The master cleanse

The Master Cleanse by Mel

For many years my dietary regime was based on the premise of only eating that which can be caught or picked. I shunned processed & tinned foods and avoided as many refined substances as possible, particularly white foodstuffs such as sugar, flour, rice and pasta. Then, around 20 years ago, I gave up eating all meat apart from seafood. More recently I’ve also relinquished even that due to the ever-increasing amount of pollution being released into our oceans and, specifically, the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Contamination of our food is, of course, not limited to our waters. The ongoing contamination (accidental & deliberate) and genetic modification of our crops, coupled with the use of poisonous fertilisers, insecticides and fungicides means that it is more difficult than ever before to source clean, wholesome nutrition.

These reasons are the primary motivating factor for my undertaking the master cleanse. Once complete, I plan to consume only organic and whole foods where possible and I’ve also begun to research switching to a macrobiotic-only diet in time. Common sense and a small amount of critical thinking inform me that in order to maximise the benefits of making these changes, it is first necessary to start with as clean a digestive system as possible otherwise what is the point? It’s the classic scenario of deconstruction prior to reconstruction, applied to nutritional intake.

The re-education of the digestive system and its effects on the body is not something to be entered into lightly and I’m expecting to experience a number of side-effects as I progress through the cleanse. These may include headaches; cold & flu symptoms; dermal symptoms such as spots; tenderness of the digestive tract; feeling light-headed and a reduced ability to concentrate.

There are numerous other worthwhile & diverse reasons for cleansing which I won’t dwell on here. One such example is the gradual deconstruction of the National Health Service here in the UK to a system that is increasingly mirroring that of the USA. This process is already well underway. It is becoming more incumbent on individuals to take responsibility for their own health if they wish to avoid the looming cost of medical care and to minimise the financial liability of (not) being able to afford medical insurance.

Governing all of this is one very important factor which should not be ignored – INSTINCT! I feel that the time is right for me to embark on this adventure; to make these changes in my life. I hope that I will be a happier, healthier, more positive individual, with an increased sense of overall well-being as a result. The following quotes bring it all together perfectly for me:

“There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.”
Judith McNaught, Remember When

and

“It’s very simple. Keep your body as clean as possible, your mind as clear as possible. That’s all you need. And do it in anyway you can, in your own way. It doesn’t matter. That’s why I say ‘peaceful body, peaceful mind’. And then you’ll be useful. You don’t have to become a useful person. You will be useful.”
Swami Satchidananda

Ingredients used

  • Terrasana organic 100% maple syrup, grade C (dark colour, robust, smoky flavour)
  • Organic lemons
  • Fresh organic cayenne pepper
  • Filtered water
  • Organic laxative senna tea (don’t use psyllium-based laxative tea)

Quantities Used & Method

  • 2 x tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 x tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • one eighth to one quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper according to taste. Use as much as you can handle but bear in mind that the level of heat you feel in your throat and stomach after drinking will be reflected later at the other end!
  • 8 – 10 oz water

I found that the pepper is more easily combined if it is mixed with the syrup first. Then add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and water. The lemon needs to be freshly squeezed in order to preserve the enzymes within.

Drink a glass or two of the mixture at meal times and whenever you feel hungry. A minimum of 6 glasses should be consumed each day although more is better, up to a maximum of 12 per day.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

1 cup of laxative tea MUST be taken first thing in the morning and another one before bed. This is essential to instigate the necessary bowel movement which would normally happen naturally when consuming solid food. Lack of a bowel movement is dangerous.


Preparation

A 3 day ease-in is recommended to allow the digestive system to adjust to a liquid-based diet. As someone who habitually eats a lot of raw vegetables, pulping and juicing these was an easy solution. I ate home-made hummus, fruit and raw veg on the first day and gradually increased the amount of these that I juiced on days two and three.

Observations

Days 1 – 3

Hunger pangs were the main issue for me during the first few days. I found that these can be suppressed by increasing the amount of cayenne pepper. Once I had the balance right, I was surprised by the lack of a hungry feeling. A mild headache developed on the third evening.

Day 4

Cold symptoms developing comprising sneezing, runny nose, sore throat and increased mucus production. Faint headache persisting but feeling good “in myself”.

Day 5

Cold symptoms worsening, mild ache in kidneys, headache persisting but becoming intermittent. Mild tenderness in the gut which feels like internal bruising – a sure sign that the cayenne pepper is having its cleansing effect.

Day 6

Peak cold symptoms and continuing kidney tenderness. A few spots developing on face. Feeling run down today.

Day 7

Cold symptoms and tenderness in kidneys subsiding. I’m feeling a rush of energy up the body after each glass of the mixture.

Day 8

Cold symptoms, kidney pain and tenderness in gut have gone. I feel that I’ve passed the low point and that I’m now rebounding. Run-down feelings of the last few days have disappeared and I’m feeling more energised after each drink.

Day 9

Feeling better again with increased vitality. A colleague who was unaware of my cleansing adventure remarked that I look younger today and that my eyes are brighter. My skin feels less dry and despite the occasional spot, it looks clearer. Sleep was more restful and long-lasting. After 9 days, weight loss is around 3 kilos.

Day 10

This morning I awoke feeling a distinct improvement in my overall well-being. Increased energy, vitality, focus and clarity are remarkable – an almost “wired” feeling, if you will. My general mood is also noticeably more positive and light-hearted. There is definite spring in my step and during the somewhat stressful drive to work I was calmer, sharper & able to anticipate the road ahead with an apparently effortless clarity.

 

Nettle beer and elderflower champagne

There is something so satisfying about making your own foods and drinks that it can be a little hard to describe the emotions to those who have not tried it themselves. This is especially true when it comes to slow and hidden processes like fermentation, where mysterious enzymes are at work instead of more obvious things like fire and heat. Here at the Macrobiotic Shop we have fallen in love with fermentation in all its strange and wonderful ways. If you come round to visit you are likely to find at least two or three things bubbling quietly away under the stairs or in the airing cupboard.

We can’t wait to see how this turns out

Whether it’s kimchi, sauerkraut, sake, sourdough, pickles or sake, all use various forms of fermentation to turn some otherwise fairly dull foodstuffs into wonderful new things to enjoy. Our customers also understand the benefits as well as the enjoyment, as natto spores and koji are two of our most popular products, along with pickle presses.

But last week we decided to try something quite different and fun for the summer: cool and refreshing nettle beer and elderflower champagne. Nettles really are a wondrous plant, full of amazing health benefits and also perennials which are widely available, even in major cities. We have used nettles for tea, steamed with vegetables and also as part of a really excellent pesto. But they can also form part of a very good and refreshing light beer.

Nettles in the pot, ready to start forming the ‘wort’

The elder tree requires more careful observation. In spring the buds work well as part of a tempura (see our previous post – a wild stir fry). Now is the time to harvest the flowers, which also work well in a tempura but can become the central part of elderflower champagne.

Elderflowers, you’ll only need between 10 and 20!

Both drinks are very easy to make and have filled us with excitement and anticipation as we watch them evolve from wild plants we picked a few days ago into something cool and refreshing for the warm evenings to come. We kept our recipes very simple, just using some of the excellent nettle tips we harvested locally and the elderflowers which will be in abundance for the next few weeks.

In place of the cane sugar which forms part of most recipes, we suggest substituting with either maple syrup of coconut palm sugar. Sugar is essential in order to create the alcohol, but we think using coconut palm sugar gives our elderflower champagne a nice dark colour and a more robust flavour. For the nettle beer we used maple syrup, although you may need slightly more maple syrup than the sugar most recipes call for in order to get the right level of fermentation going. However other sugars such as rice syrup, spelt syrup or malt syrup should all work, we haven’t had time to try them yet!

Why not enjoy your summer evening or weekend a little more and connect with the plants in your immediate area by trying out one of these ancient British/Celtic health-giving drinks?

A wild stir fry

Mid-May and early June is the perfect time to go foraging for a little wild food here in the Peak District of Derbyshire. While there are plenty of edible greens around as early as March, May allows us to spend more time outdoors, getting close to nature and understanding our local environment better. And what better way to understand your local environment than to eat directly from the land? Eating locally and seasonally is a central part of a macrobiotic diet, and here at the Macrobiotic Shop we can often be found sampling local wild food.

At the same time, we recognise that under the current agricultural model in the UK, there is a real shortage of local ingredients to make up a healthy plant-based diet. So we tend to be pragmatic rather than purist, combining the best of local wild food with high quality organic ingredients bought from reliable sources.

There is a real abundance of wild greens around right now. Even for those of us living in cities, green spaces such as parks, hedges or even ‘wasteland’ can provide some really great ingredients for a delicious meal, such as the Elderflower buds we turned into a simple buckwheat tempura, a wild garlic and chickpea farinata and the other greens we used for a great seitan stir fry.

Elderflower buds

We started off by wandering our nearby lanes and footpaths in search of edibles. Now is a good time of year to look for tender greens, such as Elderflower buds, nettle tips, dandelion leaves, goose grass, wild garlic and white dead nettle leaves. All of these are fairly common throughout the UK, so you should be able to do the same yourself fairly easily. Unlike domesticated plants, wild plants don’t feed fertilisers to grow or pesticides to keep them from being eaten by slugs and insects. As a result, the tastes can be a little strong at first to anyone new to wild foods. But it has only been in the past few hundred years that we have relied so heavily on domesticated species. In addition to the more flavourful tastes and interesting textures, wild foods contain an abundance of nutrients. Some, such as nettles and dandelions, contain surprising amounts of iron, protein and calcium while others, such as Elderflower buds, are a very good source of antioxidants and have strong healing powers.

Nettle tea

Any good foraging trip should be accompanied by a little outdoor cooking. On such trips we always take along our Kelly Kettle which allows us to make a nice brew of nettle tea or green tea, just using small scraps of wood for fuel. With the embers you can also heat a snack if you have happened to bring one along. In our case we just had a couple of Terrasana Hazelnut Waffles to balance out the nettle tea we had just made from leaves picked along the way.

Waffles

Unlike domesticated plants, wild ones don’t thrive very long out of the soil, so it’s important to cook and eat them quickly. This also encourages less waste, which is a little counter-intuitive, considering that we pay money for domesticated plants while wild ones can be had for free.

Kelly Kettle

Our meal started with a simple buckwheat and millet flour tempura, which is a fantastic way to cook the Elderflower buds we had harvested. The buds are a little like broccoli in texture, but with a more subtle flavour. This was followed by a simple stir fry consisting of Bertyn tamari seitan, carrots, onion, wild garlic, goose grass, dandelion, nettle tips and white dead nettle leaves. This was flavoured with a touch of maple syrup, mirin and shoyu. All of this was backed up with a wild garlic and chickpea farinata.

Stir fry

Take advantage of the long summer days to get out there and explore your own local environment while also enjoying some really wonderful local food in the meantime. For anyone interested in using wild food in macrobiotic cooking, why not contact us or come along to one of our cooking classes?

Koji

Koji is a fungus, which interestingly is only found in Japan. Koji has been extremely important in Japanese cuisine for centuries. The Japanese can now do wonders with it. Without koji, there would be no miso, no amazake, shoyu, tamari or sake! It starts fermentation processes and ensures at the same time that the often long fermentation processes can be controlled. Koji creates the unique umami flavour. It enriches, makes the flavour more powerful and creates an end product that is easy to digest.

Hatcho miso ferments in large 100-year-old cedar wood barrels. About 600 river stones are manually stacked on top in a pyramid shape.

HOW DOES KOJI FERMENTATION WORK?
Koji works best with warm temperatures and a high humidity. During the active fermentation, koji needs two to three days to develop explosively in the ingredients that come into contact with the koji (e.g. soy, rice or wheat). One gram of koji contains no fewer than 10 billion koji spores. This fast growth is necessary, as this way other moulds and bacteria have no chance to develop.