Cooking at Casa

I had a day off Friday from class, so I volunteered in the morning at Casa de Luz, Austin’s premiere (and possibly only) macrobiotic restaurant. Casa de Luz was how I heard about The Natural Epicurean culinary school, so in a large sense, it was very instrumental in my life! The food was so delicious and nourishing, and the space was so tranquil and enriching, that I had to know how I could learn those skills.

Volunteering at Casa means chopping veggies for three hours and at the end getting a free lunch (or dinner, if you volunteer in the afternoon). I figured it would be a good chance to practice higher volume chopping. I got what I bargained for there! And the meal was fabulous as usual.

Below: A pallet of fresh vegetables delivered to Casa that I noticed as I entered the restaurant.

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Below: Cauliflower that I chopped. I’m not sure where this ended up.

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The meal below is a great example of balance on a plate. To feel truly satisfied after a meal, one needs a balance of tastes and mouthfeel plus nutrients. Popcorn as a meal doesn’t work – it’s a simple flavor (buttery, salty) and one texture (crunchy/starchy) over and over again. Plus, it’s very light on nutritive elements. As a meal, it doesn’t work. Believe me, in desperation, I have tried.

This meal, however has warm and cool, crunchy and smooth, acid and neutral. It even has the slight sweetness of root vegetables and the saltiness to contrast against. In macrobiotics, overly sweet food is generally not suggested, but every plate has some element of sweetness to maintain balance. Japanese sweet potatoes are a great example of this that I’ve seen used at Casa de Luz. As for nutrients, this plate is loaded with carbs, protein, fiber, and an adequate amount of fat. If I had a choice between this plate and almost anything else, I would choose this. I might need a second helping, though.

Below: What a meal, and I helped make it! Blanched greens with a nut/seed sauce on top (just made a similar sauce in class called sun cheese, which is also used at Casa), short-grain brown rice, lentils with cilantro (amazing), pickled radish that I chopped, and steamed veggies.

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Below: I love the natural lighting at Casa de Luz. Maybe that’s where they got the name from!

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William Spear Macrobiotics Class (Part 1)

Living in Austin, TX, has it’s benefits: Cool people like William Spear come to talk about very interesting topics. Mr. Spear is a Feng Shui expert (he wrote a very well known book on the topic, Feng Shui Made Easy) and a long-time practitioner and counselor of macrobiotics. He is staying in Austin temporarily to work on some writing, and he decided to give a series of talks on macrobiotics while he is in town. The talks will occur at Casa de Luz, a terrific macrobiotic “restaurant” in Austin. I noted a few interesting tidbits that struck me from the talk (below the photo).

Below: William Spear explains Macrobiotics whilst I snap a surreptitious photograph.

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  • Chew your food a lot. Chewing alkalizes food, which reduces the load on your digestive system. He cited an expression “drink your food and chew your drink” which is to say “chew so much that your food becomes liquid.”
  • The lungs are an important organ for elimination of waste – CO2. The lungs are very active discharging carbon dioxide from 3:00 am and 5:00 am, which is why many people awake during those hours.
  • Good desire for food is a key benefit of the health you can achieve through macrobiotics. Healthy food will make you feel nourished. You will have desires for all normal things at healthy levels.
  • Your body’s organs have natural daily rhythms. Western medicine I beginning to take these rhythms into account when treating organs (administering treatment at certain times of day to maximize impact). Our hearts’ natural rhythms are least active around midnight, and this is not just because we are commonly sleeping – taking it easy is just what your heart “wants” to do at that time.
  • People urinate more in fall due to cooling temperatures. This aligns with macrobiotic principles of contraction/expansion, (although I am not quite sure how!).
  • You should be able to fall asleep shortly after getting into bed.
  • Your body doesn’t need as much food on a macrobiotic diet because your body uses it more efficiently. At first your body may be hungry on a macrobiotic diet, but that is because it is not used to drawing nutrients from food so efficiently. Most of our bodies are accustomed to working very hard for the scarce nutrients in our French fries and hamburgers, so we demand a larger quantity of food.
  • Most degenerative diseases occur not because of deficiency but because of excess.
  • Americans eat 2-3 times more protein than necessary.
  • We know that calcium in a high protein environment (e.g., milk) is not well absorbed. Cultures with lowest consumption of dairy have least osteoporosis. The “fact” that dairy is beneficial to your bones is a big lie perpetrated by the dairy industry.
  • There is no forbidden food in macrobiotics. (There is more to this point, but I don’t think I can do it justice. Basically, you want to shoot for eating in a certain way, but macrobiotics would not specifically prohibit any food, especially if it might be useful for your body and your particular situation.)

What do you think? Do these points make sense? If you attended the talk, what did you hear that you liked a lot?