Michio Kushi Dies at Age 88




Sadly, I’ve received news that  Michio Kushi died in Boston on December 28th, at age 88.  Those of you familiar with macrobiotics or the history of the natural foods movement in America, will surely have heard of Mr. Kushi. Beginning in the 1960’s, he was a leading advocate and teacher of a way of eating which was then controversial but now has become almost mainstream.  Back in the early 1970’s, when I first encountered macrobiotics, little had been written, and what little there was came mostly from Michio. So, although I didn’t always agree with his teachings, he certainly influenced my life in ways I may not have yet even realized.

Living far from Boston, the center of his teaching, my association with Michio and the Kushi Institute was at a distance. I’ve heard him lecture a few times, and once had the privilege of meeting with him at the family home in Brookline, Mass.  Although it was nearly 30 years ago, I remember that day vividly. On a chilly Sunday afternoon in January, Michio invited 8-10 gay men to have what turned into an hours-long discussion of how macrobiotics could impact the then rapidly-growing AIDS epidemic. I will always appreciate how Michio gave of his time and hospitality that day.   I should note that he had been working with AIDS patients for several years by that time, even in the early days when many feared that the disease could be spread by casual contact. For his courage in advocating early on for AIDS patients, I salute him.

The New York Times obituary is here:


Photo: via Wikipedia

Wellness: Celebrating Longevity and My Mother’s 90th Birthday



Perhaps it’s only a sign that I’m getting older, but I’ve been thinking more and more about longevity. It’s not so much that I fear death (although who of us can say we don’t fear it at all?), as it is that I’d kind of like to know how the remaining years of my life will unfold. I accept that few of us can know the future, but wouldn’t it be good to have a positive vision for the final decades of our lives?

So often, old age is seen only as a time of decline, depression and loneliness. Call me a pollyanna if you like, but that’s not how I plan to spend my final years. Yesterday, I read a story about the death of Dr. Leila Denmark at age 114, a remarkable life span. But what really caught my attention was this detail in her obituary: she was a pediatrician who kept office hours five days a week into her 103rd year. And recently I’ve been dipping into John Robbins’ study of some of the world’s healthiest and longest-lived peoples, Healthy At 100. It’s an important book wherein Robbins brings together scientific studies of communities where people live much longer and healthier than most of us, and I’ll have more to say about it in a later post.

Today however, I want to salute longevity much closer to home: that of my own mother. I’ve just returned from a quick trip too Minnesota where my family celebrated my mother’s 90th birthday. It was a great occasion, not only because of my mother’s age, but because she continues to be so alive. Although my mother’s health isn’t perfect,


Photos: Top– my mother at home last fall. Above–celebrating her 90th with eight great grandchildren.


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Wellness: Health Depends Not Only on Eating Well, But Also Digesting Well


Bob Ligon practices Traditional Chinese Medicine in Akron, Ohio and does counseling and life coaching by phone.



Editor’s Note: On this blog we talk a lot about what foods to eat and how to prepare them, not so much about how food is transformed by our body into the blood and the energy which fuels our lives.  Some time ago Bob Ligon, a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine talked to our Monday night dinner group about how to improve our digestion.  It was such an interesting talk that I asked him to put it in a form which I could post. And here it is. Bob practices in Akron, Ohio, but is available for counseling by phone: 330-696-3385. The outline of his talk and his full bio appear after the jump… Continue reading

Do I Dare to Eat a Peach? (Judging When It’s Most Important to Buy Organic)


Onions, even conventionally grown, are among the lowest in pesticide residues.



In a perfect world we would all eat 100 per cent organically-grown food all the time.  Also, all marriages would be blissful, world peace would break out, and pigs would fly. O.K., I dream. In our less-than-perfect world, some of us can’t afford organic produce all the time, and for others, it just isn’t available. So, the question becomes, “Which produce is it most important to buy organic, and which (in a pinch) is it safest to purchase commercially?”

Leaving aside all the other reasons to buy organic, let’s for now consider only the issue of pesticide residues.  These are monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Testing Program, and every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit which studies food safety among other issues, reviews those reports and releases lists of foods with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residues. They’ve found that onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mangos, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potato and honey dew melon are lowest in residues. Whereas those highest in residues include: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale/collards, potatoes, and imported grapes (more on how these lists are compiled here).

Of course, commercial agricultural interests claim that these residues are harmless, whereas in most cases, harm or lack thereof has yet to be fully proven. Even the EWG says that eating commercially-grown produce is better for our health than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. Still, to me it is common sense to minimize our intake of chemicals by eating organically-grown produce as much as possible and when that’s not possible, to choose from the list of produce with the fewest residues. Finally, you might ask, will washing or peeling make these fruits and vegetables relatively safer?  The answer is no, because the tests are made on produce in the form it is most frequently eaten (i.e., washed or peeled).


Commercially grown peaches are frequently high in pesticide residues.

Macrobiotics: Mary Morgan’s Healing Thanksgiving Day Feast


Perfect squash being prepared for the steamer.

Note: Blog contributor Mary Morgan, who is currently working in New York City, decided to a take her Thanksgiving break in the lovely, but-chilly-this-time-of-year seacoast town of Camden, Maine.  Feeling under the weather with a cold, Mary spent Thanksgiving day in, resting and recuperating. Hungry when she woke up, and drawing on her long experience in the preparation of healing food, she made this meal for herself in a friend’s beautiful kitchen.  Having rested and eaten well, she felt better on Friday, and much better in time to celebrate her birthday on Saturday! Here, in her own pictures and words, is what Mary made for her quiet Thanksgiving of recovery.

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French Meadows: You’re Never too Young or too Old to Come to Summer Camp

Lunch at French Meadows Summer Camp, Paul Schmitt, author of this post, is the dude in the straw hat. (photo by Gerard Lum)

Every summer for decades, folks have been gathering for ten days in the clean air of the Sierras to enjoy nature, each other’s company, to learn useful skills for a happy life and to eat delicious, simple, organic, vegetarian food, cooked in recent years by Susanne Jensen and Packy Conway.  This year’s camp takes place from July 17-26th. Regular camper, Paul Schmitt tells us why he loves this camp and why he attends every year:

Summer has arrived. and with it, a host of kids camps. for this. that. AND the other.

me, i’m going to camp too. macrobiotic summer camp. in the mountains. all ages. pine trees. worth marveling at. boulders, appropriately taken for granite. a cold stream, often heard, not seen. and people. all kinds of people. hanging out. eating. cooking. walking. talking. oh, the talking. candor. in the clear mountain air. think of it. Continue reading

Well-Known Lecturer and Acupuncturist Comes to Palo Alto


Michael Rossoff/ photo by Gerard Lum

For more than 35 years Michael Rossoff has lectured, taught macrobiotics, practiced acupuncture and helped hundreds restore themselves to health.  This coming Monday, April 19th he will be with us to discuss how both ancient wisdom and modern insights contribute to our understanding of health. Based in Asheville, N.C., Michael travels and teaches widely and only rarely comes to the Bay Area.  In addition to his talk, he will be available for private consultations by appointment (call Ken Becker at 650-366 4285). Click here for complete information on how to attend Michael’s lecture and the Monday Night Dinner. The dinners begin at 6:30 p.m. and the lecture at 8 p.m. and you are completely welcome to come to the lecture even if you don’t attend the dinner.

T. Colin Campbell Stars in Film Set for Summer Release

Above:  T. Colin Campbell (left) with Dr. Junshi Chen, Senior Research Professor at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, in a still photo from “Forks Over Knives.”


While it won’t vie with “Avatar” as most popular movie of the year, “Forks Over Knives,” a documentary film set for summer release, probably has a more important message.  The film features, among a dozen others, T. Colin Campbell, a well-known nutrition researcher who has spoken to our Monday night dinner group in Palo Alto and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the Cleveland Clinic.  The message, and a welcome one as far as I’m concerned: “eat your veggies and stay healthy.” Learn more about the film here. Watch the trailer here.

Julia Ferré Brings Energy for Healing to Palo Alto

Julia Ferré (right) making seitan at the French Meadows Summer Camp

Julia Ferré will bring the wisdom of her work with energy and healing to the Monday night dinner in Palo Alto on February 22nd.  Julia talks about what participants can expect:
“I was introduced to group healing in a 15-week Qi Gong class. We sat in a circle and took turns being in the middle, on the receiving end of Qi Gong energy as it was transferred from other members. At the first class, I was curious amidst a group of doubters. By the last class, I was energized among a group of eager participants. Continue reading

Are Vegetarian and Vegan Diets Healthy for Kids?


Those of us who adhere to non-mainstream diets haven’t gotten much love from dietitians and nutritionists, but that may be changing. Marion Nestle, writing in this past Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, says “…I wouldn’t worry at all about vegetarian diets for adults or for kids. Such diets have loads of what’s good for health and a lot less of what is not so good.” Her advice to parents rearing vegan kids: supplement vitamin B12, and be sure the kids get enough calories. Other than that, she endorses vegan diets for kids as well. Read the full article here.

Nestle’s mainstream credibility is impeccable. She is the author of “Food Politics,” “Safe Food” and “What to Eat,” and is a professor in the nutrition, food studies and public health department at New York University.