Holy Moly

February 2nd, 2011

I have had a serious case of blogstipation.  My worst yet. 

You see, I went to Israel in December and had one of the best times of my life.  Between the landscape, the history, the people  and the classes I taught , it was an incredibly rich and layered experience. 

Hence, the blogstipation.  There is just too much to say. 

So, after ruminating on the topic for a while now, I have decided to distill the Israel experience down to its most meaningful element and the one that has lingered the longest; friendship.

I was invited to Israel by two friends, Sheldon and Ginat Rice .  They are both American Jews who moved back to the Holy Land and currently live in Jerusalem.  They are also both macrobiotic; Sheldon got into it over 20 years ago in order to dissolve a tumor discovered in his abdomen, and Ginat had stumbled upon macrobiotics in her early 20s… being a groovy, hip chick… and even ran a macro restaurant in Boston in the '80s. 15 years ago, Sheldon, being single after a long first marriage, and father to three daughters, held a macro potluck at his home in Jersalem.  Ginat showed up and the rest is history.  He proposed within a month !

Together Ginat and Sheldon have helped nurture a small but vital macrobiotic community in their area.  They work under the name of The Rice House and for years they have given lectures, classes and held potlucks.  Recently, they've decided to start importing teachers from the rest of the world… Michael Rossoff  had been over to give consulations and lectures… Christina Pirello  had a cooking class tour… and last spring, on the Taste of Health Cruise  (coming up soon on Feb. 27th–JOIN US!), Ginat and Sheldon invited me to be the next to come to Israel.  I was overjoyed at the invitation and extremely excited about the trip.

For the next nine months, Sheldon and Ginat went into preparation mode.  They are both extremely detail-oriented people and Ginat even signed a recent email "The Ginorganizer" .  Together we figured out topics for the classes, recipes and did some press to get the word out, but behind the scenes, S and G handled everything else.  Not being much of a Jessorganizer, I will be forever grateful to them for that.

I arrived in early December and had a couple of days to just hang out, see some sites and get over the jetlag.  I camped out in their guest bedroom.  Now it's all very well to be a guest in someone's home for a weekend, or maybe 4 or 5 days maximum, but Ginat, Sheldon and I co-existed very happily and peacefully for SIXTEEN DAYS!  And not only did we share space, we managed to pack, shlep and set-up equipment and food for 12 different cooking classes (some of them at great distances), followed by the breaking down, schlepping back and putting away of said equipment after each class.  And, honest to God, we laughed throughout most of it.  

To what do I attribute this peace and general jolliness?  You guessed it: The Food.  Of course, Sheldon, Ginat and I are all basically good people; none of us is hysterical, histrionic, evil or insane.  Well, okay, maybe insane, but who isn't?  But even amongst good people, there are edges that get rubbed, buttons that get pushed and darkness tends to emerge.  But two important factors were in play here:  First, we had all eaten macrobiotically for a number of years.  This means that really old emotional sludge has been addressed or even eradicated.  In a very real way, the energy we were bringing to one another was quite clean.  Second, we ate well while we were together.  Sheldon was in charge of breakfast, Ginat Ginorganized lunch and I generally taught a cooking class which became dinner.  So as we moved through the stresses of co-habitation, work and play, our blood sugar remained level and we floated on a wave of wellbeing together .  When issues did arise, we each had a stable self to reflect upon and respond from.  There was no slinging mud .  Well, most days.   We were careful and kind. 

(By the way, Michio Kushi refers to all macrobiotic people as "friends".  When I first heard that, I considered it sort of kooky and hippy-ish, but it actually points at a very real truth; by eating natural foods, we begin to vibrate together in a peaceful, joyous way.) 

It was from this lovely, loving platform that we could–like three giggling children–enjoy our experiences.  The classes went really well (there is a recipe below).  Ginat and Sheldon made sure to show me lots of Israel, like the Negev desert , The Dead Sea , Old Jerusalem , The Sea of Gallilee , and Tel Aviv .  In those sixteen days, I also had the luck to meet all three of Sheldon's beautiful daughters… each a unique and powerful spirit.  While we traveled in the car, passing camels  and Bedouin neighborhoods , we discussed politics, religion, and history.  Neither Sheldon nor Ginat ever shyed away from some of my difficult questions, both of them attempting to answer them from a unified, macrobiotic perspective.  More on the politics next week…

There were so many layers of this trip, and I will continue to blog about it at least once more… but I wanted to begin with this simple, lovely layer of relationship.  I was amazed and delighted by the glue that arose between the three of us… the affection and caring that presented itself… I know that in those sixteen days, I secured friends for life. 

Recipe (adapted from Meg Wolff's new book A Life in Balance):

Sweet Potato and Arame Salad with Asian-Style Tartar Sauce

2 large sweet potatoes

2 parsnips

2 T olive oil

pinch of sea salt

black pepper

1 cup dry arame, reconstituted

1 T shoyu

1 T mirin

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

salad greens, such as arugula or watercress, to serve

toasted sesame seeds


Tartar sauce

½ cup vegan mayonnaise

1 T minced pickled ginger

½ teaspoon wasabi paste

1 small shallot, finely minced

1 tsp ume vinegar

2 T minced cilantro

big squeeze of lime juice


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Peel the sweet potato and parsnips and cut into bite-sized chunks. Steam the chunks for about 5 minutes, until they just start to soften up (you can do this in a steamer basket set over boiling water of by simmering in a small amount of water).

In the meantime, pour the olive oil onto a baking tray and let it heat up in the oven.  Transfer the potato and parsnip chunks to the over-warmed tray and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.  Toss to coat the vegetables evenly with the oil.  Put on top shelf of oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until they’re tender when pricked with a fork.

While the veggies are baking, prepare the arame and tartar sauce.  Measure out the arame dry, then soak in a bowl with enough water to cover for 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain and simmer the arame in about ¼ cup of the soaking water—drizzle with the shoyu and mirin while cooking.  After about 10 minutes, turn the heat up a bit to cook off any excess liquid and drizzle with the toasted sesame oil.  Mix together all the tartar sauce ingredients.

To serve, arrange the salad greens on plates or a serving platter, and top with the arame and sweet potato mixture.  Add a big dollop of the tartar sauce and sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top.

Variations:  You can use other veggies such as sweet squash or pumpkin, in place of the sweet potato.  You could also add corn, zucchini, or other vegetables. 

If you don’t like the tartar sauce too spicy, omit the wasabi.  Instead, add other ingredients like minced capers, chives, parsley, or minced dill pickle.

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