A word that conjures up images of sloppy hot dog toppings, or little jars displayed on a lazy susan* in the middle of a picnic table.

Hardly something worth attending a cooking class for...

But in the grand scheme of macrobiotics, condiments are not just a tasty additive to otherwise ho-hum brown rice and veggies. They add a refinement to the balancing of energies...for example, taking a dish that may lean a bit toward the yang contacting side, like buckwheat noodles, and adding an uplifting spicy taste, such as fresh scallions. Now that's a balanced meal!

So what do we mean by 'balancing of energies'?

Well, food energetics is a HUGE discipline of study in itself, and requires a bit of a paradigm shift out of thinking in terms of the 'nutritional facts' label on the back of the package. But we can start by looking at the three main areas of classification that Oriental Medicine uses to determine the energy of a food:

1) The effect on body temperature (heating, warming, normalizing, cooling, chilling)

2) The taste of the food (usually associated with a season and an pair of organs in the body - sour/spring: liver/gall bladder; salty/winter: kidney/bladder; bitter/summer: heart/small intestine; sweet/late summer: stomach/spleen; spicy/pungent/autumn: lung/large intestine)

3) The direction in which they energize the body (upward, floating, sinking, downward, inward)

Interestingly, we tend to do this already.

Back to the lazy susan... raw onions and tomatoes or ketchup, with their uplifting yin nature, are a perfect complement to the heaviness of a hamburger. Same goes for turkey and cranberries. And not only does the citrus-y sour flavor of lemon go well with seafood, it also can neutralize some of the mild but annoying bacterial negative effects.

A few of the condiments used in macrobiotics are things like gomashio (toasted and crushed sesame seeds and sea salt), umeboshi plum (unripe Japanese plums pickled in shiso leaves and sea salt), tekka (a very hearty crumbly powder made by roasting three root vegetables and miso for a really long time). Each of these have both culinary uses as well as medicinal... gomashio and umeboshi can neutralize an upset stomach cause by too much sugar or alcohol; tekka can strengthen a weakened, deficient condition.

And there are more. As mentioned above, chopped scallions or parsley sprigs can uplift a heavy dish or reheated leftovers. High quality mild vinegars, like rice or umeboshi, can balance the sweet taste of vegetables.

There are also a handful of toppings that use various roasted sea veggies ... a great way to get those trace minerals and nutrients in a highly assimilable form!

So, interested in a cooking class now? There's one this Saturday, October 9th in Coatesville (with a repeat the following Thursday...). For more info, go here. Otherwise, check back soon for the accompanying ebook!

Related posts:

What's the deal with miso, anyway?

First cooking class: a success!

*a lazy susan, in case you don't know, is one of those spinny platforms often placed in the center of a table so everyone can reach the stuff on it. No offense to Susans in general...