Remembering Aveline

July 23rd, 2010


I love that macrobiotics has a long, rich history, full of great characters.  Much, much more than a diet, macrobiotics has a whole community of people who have devoted their lives' work to spreading the word of healthy, whole foods and the personal transformations contained therein.  Nice use of "therein" eh?

Aveline Kushi was a pioneer .  She left her hometown, and then native Japan to come to America.  It was after Japan's whole identity had been decimated by the A-bomb.  She had gone to study with George Ohsawa and he had encouraged her to go to America and teach with Michio Kushi, with the dream of creating one peaceful world .  She came over here in the early 1950s and they created a life together–with Aveline at the helm in the kitchen –teaching the power of food. 

Michio and Aveline had their hands in the importation of tofu , futons , acupuncture  and the cultivation of organic foods .  Aveline's cookbook is a macrobiotic bible .  Some of their early students include Dr. Dean Ornish , Gloria Swanson  and John & Yoko .  Their influence traces back to the beginnings of the health food movement.  LOOOONG before health food was cool. 

Aveline passed away 9 years ago this month.  Every year since her death, a number of people have received the Aveline Kushi Award here at the Summer Conference.  It goes to people who have shown the same spirit and commitment to this work.  This year it went to Masao Miyaji and his wife Evelyne, who started Masao's kitchen in the Boston area .  It is a restaurant that has served macrobiotic-quality food for many, many years. 

Other recipients included Francisco (Chico) Varatojo  and his wife Eugenia, who started the Macrobiotic Center in Lisbon, Portugal. 

Patricio Garcia de Parades, who I remember as the hottest guy at the Kushi Institute 17 years ago (BUT I CAN'T FIND A PICTURE OF HIM ON THE INTERNET!!! ARGH!), also won the award for his lifetime of service which has culminated in his running of the Kushi Institute of Japan. 

And finally, Dr. Martha Cottrell, the coolest 81 year old I've ever met.  She should have gotten it just for cutting rug on the dance floor, but she's also brought her medical training and experience to bear on the last three decades of her macrobiotic practice.  She was instrumental in bringing macrobiotic food and studying its amazing effects on a group of HIV/AIDS sufferers in the early '80s.  When people just weren't doing that stuff. 

I didn't know Aveline that well.  I met her after she had gotten sick and I remember her humility around that.  She said "Yin and yang… lifetime study".  She was utterly gracious and grateful for all the care she received–macro and medical.  Although people were reverent towards her, she was utterly playful, even insisting on performing a kimono striptease  every year at the conference talent show.  That is sorely missed.  She had the teensy body of a hummingbird and the spirit of a proud, beautiful, lion

My last conversation with Aveline took place in Boston, over the phone.  I was calling to find out if I could stay at the Kushi House that night, having landed in the city sort of by accident.  I had been reading the novel Memoirs of a Geisha which described what I imagined was the Japan she had grown up in.  I told her about the book, the culture of the geishas… how amazing Japan seemed to be… how it made me think of her.  She listened politely.  She took it all in.  And with perfect comic timing, she said:  "Ahhh… so nice… you become geisha?" 

Aveline was a riot. 

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