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Pressure-Cooking In Question?
by Florence Wenker and Harold Kulungian

(The following article, by Florence Wenker and Harold Kulungian, is translated from NON CREDO: JOURNAL MACROBIOTIQUE, No. 5, May-June 2000, published by Gerard and Florence Wenker, Planche Superieure 35, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland, tel. and fax: +4126 322 25 48, email: flo.ge.wenker@mcnet.ch Website: http://www.lamacrobiotique.com Translator: Harold Kulungian. Bracketed material has been added by the translator.)

Everything changes in life. That is one of the laws of the Order of the Universe. The Macrobiotic movement as a whole is not immune to this rule. But to begin with, we present a little history.

A Little History

The practice of Macrobiotics began during the 1950s in Europe under the aegis of Georges Ohsawa. Much later, "ZEN MACROBIOTICS" by the same Georges Ohsawa (Ed. Vrin) appeared in libraries. For several years this was the only book for taking the first steps in Macrobiotic cooking. The results were effective but not always very tasty.

During the 1970s, Michio Kushi entered upon the scene in the United States. One of his priorities was to "redeem Macrobiotics", as his followers maintained. One of the first recommendations of Michio Kushi was to cut back the quantity of salt used (up to then gomasio was recommended at a ratio of 1 part salt to 7 parts sesame seeds) and no longer to use unrefined grey seasalt. He introduced also the method of cooking rice with pressure [very Yang]. Then all sorts of desserts based on barley malt [very Yin] made their appearance at the same time as the standard Macrobiotic diet; and the usage spread widely of blanched green vegetables. At the same time it was recommended to diminish or ban totally the daily usage of flour products and even whole-grain bread.

The fact is that at that time, Michio Kushi was perceived in Europe by some as a sort of "liberator." The new Macrobiotic gourmet style ("it's also very healthy while it is delicious") made its entry. It was widely popularized by several very attractive cookbooks. Moreover, all Macrobiotic homes became equipped with a pressure-cooker or even two pressure-cookers (one for cereals and the other for making amasake). If one stops to consider, the children were nourished almost totally with pressure-cooked products. Was that good sense? [Thus medical investigators found bow-legs and rickets widespread among Dutch Macrobiotic children.]

Several centers for teaching Macrobiotics had been created during the 1970s and 80s in Europe and in the United States: Kushi Institute in Amsterdam, Kushi Institute in Beckett, United States, IMI-Kiental, Centre Macrobiotique Le Grain de Vie in Geneva, and several others.

Afterwards, the movement, which had attained its summit towards 1985-87, began to decline without apparent reason simultaneously in Europe and United States. From controversies and from a lawsuit which took place in France, the movement was little by little weakened. Some centers had difficulty subsisting, while others transformed themselves, and certain others totally disappeared. The biological regeneration of the human race was not produced, it is necessary to admit, although certain typical Macrobiotic ideas were spread widely, such as the necessity to eat a diet based upon high fiber (whole-grain cereals), the abuse of dairy products as the source of various diseases, the harmfulness of the abuse of meat products, and the necessity of eating green vegetables every day.

It is grievous to state moreover that various Macrobiotic groups confronted each other, wasting their time in sterile polemics and useless and harmful criticism as a whole, without taking account of the unfavorable impact created upon the "new-comers". In Europe one witnessed the formation of two clans: the "Kushiites" and the "antikushi or Ohsawaites". It was like the left and the right in politics (the conservatives and the liberals). One had to make one's choice, to know on which side one stood.

In the 1990s, the two groups were little by little weakened, the first by scattering and the second by implosion. Nothing remains but some scattered and solitary adepts. Nevertheless, Macrobiotics and the ideas which it represents continue to make their way. From being unknown products twenty years ago, today these foods are widely available, such as rice-milk, tofu, and all the products based on vegetable protein.

Why So Many Unexplained Deaths?

At the same time, these ten last years have been marked by the unexplained deaths of Macrobiotic teachers or of persons practicing Macrobiotics for numerous years. These deaths are evidently very embarrassing to those who try to promote this new way of life, and have remained to this day totally unexplained.

Harold Kulungian undertook to give some explanations by means of the Internet, and it could be that he is not totally wrong.

During these thirty years, all Macrobiotics have had at least one common point which is the style of cooking: cooking by pressure, especially rice and legumes. According to Harold Kulungian, pressure-cooking has an extremely Yangizing power. The cereals in this mode of preparation are ruptured and form an un-resilient mush which offers no resistance to the peristaltic action of the intestines. The mush thus eaten produces relentless contractions, which cause in turn to be engendered a sensation of continuous hunger. In order to check this constrictive action, the person feels constrained to eat continually just to prevent the contraction of the intestines. [Moreover, the ruptured food cannot retain its own moisture in the intestines, causing the person to become very thin if he does not eat continually.]

That could explain why so many rather renowned Macrobiotics have cheated (binge) habitually, and have even made it a subject for joking. Then the binge-ing is harmful and several among them have died at a relatively young age: Murray Snyder (56), Clim Yoshimi (68), Herman Aihara (77), Cecile Levin (62), and many others. Young for people who have adopted an art of living which they themselves call "The Art of Rejuvenation and Longevity"! (See the title-page of ZEN MACROBIOTICS.)

This phrase has often been pronounced even by Macrobiotic teachers: "No one is able to follow the standard Macrobiotic diet all one's life, especially not the Macrobiotic teachers;" and another phrase is that "Something is not right in the Macrobiotic diet."

Those who cheat routinely become so arrogant that they always believe that they have the power to depart from the diet, like those who drive 100 miles per hour on the turnpike, and who think they will never be caught or will have no accidents, until the day when...

Those who voluntarily or by chance have not cheated and binge have fallen into another trap: overeating and the obsession with food. There are some bulimics and some alcoholics among the Macrobiotics. When such behavior appears, it is evident that "Something is not right in Macrobiotics."

One of the indispensable conditions for remaining youthful and in good health is to eat little. It is necessary to discover the minimum quantity for survival. In a word, eat in order to live, and not live in order to eat. The state of "excessive eating" leads invariably its train of great ills: degenerative diseases, paranoia, etc. Macrobiotics is not an encouragement to make banquets, even if they are based on healthy foods. One or two "banquets" per year is usual; more than that, the easier the damage. To eat little, you prepare one complete meal per day, if possible at mid-day. The two other meals being nothing but a snack, and no nibbling between times.

Most conventional non-macrobiotic people have a blood condition not as alkaline as ours, and a digestive tract more or less highly acidic, which prevents anything like a total absorption of their food. But Macrobiotic people, our blood being somewhat more alkaline, and our digestive tract harmoniously alkaline also, from acid-free diet, have a complete osmotic absorption of our food. This is why excess nourishment is much more dangerous for the Macrobiotics than for the non-macrobiotics.

In conventional diet, the food is only partially digested and does not pass totally into the blood, while with Macrobiotics the assimilation is optimum. In effect, in traditional Western diet, the nourishment is often assimilated only 25%; the rest remains in the digestive tube and is expelled in the stools, provoking their nauseating odor, flatulence, gas, and other discomforts, including headache, etc.

For sure, it is not a healthy manner of living; but it is not too dangerous at first. By contrast, in the case of the Macrobiotics, the nourishment is assimilated at 80-90%. For this reason, we do not have need to eat so much. In fact, if we eat much, we behave as if one burned enormous quantities of wood in a little airtight stove, which works better with a little fire. We then set off a combustion much too strong, and the whole organism is "grilled", so to speak. What does a surcharged organism do? It tries to utilize the excess for a while, for example by growing more prolific body hair, and then produces tumors when it can no longer do so, even among the Macrobiotics. For staying in good health, one should always maintain a light feeling of hunger.

Some Revealing Symptoms

To summarize, we say that the rice cooked under pressure has an extremely yangizing power, that this yangization prevents all usage of other yang, such as salty pickles and green vegetables well-cooked; and that much to the contrary, this yangization leads fatally to the consumption of products of extreme yin: strong alcohol, pastries, exotic fruits, etc. That the consumption of these "forbidden fruits" is perceived as a "sin", and that it leads to feelings of guilt, of fear, and of frustration, which are more dangerous when they endured under silence. Thus paradoxically, the Macrobiotic way of freedom and happiness becomes imprisonment and unhappiness. If this was not regettable behavior, one would burst out in laughter!

We have no scientific proof as yet to supply for what we have advanced. However, it is completely evident that the Macrobiotic way of life, or art of rejuvenation and longevity, is not supposed to be the way open to grave illnesses, to psychopathic behavior, and to premature death.

The symptoms due to pressure-cooking would be the following:

  • pale complexion or dull
  • dark circles under the eyes
  • extreme thinness
  • excessive contraction of the whole body
  • heart problems
  • constipation
  • persistent and unexplainable fatigue
  • psychological problems: rigidity in thinking, problems in relationships
  • compulsive behaviour towards nourishment (alcoholism, bulimia)

In what concerns children, the daily practice of pressure-cooking would be the source of frustration and would explain why so many Macrobiotic children, when they arrive at adolescence, reject totally Macrobiotics.

There now, we have tried to inform you. It is up to you to know if this concerns you or not. We are aware how this controversy is troubling for beginners, and we regret that. But it would be a lie to pretend that this problem does not exist.

Like everything else, Macrobiotics has a front and a back. Everyone knows the front: good health. But the back is very unknown. There is a back inherent in the practice itself in a world where the values which it recommends are rejected. But there is also a back which is part of Macrobiotics, to know that one should not permit oneself to overeat without running grave dangers, physical and psychological.


If you find in yourself some symptoms mentioned above, perhaps it is worth the effort to make a try of leaving the pressure-cooker aside for some months. In any case, this is what we have decided to do.

In traditional Oriental cooking, the rice is first roasted or toasted until golden, soaked overnight, and then steamed gently in an iron pot until completely soft. The amount of seasalt or rocksalt used (approx. 1/2 teaspoon per cup dry grain to begin with) should be enough to make the grain appetizing, but not salty taste; much more than is used in pressure-cooking, since the grain does not rupture, but instead swells and retains double the moisture than ruptured grain. When it becomes soft and is seasoned to taste, the grain can then be mashed smooth with a rice paddle, turning it over in the pot. Finally, it should be cooked down with the cover off, until it becomes firm and glutinous enough to adhere to the rice paddle held upside down.

A large quantity, cooked in a Dutch Oven, with a heat diffuser underneath so it does not burn, can then be stored in the refrigerator for many days without spoiling, if put in a clay or crockery or stoneware pot, covered lightly with a straw mat so it gets air to breathe.

To reach Harold Kulungian and discuss this problem:

Harold Kulungian
177 N. Pleasant St. Apt.2
Amherst, MA 01002-1719 USA

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