Friday, July 25, 2008

"Sultry Subcontinental Night"

This is one of those very specific nights when I feel so lucky to live in diverse, multicultural, and colorful Honolulu. On the last Friday of every month, The Academy of Arts puts on an event called ARTafterDARK where they open up the galleries and magically transform the entire museum, including all the courtyards and gardens, according to that month's theme. Tonight was "So Sari" (Indian). There were rose petals and marigolds all over the entire museum including floating in enourmous Asian style ceramic pots, flickering candles to light the city night, breezy gauzy tapestries that fluttered gently in the tropical breeze to partition off gardens and create a romantic atmosphere. They had an "open air street market" with henna artists, Indian snacks, jewelry, clothing and even some absolutely hilarious Indian God action figures like Hanuman all beefed up and ready to rumble. In another courtyard they offered Indian food (too much eggplant for me though), and the definite highlight was a Bhangra DJ from New York. People from all walks of life were getting in on the dancing, from infants to senior citizens, and I mean really getting into the groove!! Everyone was completely friendly, dressed to the nines, glowing, smiling and happy tonight. Yep, LUCKY I LIVE HAWAII.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Backyard Gardening Again

Each weekend over the last few weeks, I've gotten to play in the dirt with a pick, shovel, and rake. It feels fantastic to work hard and sweat this way, working the earth.

I have to say, it was amazing to take the compost that I made (complete with all my cute wiggly earthworms) and pour it into the ground, and to then see the land come back to life. After adding the compost, the soil had a richer smell, was softer, moister, fluffier, and had a more vibrant color.

In went the lettuce and cilantro last week, and after just a few days, their little tender heads appeared.

Meanwhile, the beans, radish, kabocha, marigolds and daikon are all growing like crazy!! The carrots are on their own slower time schedule, but they are definitely healthy and vibrant. It's wonderful to eat breakfast, gaze outside, and see all the green life popping up. Great way to start the day.

In different parts of the garden, my expert gardener friend built "frog doors" so that the frogs could hop right in to eat up all the slugs. There's even a "frog house" so some happy and lucky frogs can take up residence around the lettuce. It's a ceramic pot turned on its side and placed in a cozy corner.... Once the lettuce grows in, I'm sure we'll get a resident or two.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Potluck gang

potluck gang
Originally uploaded by macro808

Building community around a healthy diet and lifestyle is something I feel is paramount to enjoying life. When I lived in Japan, I initially felt very isolated, but when I met all of the fellow students at Macrobi Garden, I felt so much more at home in a foreign country. We may have spoken two different native languages, but we certainly shared the language of macrobiotics.

My goal has been to bring that camaraderie back to Honolulu.

We often have potlucks, thanks to Ruth, who opens up her home to all of us. This photo was from one of the various evenings that we enjoyed together.

To my right was a visitor from Japan who happened to be in town at that time, so I invited her along. If anyone is coming into town, get ahold of me to see if there are any events going on! We love to get groups of people together and enjoy the food everyone prepares.

I also encourage other people to start similar communities. It can take time to build one, but it's worth it. Even in one's own country, it can be isolating to be the only person who babbles on about "yin and yang". People who don't get it think that's kinda freaky. So if you have friends to share it with, the world doesn't seem so unfriendly!!

Teaching at massage school

teaching at massage school
Originally uploaded by macro808
Every three months or so I head to Kailua to teach at the American Institute of Massage Therapy, Hawaii. I spend the day cooking a typical vegan macrobiotic seasonal organic meal for the students, and then talk to them about what macrobiotics is all about. This was one of the groups - there are a few other people scattered about the room or on the floor who are not visible. It's always fun to go there! Thanks to Elizabeth Reveley who invited me to be a part of their faculty.

Brief History of Sugar

I picked up the book Sugar Blues again recently by William Dufty as I was preparing for teaching a dessert class. The points in the book were a good reminder for me to consider not only the health implications, but also the political implications of sugar. The following information below outlines some of the points I felt were very noteworthy in the history of sugar refining, marketing, and consumption. One of the overall health effects of sugar is that while it can relax you, it makes you feel weak.


Pre-sugar humans enjoyed chestnuts, almonds, pistachios, apples, figs, grapes, olives, mulberries, barley, wheat, rye, millet, cucumbers, melon, carob, mint, onion, anise (fennel), garlic, leeks, lentils, mustard, milk, honey, and a wide variety of other whole foods that were grown locally, in season, and had a natural sweetness to them.

No ancient texts mention having sugar. When it does finally show up in historical documents, it’s in the form of sugar cane. It is most likely from India rare, imported, and expensive and traditionally used as medicine.

Around 325 BC, Greek and Roman soldiers are first reported to have chewed sugar cane. Persia is the first known country to process it around 600 AD. The Persians started trading it and then Islam overran Persia. It’s thought that the Arab armies started indulging in its sedative and tranquilizing properties and that this consumption may have contributed to their downfall. Soldiers chew the sugar cane, are reported to have “soldier’s disease” and become gluttonous and less courageous. They experience bleeding gums, hemorrhagic skin spots, and swollen legs.

Arabia falls to the European Crusaders. From this time, the 7 deadly sins flourish across the 7 seas. Slavery, genocide, and organized crime are directly related to sugar processing, trade, and sales. Illnesses such as the plague, beri beri, cancer, scurvy, and other unusual diseases parallel sugar consumption. As sugar consumption goes up, fatal diseases increase.

In the 1500’s, the Dutch and other Europeans finance palaces and sugar fuels politics. The British control the islands where molasses and rum are first made. White people make fortunes in taxes and tariffs.

In 1812, Napoleon’s army takes sugar rations. The French army who had never seen sugar before defeat Napoleon.

In 1905, Japan fights Russia. The Japanese carry salted fish, dried seaweed, pickled and umeboshi plums. Russia falls to the Japanese. The Japanese adopt habits of the western world and fall prey to new diseases.

The sugar business was the model for other agribusiness conglomerates that were to follow decades later. It has a low cost, everyone can use it, it’s supported by the government, and it’s mainly marketed towards children.

The processing of sugar follows the same trail as the opium poppy. It has habit forming sensory pleasures just as heroin, opium, and alcohol.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

sunrise in waianae with tractor in foreground


Everyone deserves great abundance, energy, health, happiness, and well-being, and one of the easiest ways to bring more of this into your life is through the healing power of whole foods.

Leslie Ashburn has been a passionately dedicated vegan macrobiotic personal chef and cooking teacher for the past 5 years and in the food service business for over 20 years. She cooks for weddings; busy professionals such as artists, lawyers, and doctors; tourists; people dealing with significant illnesses such as cancer; surfers; small groups of people; dinner parties and special events; massage students; families; on boats; the Honolulu community at large through her bi-monthly dinners; healing seminars with the local living treasure Dr. Terry Shintani; and more.

Leslie's style of cooking, along with her customers, is colorful, diverse, dynamic, creative, and sophisticated.

She can help you eat right in the comfort of your own home, and if you want to be a better cook, she can teach you how. She'll help you create menu plans, unclutter your kitchen and your life, navigate the health food store, and trouble shoot anything you're facing as an obstacle to achieving greater health and happiness. You'll enjoy a variety of foods you probably always wondered how to cook, vibrant local organic produce straight from the farm to your kitchen, as well as the benefits of eating a whole foods diet, including better sleep, stable moods, more energy, improved concentration and mental focus, less PMS, fewer cravings, and the alleviation of many other troublesome physical symptoms.


“Leslie is an amazing person and an amazing chef. Everything she prepares is infused with her passion and her heart, and because of that, her food is created at a level beyond the ordinary, making it truly extraordinary.

In learning from her through classes, as well as eating her delicious food consistently over the years, I have embraced a new consciousness about macrobiotic food. I feel nourished, alive and balanced after one of Leslie's meals. She is always working with a smile on her face and in her heart and her food takes on that very same quality. I smile after each meal that she prepares for me, as I know it is such a treat for my body, mind and spirit.

In addition, Leslie is conscious, connected, inspiring and confident in who she is which brings forth that very same energy into my life through her food. Anytime I know I can partake of a macrobiotic meal that is prepared by Leslie, I will never miss that opportunity. She is that awesome.” Alice Inoue, Astrologer and Feng Shui Expert

“Four years ago, I made the time for macrobiotics to achieve a better state of health for myself and went on this journey where I met Leslie. I took a few classes from her and learned how the macrobiotic diet can be more than the basic foods that I was exposed to in the '80s. The food was very tasty and varied. The kabocha salad is one of my all time favorites!! I appreciate Leslie’s variety of recipes as well as her expertise in cooking. She has such a positive energy and always is reliable and dependable in helping me to be healthy eating the macro way. I have had her cook for me at least a couple of times a month and have participated in her twice a month dinners. If you are looking for a healthier lifestyle, then macrobiotics is the way to go and Leslie can help you get there through her cooking. Happy Eating!!!!” AS

“I wanted to let you know I planned a little dinner party for my husband’s birthday celebration last night and all the dishes were very very yummy. The sweet corn soup was very refreshing, the lentil / barley salad (served cold) went very well with the walnut pesto pasta. And, I made the prune cake! Turned out delicious. Thank you so much. I felt like you were right there with me in the kitchen and I was able to take my time and enjoy the shopping, cooking, preparing and dining process. I'll look forward to your next class. Thank YOU!” AM

see for more information

Today's meals


Miso soup with root vegetables
Organic steamed collard greens
Brown rice with hato mugi


Fuji apple


Azuki beans with squash, kombu, and ginger
Brown rice with hato mugi
Pressed salad
Sea palm with tahini sauce


Kabocha salad
Bulghur wheat
Arame cooked in black cherry juice


Backyard Gardening

The other fun thing I did besides pounding poi this weekend (see post just below) was to get all sweaty digging up the yard outside my house. My landlords had a bed of chives that were just suffering with aphids no matter what they did to get rid of them. My friend and I helped them tear everything up. We did what we could to first tear the chives up with picks, and then we got on our hands and knees to pull up all the roots. We took shovels and dug down a few inches to break up the soil which was like compacted clay, finding cute earth worms along the way.

It was very satisfying to pour my compost that I've been working on for the past 6 months into this pile of dirt and mix it all up. The pile of dirt went from looking sort of grey and dead to brown and vibrant.

Earlier during the weekend, while I was standing in a drug store in Wai'anae looking for a graduation card with my friend, I suddenly, out of the blue, blurted out "I HAVE WORMS" referring to the worms in my compost bin. The lady standing next to us jumped a mile back and ran away.... Oops.... I guess it was sort of out of context, but I couldn't help feeling so excited about it!

We have all kinds of plans to plant organic vegetables in there, like daikon, carrots, lacinato kale, lettuce, green onions, radishes and more.

DR pounding poi

DR pounding poi
Originally uploaded by macro808
This weekend I went out to Wai'anae for a graduation party and had the opportunity to pound taro (kalo) into poi for the first time in my life. You can see my friend Dan here pounding the boiled root in a wooden container with a hand carved lava rock. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to pound it until it's fully ready to eat. During this time, you get into a rhythm of breathing. Listening to the sound of the pounder hitting the kalo and the wood is very meditative. When it's ready to eat, the root is a purpleish brown color, somewhat sticky, and is so sweet and delicious. This was a great way to enjoy a locally grown, seasonal, organic food that was prepared according to traditional methods and a wonderful experience of Hawaiian culture.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Look at this lettuce

romaine lettuce
Originally uploaded by macro808
I'm so in love with this photo. Look how colorful that lettuce is. The people out at Ma'o Organic Farms sure are doing a fantastic job growing the most wonderful organic veges.

Rock Star Breakfast Again

Originally uploaded by macro808
Today was another luscious and lifegiving bowl of amaranth and quinoa topped with flax oil and juice sweetened dried cranberries. On the side was some blanched locally grown organic collard greens, carrots, and sauerkraut. My body is singing in thanks and ready for the day.