Growing Up Macrobiotic in the 80s

For those who are unfamiliar with the macrobiotic diet, it is centered around a whole foods lifestyle and is free of processed sugar and animal protein.  Growing up, I was raised in a macrobiotic home. Simply put, we ate a lot of rice, beans, veggies, and tofu.

I remember my mom sending me to school with a whole wheat peanut butter and jam sandwich for lunch. That seems relatively harmless now, but back then all I wanted was white, soft Wonder Bread that I could easily roll up into a ball like all the other kids.  My brown bread, in comparison, was as hard as a rock. As much as I tried, I could not roll it into a ball. I used to eat my lunch in the cafeteria with half my face in my lunchbox, trying to hide the fact that I was different from everyone else.  I realize now that was a good thing, but I didn’t fully appreciate it when I was 10.  I wanted nothing more than a fluffernutter sandwich on white bread. I dreamed of having that white stuff all over my face to prove that I could hang with the rest of the crowd.

When I had sleepovers, my friends would sneak in piles of candy. Every time my parents would go downstairs, we would all dive on top of our stash. I joke with my parents now about how lucky they were that candy was the only thing we were sneaking in.  

For birthday parties, my mom would do her best to whip up a batch of banana bread with apple butter or carob frosting, served with Rice Dream on the side.  When I was really young, it was couscous cake with a strawberry glaze, which thankfully none of my friends had to witness. But before we were married, my husband did get a couscous cake with a blueberry glaze hand-delivered to his office on his birthday from my dear mom. It was meant to be a “welcome to the family” joke. While he took it all in good humor (having to explain to his office mates what this “cake” was) at least, Larry knew full well what he was marrying into. 

Speaking of getting married, on our wedding day my mom gave a speech that my friends still remember fondly to this day. During the speech, my mom was reminiscing about our first vacation with Larry at Woods Hole before we were married. It was his “get to know the family” week. My mom walked into the kitchen while Larry was innocently fixing himself a hot dog for lunch. My mom, in her nonchalant way said, “Larry, if you ever feed a hotdog to my grandkids, I’ll kill you.” (They both smiled, Larry a little uneasily, not knowing if she was serious or not).  Side note: we do occasionally feed our kids hot dogs but at least they are made from organic, pasture-raised meat.

There were several times when I was sick as a child when my mom would open her cabinets full of supplements, herbal tinctures, and homeopathic remedies. She would pour over her macrobiotic books searching for how to treat coughs, colds, and ear infections naturally. While most kids in the 80s were given antibiotics and Tylenol for illnesses, my mom would take out the echinacea and goldenseal. At the time all I wanted was a pill because it seemed a lot easier and far less painful than swallowing goldenseal (which has got to have the worst taste in the world).  My mom likes to remind me that I never took antibiotics as a child. My microbiome thanks her every day! Thankfully with her potions, plasters, and home remedies, we were all able to kick our childhood illnesses pretty quickly given our strong immune systems.  

One of my favorite stories was the time I had a chest cold and my mom put a hot mustard plaster on my chest to relieve the congestion. It burned my skin 2 days before I was to perform in The Nutcracker as a snowflake in a beautiful white tutu.  And let me tell you, a burnt red chest and a white tutu don’t complement each other.

Tied for first place was the time when I was sick and my mom took me to an acupuncturist. (Remember, this was in the 80s when acupuncture was not a trendy, thing to do like it is today.) The acupuncturist did cupping on my back, leaving two rows of large purple circles just 2 days before my middle school beach day.  While my friends were sporting their bikinis, I was sporting my oversized t-shirt to hide the fact that my back looked like a mancala board.

Needless to say, when I went off to college, I ate a whole lot of sugar. The soft serve frozen yogurt with all the toppings was a nightly occurrence at the dining hall along with the sugar-laden cereals, I would bring back to my dorm room for a snack.  

Looking back on my childhood, now as a mom of 2 young girls, I appreciate all my mom’s efforts in trying to raise 3 healthy daughters.  My mom once told me that passing along the gift of health is the best gift she could ever give. Although my sisters and I all have different approaches, as moms ourselves, I know we all have the same foundation and goals for raising healthy eaters who appreciate real food and live a life of health and happiness.  My goal is to continue to pass the gift of health to the next generation, in hopes of continuing the legacy for many generations to come. My girls may go off track as they develop more independence, but my hope is that they are given the tools and knowledge to find their way back in their own time on their own health journey just like I did.

Despite all this, I love my mom and appreciate all her idiosyncrasies. Although the couscous cake trend never caught on, whole wheat bread, herbal tinctures, acupuncture and a whole foods life style did finally catch on forty plus years later.

I’m grateful for my mom’s guidance and appreciate her real food/holistic healing approach every day. It was my mom who drove Haley and me to our first naturopathic doctor’s visit to learn about the root cause of Haley’s symptoms.   Honestly, I wasn’t much of a believer at the time. The fact that food could heal was always something my mom believed but something I never bought into. Perhaps because my mom ways saying it and who listens to what their mom says anyway? 

It is funny to think that over thirty years ago, my mom taught macrobiotic cooking classes in her kitchen, helping to support cancer patients and others who suffered from different health conditions. This month, I’m finishing a culinary nutrition course designed to help heal clients through food and lifestyle.  

I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learned from my mom, my own experience as a mom, my knowledge as a Certified Health Coach and Culinary Nutritionist, and elementary school teacher to help support families through nutrition. My hope is to help families live a life of health and happiness in this fast food, highly process world. I know it is a tough job and I’d love to help you navigate your way through. Reach out for more details!

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