If the popular saying “you are what you eat” remains true, then whatever we put into our bodies directly affects our wellbeing – both short and long term – in more ways than we care to admit. And if you want to go down to the granular level of how what you put into your body affects it holistically, then we’re crossing into the realm of macrobiotic cuisine.
Developed by Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa, macrobiotic diets take a holistic approach to health and focus on using organic, local and seasonal produce. It tries to connect our diet to other aspects of our wellbeing such as exercise and meditation, and aims to reduce animal products.
While in Girona, I met Matthias Hespe who is trained in the theory and practice of macrobiotic cuisine and who keeps his finger on the pulse of culinary trends that globalization has introduced into our eating habits. With over 30 years experience, Matthias regularly runs cooking classes from his studio kitchen EspaiCuinarSa and he actively works on the theories behind why certain ingredients are used and various themes such as health, wellness, ecology, sustainability and happiness.
He opened his school in 2015 and since then, has been offering private healthy cooking classes, using ingredients from his own organic garden.
“You should always have a mixture of both cooked and raw food on your plate,” Matthias tells me as he looks through different jars of dried seaweed – kombu, arame, wakame. He goes on to tell me that I should use seaweed as often as I can because it helps fight stress and acidity in the body. Though he did caution against raw seaweed for people with hypersensitive thyroids.
When I was visiting Matthias, he was going to show me how to cook a vegetarian paella with vaporized integral rice, vegetables and smoked tofu. Dessert was going to be a modest polenta cake with fresh fruit as well as dried fruit and nuts.
I was extremely curious about macrobiotic cuisine and what it entailed. How adding certain ingredients or processes can change the entire gastronomy experience as well as improve one’s overall wellbeing.
For example, I have a salty palate and would always pick something salty over something sweet. Matthias told me that using salted crushed sesame seeds adds instant flavor instead of adding more salt to my meal.
On the subject of nuts.. Matthias said that dry toasting nuts without oil was excellent for digestion. I wanted to know more tips regarding which ingredients to use and their secret powers as well as any cooking intel he could share.
The best moment to add salt is when the water starts boiling, Matthias tells me. Use kuzu – a plant root – as a natural gluten-free thickener instead of flour. Cinnamon is good for diabetics and doesn’t allow sugar to be absorbed as quickly by the body. Miso and soy sauce help mineralize the body.
But as always, everything in moderation.
“Oh, and if you add a pinch of salt to fruit… they get sweeter,” Matthias adds before sprinkling salt into the bowl of diced fruit for our polenta cake.
By the time I left Matthias and EspaiCuinarSa, I’d taken a bag of cooking tips with me, guaranteed to make me feel better holistically by listening to my body and choosing the right ingredients to soothe, treat, comfort, and make it feel good.