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Vegetarians in Paradise
Words from Other Birds



Giorgio Bosso, macrobiotic counselor and cooking instructor, learned from personal experience that the macrobiotic lifestyle was a healing path for him. Today he helps others to discover the energizing, soothing, and revitalizing powers of macrobiotics. Giorgio shares his experience and offers some tantalizing recipes below.



A BLESSING FROM HEAVEN

BY GIORGIO BOSSO



My journey to healing started in winter 1984 in Milan, Italy. It was pouring rain and I had just gotten the result from the doctor that the Elisa test result was positive: I was infected with the HIV virus! When the doctor told me I literally felt as if I was sinking into the earth. I felt all my energy leaving my body. I got so scared I couldn't understand what the doctor was saying. I left the hospital without a destination and took a filovia (an electrical subway) which took me aimlessly around the city. I thought this was a death sentence for me, with no hope left. Giorgio Bosso

A little later I ran into my yoga teacher, who had a great knowledge of alternative therapies. She calmly said to me everything would be fine and suggested homeopathic remedies and enzyme therapy. She hugged me, and all of a sudden I felt very safe. From then on I took care of myself.

From an Italian Family
I come from an Italian family. My mother always ate very well, but when we had to move to Argentina, not only her life, but her diet changed. She started eating more meat, fried foods, fruits, bread, pastas, tomatoes and spices. So we all grew up on that nutrition.

When I turned 18, I started using drugs and went out a lot. It was a moment of my life where I wasn't happy at all; I was very angry and very sad. Longing to be loved by someone, I felt that I needed to break through the walls of restriction to become free, but I didn't know how to do it without killing myself. I thought that taking some anesthetics would help the pain go away. A lot later I found out that this idea was nothing but an illusion. Later I would also discover that the restrictions were in my mind and in my heart, accentuated by the way I was eating. All the food and drink I was consuming was creating an ever-plummeting energy; I was never going to heal.

My Diet
My diet was based on pasta, steaks, pork, juices, jam, bread, cheese, and a lot of sweets. My intake of greens was almost non-existent; they were strange aliens to me. The problem was that I was eating too much cheese and raw food, which made my extremities go very cold. After thinking for a while of becoming a vegetarian, I decided to give it a try hoping it would cure my aching soul. Yet it took me another six years to listen to my body, to trust my intuition and to find guidance on what to do next.

A short time after turning vegetarian, I left Argentina and went to Milan to pursue my career as a hairdresser. I can't remember anymore what year it was, but I remember that I broke out with eczema all over by body, starting from the right side of my face, along the back of my neck, on my buttocks,, hands and legs. I was in shock by my very appearance, but I couldn't stay at home because I needed the money to pay the bills and the rent. A skin problem was the first symptom that I developed since I had been diagnosesd HIV positive. Other indications followed: recurrent herpes on my buttocks and discharge on my feet (just like athlete's foot) with the skin peeling off from the sole, from the sides, and between the toes. Somemetimes also the skin would break and bleed.

Natural Support
From the beginning of being diagnosed I had decided not to take any medication. I was very scared. One of the reasons was that the only medication available at that time was AZT, and the doctors didn't understand the long-term side effects. During these years I saw friends and clients getting worse with their own condition, developing so many symptoms, creating so much pain and struggle that what I was seeing frightened me. I kept my promise to myself not to take any medication and continue in my quest for the natural support that I was looking for. I also realized later that this was my path for my healing.

I decided to read more about nutrition and got very interested in macrobiotic cuisine. The more I read the more I knew that it would be my safe passage to health. It all made sense to me: no dairy, therefore, no cheese and no milk, no refined products (which are depleted of energy and nutrients), no pizza, raw foods, and so on. My studies brought me back in touch with my mother's way of cooking before she had left for Argentina. In Italy her cooking had been very simple with a lot of grains, beans, fresh vegetables and proteins whenever it was possible, at least once a month.

Lifestyle Changes
I started changing my lifestyle; no more drugs and no more parties, no long nights without sleep, no more alcohol and no more late food. I also changed my work. I quit my work as a hairdresser to become a counselor for people with alcohol and drug addictions. I was much happier! I took classes at Il Naviglio, a macrobiotic restaurant, and studied there for two years to graduate as a chef. Those two years gave me so much information about the macrobiotic lifestyle and philosophy behind it that cooking came to me a lot easier. For the first time I was in charge of my health and my destiny.

Being HIV positive, or having cancer or any other illness is not about the label we carry. But rather it is a blessing from heaven, which we have to decode to find a new path to life, rather than focus on our anger or looking for somebody else to tell us what to do. We are our father, mother and children; we do not need any others for approval. To me this was a second chance given to me to rebuild my life.

I saw a lot of friends leaving me behind as their condition deteriorated. No medication could create peace or a long time relief; all that was treated was their symptoms. When I came to Los Angeles, I volunteered as a counselor for people with HIV and AIDS at Los Angeles AIDS Project. I was assigned to a self-help group. People there thought I would understand them, but quickly became very upset with me as I didn't make "the symptoms" the center of my attention. I was more interested in helping them to create a better lifestyle and understanding how to release that anger and finger pointing.

So I left the group and concentrated on myself and on my own healing more than ever.

Trying to please my lover, who is so important to me, and other friends, I went to several doctors. It didn't work out for long. They were focused on giving me medication because my TC count was low and my "statistical profile" indicated it was going downhill with my health. So I decided to give up on a medical solution and to trust what I was seeing. Even though I lost 10 pounds during my healing cooking (my normal weight is 130 pounds) I put it back in one year. I was getting stronger and stronger.

Living a Happy Life
Today, 16 years after having been diagnosed HIV positive, I live a happy life with my partner and two beautiful dogs (Mina and Sugo.) I teach macrobiotic cooking to cancer patients and people with AIDS. All of them know of my condition and it has a positive impact on them. I practice Kundalini yoga every other day and meditation. My body is in great shape and my spirit is strong. I have nothing to regret, and I embrace what happened, because without it, I would not be the man I am today.

Following are some menus and recipes to cook during springtime. Enjoy and remember the last ingredient in all the food you prepare is to SHARE WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE.

We are grateful to the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation for permission to reprint this article that orginally appeared in Macrobiotics Today, January/February 2001. For a free catalog, email: foundation@gomf.macrobiotic.net or call 800-232-2372

For our readers who are interested in what types of foods are part of a macrobiotic diet, we are printing two menus with recipes from Giorgio's repertoire.





MENU

Minestrone Soup

Pasta Primavera

Arame with Shiitake & Sesame Seeds

Nishime Style Cooking


Minestrone
-Makes four servings -

Ingredients
1 C. northern beans, soaked overnight
1 C. diced, onions
1/3 C. diced celery
1 T. sesame oil, optional
4 green cabbage leaves, chopped
1/8 tsp. oregano, optional
1/8 tsp. basil, optional
1 C. wax beans
5 C. filtered water
1 inch kombu
1 tsp. kudzu
Sweet miso
Parsley to garnish

Preparation:

  1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat.
  2. Add onions, celery, and herbs, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add kombu, beans, and water and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and cook for 1 hour, or until beans are cooked.
  5. Add wax beans and cabbage and cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. In a small bowl dilute the kudzu with 1 tablespoon cold water. Add the miso into it, stir well, and add to the soup.
  7. Cook for 5 more minutes. Serve in individual bowls and garnish with parsley.

Note: If you want a more creamy consistency, add 2 cups of the minestrone into a blender. If you want a more soupy texture, add more water and probably you may need to add a little more miso.


Arame With Shiitake Mushrooms

Ingredients
1/3 C. arame, dry weight
1/3 C. plus 1 T. water
1 shiitake, soaked for 20 minutes
1 C. fresh or frozen organic peas
Water from the soaking shiitake just to cover 1 inch of the pan
Shoyu
Scallions to garnish

Preparation:

  1. Into a skillet first add the sliced mushroom, followed by arame with the soaking water plus the water from the shiitake, in total to cover 1 inch of the pan.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Add 1 tsp. Shoyu. Add the peas and cook for 5 more minutes, or until water is evaporated.
  4. Garnish with scallions.


Pasta Primavera
(spring noodles)

Ingredients

1 package noodles to serve 2 plus a little more

1 leek, cut thin diagonal
1 onion, cut half moon
1 carrot, cut julienne

1 tsp. sesame oil to saute vegetables
1 C. filtered water

Black sesame seeds for garnish
Parsley for garnish

Preparation

  1. In a skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add the leek, onions, and carrots; saute all until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. You may need to add a little more water to prevent burning. Set aside.
  3. In another skillet add the sesame seeds, and pan roast on low heat to prevent the seeds from clumping. Set aside.
  4. Cook the pasta following the instructions on the package.
  5. Strain the pasta and toss into the vegetables, sesame seeds and parsley. Serve warm.

Variation Sauce: Combine1 T. tahini,1 tsp. mellow miso, 1 C.water. Stir well and cook for a few minutes. Add to the pasta.


Nishime Style Cooking

Ingredients

1/2 C. daikon, cut diagonal
1/3 C. rutabaga, cut lengthwise
1 C. broccoli florets
kombu
1 inch water
1 tsp. shoyu

Preparation

  1. In a ceramic pot add the kombu, rutabaga, and daikon.
  2. Add water just to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.
  3. Cook for 15 minutes. Five minutes before the time is up, add the broccoli florets, cover, and cook.
  4. Add shoyu and cook for 5 more minutes. Cook off the remaining water with lid off.



Menu

Brown Rice with Sweet Rice & Chestnut
( pot boiled)

Dried Tofu with Vegetables
( light stew)

Boiled Salad with Ume Vinaigrette

Nori Condiment

Vegetarian Apple Jell-O ( Kanten)


Kombu Brown Rice Dish

Ingredients
1 C. brown rice (50%)
5 T. sweet rice (40%)
2 T. chestnuts (10%)
1 inch kombu
2 C. water

Preparation:
  1. Wash the rice together until water becomes clear. Put the rice in a bowl, add 1 cup water, and soak over night.
  2. In another bowl soak overnight the chestnuts with 1 cup water. In the morning take off the red skin that covers the chestnuts and cut chestnuts in half.
  3. In a pressure cooker add kombu, rice, chestnuts, and the water. Bring cooker to full pressure and reduce heat. Place a flame reflector under the cooker and cook for 45 minutes.


Dried Tofu Stew

Tofu has a soft texture, mild taste, and versatile shape that combines well with many foods. Tofu comes in different forms: regular, hard, soft, silky, spiced, and dried. Tofu can be steamed, sauteed, boiled, baked, deep fried, used in soups, and as a substitute for egg white when you scramble. Dried tofu is made from thin dry cakes, and gives a unique texture to the dish you cook.

Ingredients

2 pieces dried tofu
1 onion, cut into chunks
1/3 C. carrots, diced
4 Brussels sprouts, cut in half
Water
Shoyu
1 inch kombu
1 tsp. kudzu
Parsley to garnish

Preparation:

  1. Soak kombu
  2. In a saucepan add kombu, onion, tofu (discard water from tofu) and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add vegetables and cook for 5 minutes. In the meantime, dissolve kudzu with a little water along with shoyu and add to the stew. Stir gently and simmer for 1 minute.
  4. Garnish with parsley.

Notes: If you use root vegetables, cook them along with the tofu for 15 minutes and follow steps 3 and 4.


Boiled Salad with Ume Vinaigrette

Ingredients

1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup carrots, cut julienne
1 cup red radish, quartered
1 cup yellow wax beans, sliced in 1 inch lengths
water

Preparation:

  1. In a deep bowl bring water to a boil. Add vegetables and cook until tender.
  2. Set aside in a colander to cool off.
  3. Place vegetables in a serving bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.

Ume Vinaigrette

2-umeboshi plums
1/2 onion, grated
Juice of one lemon
1 T. sesame tahini
Dash of umeboshi vinegar
Water or broth from boiled vegetables


Nori Condiment
(Serves 2 people)

Nori Ingredients

2 sheets toasted nori
1 cup spring water
Shoyu

Preparation:

  1. Tear nori into pieces. Put nori in a saucepan and cover it with water.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer until most of the water evaporates and the nori forms a thick paste, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add several drops of shoyu and cook another ten minutes. The nori should have a light salty taste.
  4. Cool and then store in a glass container in the refrigerator.

Notes: Cooking without the lid allows "the fishy" taste to escape during the cooking. As a rule of thumb, saltier condiments keep a longer time than less saltier ones, but also you need less amount in the serving.


Vegetarian Apple Jell-O or Kanten

Kanten is a delicious, all natural gelatin made with apple juice or any other juice as a base. It can be made with nuts, fresh fruits, or even beans, like azuki with raisins. A few nuts or seeds may be added for crunchier texture. Kanten is an vegetarian alternative to commercial Jell-O that is made with animal products.

Properties of agar-agar: High calcium and iodine. Very good for the intestines.

Ingredients

1 cup apple juice
1 cup water
1 cup apples, cored and diced
2 T. brown rice syrup
Pinch sea salt
2 T. agar-agar flakes

Preparation:

  1. In a saucepan combine the apple juice, water, and sea salt with the agar-agar.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until kanten is dissolved, about10 minutes.
  3. Add the apples and the rice syrup and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Take pot off the fire, set aside, and spoon into individual serving bowls. Chill before serving.



Giorgio teaches, cooks, and coaches macrobiotic cooking in Los Angeles. He can be reached by email at: healingfoods@comcast.net or by phone at 323-936-1354.


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