat, receiving greater charge from the heavenly bodies. Our kidneys recharge. Our organs’ functions in general slow down to rest, cleanse and repair. Our discerning brains take a rest from daytime problem solving and logic. We exist more closely to our universal state of non-differentiation.
As the sun rises, so do we. We stand up vertically like a pole. This position inherently creates a greater polarized charge. The greater the polarization, the greater movement between two poles, stimulating activity. Consequentially, we are more physically active during the day. Our brain is more activated as well. We function more so from our ego state as a separate human entity rather than collectively.
Just to give a visual analogy, think of a vial filled with oil and water. Oil and water separate. In a vertical position, the demarcation of oil and water is very apparent. In a horizontal position, the oil and water separation is not as noticeable.
In the illustration to the left, the yellow and blue are the same in square area pixel size, both in the vertical and horizontal representations.
The Macrobiotic Guiding Principle is based upon the interplay of opposites. This interplay on a large scale originates from the influx of cosmic waves moving toward our planet, interacting dynamically with the energetic force spiraling outward from the earth’s rotation. Mixing up this energy in differing proportions of expanded and contracted energy waves gives rise to all phenomena as more dense physical form as well as non-physical form such as thoughts and feelings – indeed the whole playfulness of creation and consciousness.
This exquisite notion of playful awareness perhaps best describes Herman’s countenance when he posed thoughts or questions. His smile transmitted a child’s wonderment at the playful miracle that we even exist. His eyebrows would lift higher on his forehead like the tops of two question marks facing off with eyes completing the dots.
No doubt Herman resides in the infinite world
. Perhaps now though, he leans forward gazing from Infinity to this finite world, bemused and still smiling. I like to think he still enjoys fishing, casting a line of thought in our direction. I’m certain that he comes to visit now and again in the minds of his students where his poignant questions and sage humor still live. He visits particularly when one is needing counsel. Or when one is searching for a guiding principle larger than oneself, or maybe just exploring the next bend in the river. I feel that little tug and smile.
“Life is veery inter-resting. You think so?”
“Peach-boshi” – Making Umeboshi with Peaches? (Part 1)
by Cynthia Briscoe
The peach is my all-time favorite fruit. I’m sure this is the result of childhood memories of climbing the peach tree with my Missouri farm cousin and picking only the ripest, juiciest, red-cheekiest, sun-warm peaches right off the tree. We delighted in the heavenly stickiness dripping from our mouths and down our elbows as it stuck a day’s worth of summer play dirt to our shirts. To even think of picking peaches while still hard and green would never have entered my mind back then. But recently I spied small green peaches lacing the boughs of an abandoned peach tree. Valiantly, the tree had survived neglect and drought and yet still generously offered the kindness of fruit. Undersized from lack of water, at first I thought the small green fruits might be unripe apricots
. But no, the apricots had already come and gone.
I remembered Mr. Muramoto, author of ‘Healing Ourselves’ had creatively substituted apricots, for lack of ume, and created what he called “apri-boshi”. “Hmm…why not try green peaches?” I thought. And so this experiment has begun.
Dandelion Oily Miso
beneficial to the liver and gall bladder, builds red blood cells
4 cups dandelion greens chopped into 1/4 inch piece
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon barley miso
Wash dandelion, drain and cut into small pieces. Separate roots and greens if using the whole plant.
2. Warm oil in a heavy skillet.
3. Add dandelion roots first, then greens. Sauté the roots first until golden, then add the chopped greens, cooking until the color turns bright green.
4. Add miso on top of dandelion green. Stir with a spoon or chopstick, breaking up miso into smaller sections until it melts into the dandelion.
5. Shut off flame and place in a small serving bowl.
6. Serve a rounded teaspoon on top of rice cream porridge or other grain.
I was so very fortunate to have worked closely with Cornellia Aihara for eight years, managing the Vega Study Center kitchen, training staff, resident students and teaching cooking classes. Cornellia was a firm believer in making her own macrobiotic staples. We made Vega’s own miso, shoyu (natural soysauce), umeboshi, umeboshi vinegar, mochi, rice bran pickles, takuan, seitan and many other items. Sometimes students would question her, “Cornellia, why don’t you just buy these foods?” In her unique Japanese/American manner of speaking, she would say, “What if boat doesn’t come?” I reflected on those simple words when the tsunami disaster hit Japan. Only Cornellia and Mr
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. Muramoto taught students in America how to make their own shoyu. Especially, when students stayed for a while at Vega and ate these products, then they understood the value in terms of health and flavor.
Cornellia was always very proud of her accomplished shoyu, miso and pickles – wanting to share them with everyone. I savoured the flavors, but more importantly, the unique opportunity of learning the art of making these traditional foods. I knew of no American macrobiotic teachers who taught making these foods, so I happily engaged myself as a link between Cornellia, a first generation macrobiotic teacher, and future generations of students. Now, I’d like to share this knowlege with you.
For myself, I enjoy making these products. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment and even security. I know exactly the quality of the ingredients and how it is made. I can save money and still enjoy these wonderful and delicious products without breaking the bank. Some of these items, like miso, or mochi can be made in larger amounts with friends, extended family, groups or neighbors and shared. Producing our own food, as a community, for well-being and sustainability is a special human experience most of us no longer know within today’s social structure. The modern hurry-up lifestyle removes us from a deep connection to our food, leaving it to the chain of manufacturers-shippers-middlemen-marketers.
In my upcoming June 6-10 “Make Your Own Home Crafted Foods”course in Oroville, CA, you can learn to make many of your own special home-crafted foods, and then return home to establish a deeper sense of community with family, friends, and local support groups. You simply can’t compare the quality and flavor of these homemade foods to anything that can be store-bought. They’re sustainable, economical, ecological, practical, fun and incomparably delicious!
Please come join me for this 5-day, hands-on cooking intensive and let me share with you what I learned from Cornellia. REGISTRATION & MORE INFORMATION
Lemony Apple Pudding
3 cups organic applesauce
1 cup organic apple juice
3 Tablespoons kuzu
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup currants
1/3 cup roasted and coarsely chopped almonds