We asked Steve Gagne: How has
your understanding of macrobiotics changed since you
wrote the first edition of your book?
Steve: The first edition of The Energetics
of Food was 280 pages while the new edition is
almost double that number. The first edition was written
16 years ago so there has been ample time since then
to reflect on the subject of food energetics.
The first edition was written toward the end of a 15-year
residency with the macrobiotic community in Boston,
Massachusetts where, as a teacher and counselor, I had
the opportunity to study in depth with Michio Kushi
and other leading teachers.
During this period I had the opportunity to teach and
counsel both nationally and internationally sharing
what I had learned about macrobiotics with people interested
in the subjects of Food Energetics, Nine Star Ki, Body
Dynamics and the Macrobiotic lifestyle in general.
These formative years were both challenging and rewarding
in many ways. The culmination of those experiences formed
the basis of the first edition of The Energetics
of Food book. At that point, and having reached
a crossroads there were many unanswered questions about
what I was teaching and how I was counseling.
Most of these questions revolved around: Why are some
traditional foods considered taboo in a macrobiotic
diet? How do other people around the world practice
macrobiotics? Do the guidelines I have come to know
and love for a macrobiotic diet pertain to all other
traditions in the world with perhaps slight variations
of grains, beans, sea vegetables etc?
With the printing of the first edition, it was time
for me to change course and pursue another path of learning
in my macrobiotic journey. This new path would focus
on research and field work in the study of human origins
and cultural food traditions.
In fact, these were the very subjects that drew me to
macrobiotics in the first place. Many teachers and counselors
will recall the early years when Michio Kushi gave mind-expanding
lectures on a wide variety of subjects, often leaving
the audience with more questions than they came in with.
That was okay though because of his constant encouragement
to think for your self.
Imbued with the spirit of non-credo I began to focus
on some nagging questions. These included: Who were
our ancestors? Why is grain the foundation food of human
cultures all over the world and why are there different
grains in different places? When did agriculture began
and why? Why? Why? All of these whys were obviously
linked together through food energetics but I needed
to go deeper into the fine points of how they were connected.
While teaching and counseling throughout America and
parts of Europe had taught me much it was not until
an Energetics of Food seminar in Washington State
in 1990 that it dawned on me that it was time to take
the needed steps off the beaten path in my continuing
During that seminar on food energetics, there was a
Native American elder sitting with arms folded across
his chest at the back of the room dressed in almost
full attire. I say almost full attire because he did
have on a pair of jeans with his animal skins and feathers.
He sat motionless not uttering a word the whole seminar.
Out of respect for the man and in hopes the he might
appreciate the fact that he had been recognized and
his presence acknowledged, I decided to bring up the
subject of deer and its role as food in traditional
Native American culture. Not a nod, a smile, or even
a movement from this stoic, statue of a man.
At the end of the seminar, the usual barrage of students
descended upon the stage with questions while the elder
sat quietly in his seat, still unmoved by the bustle
in the room.
After the crowd had dispersed, I approached the elder
to thank him for attending the seminar and to introduce
myself. He then asked if I had a moment to talk. I suggested
we go somewhere more private, perhaps to dinner if that
would work for him. We did and to make a long story
short we spent a good three hours discussing macrobiotics,
mostly his version of it and what it meant to him and
his cultural traditions.
He spoke of his favorite dessert growing up. It was
a combination of wild berries and wild honey mixed with
bear fat to hold it together.
A far cry from cous cous cake with berry kanten for
sure. And that was just one of the many, what seemed
to me at the time to be, unusual traditional food combinations
he spoke of. He spoke of the spiritual gift of corn
and its primary role in his peoples diet. He also spoke
of the many plants used to heal the sick and the spiritual
methods used to send the dying on to their next journey.
One of the many important things learned that evening
during what turned out to be a private lesson was the
importance of de-programming my beliefs about limitations
when it comes to natural wholesome foods that have been
consumed by peoples for thousands of years.
That is not to say that limitations to some degree
are not important when dealing with various types of
illness. But it is important to consider the larger
picture before demonizing a particular food because
it doesnt happen to fit our current belief system
especially when we know damn well that everything really
does change and that our beliefs, like everything else,
are not exempt from change either.
Upon returning home, I decided to pursue the traditions
of macrobiotics around the world and would shortly thereafter,
and for the next 15 years, embark on regular trips to
far away lands where ancient food traditions still form
the basis of everyday living.
From the jungles of the Amazon to the highlands of Southeast
Asia, there is a consistent joy, contentment, and gratitude
at meal times among traditional peoples. The meals tend
to be wholesome and natural devoid of preservatives
Imagine for a moment that you are exploring the highlands
of Peru, hiking the scenic and sometimes treacherous
Inca trails that end at 13,000 feet above sea level.
You reach 12,000 feet and come to a part of the trail
where the path is barely a foot wide. You hug the rough
surface of the rock face with your back as you inch
your way for the next 30 feet.
The wide roaring river flowing through the town at
base camp from a few hours ago now appears as a thread
of flowing water as you peer down from the precipice
through the clouds at the valley so far below. It has
been an exhausting day yet you feel exhilarated by the
breathtaking scenery at the top of the world. The thin
mountain air and sheer physical exertion has made you
very hungry and you are in dire need of food and rest.
You finally reach the end of the trail and you are greeted
by a driver who will take you even further into the
mountains to a small humble abode of an Aymara Indian
You are greeted by smiling hosts, both proud and dignified
examples of caring human beings. They seat you around
a small table and serve you a macrobiotic meal unlike
anything you have ever had before. The meal consists
of fresh corn (the kernels of which are easily four
times the size of what you are used to) quinoa, a mixture
of strange gnarly looking wild root vegetables, and
stewed guinea pig with herbs and spices!
What is a macrobiotic person to do? What would you
These are just a few of the Aymara Indians macrobiotic
foods that have nourished both young and old and everyone
in between for countless generations extending back
to their Incan ancestry and very likely beyond them.
It is through many experiences like this in different
parts of the world that I am only now beginning to understand
the true meaning of macrobiotic foods and food energetics.
The new expanded (that would be yin) yes, the new yin
edition of The Energetics of Food contains
information gleamed from these experiences and research
into global food traditions. The first 15 years were
about teaching and sharing an interpretation of the
Boston experience, what a community of people in New
England believed macrobiotics to be.
The second fifteen years has been a continuation of
that experience enriched by actually witnessing and
participating in many diverse, often unusual and at
times even shocking food traditions and how these cultural
beliefs and traditions parallel the basic principles
of macrobiotics as we understand them today.
I am grateful to have discovered macrobiotics back
in 1972. It has been and continues to be a wonderful
and challenging educational experience.
Order your Copy of the new edition of The
Energetics of Food
Steve sees himself as an ordinary man investigating
An independent investigator/researcher, and alternative
historian, Steve is one of the most versatile and experienced
teachers in whole foods nutrition. His 30 years of teaching
throughout America and Europe have earned him a reputation
as a progressive and informed wholistic educator who
brings a lively, innovative intelligence to his work.
Steve is especially well known as an expert in Food
Energetics, where ancient wisdom and dietary traditions
merge with modern perspectives and breakthrough research
in nutritional science.
Steves long-standing fascination with theories
of human origins and his passion for cultural dietary
traditions have led him through exhaustive studies in
multiple disciplines, both conventional and alternative,
and have taken him all over the globe. Unconvinced by
the accepted theory of human origins, Steve decided
to investigate traditional cultures and the remains
of ancient civilizations by experiencing them first
hand. Over the past decade, he has embarked on a series
of globe-circling expeditions to pursue his research.
These years of research and experience have made it
increasingly clear that traditional peoples across the
globe are intimately linked by a consistent thread woven
through their myths and legends, architecture, astronomy
and food traditions. This comprehensive understanding
of art and culture, revealed through a wealth of evidence
from lost civilizations, extends deep into prehistory--much
further back than was originally thought possible.
Today Steve divides his time between continuing his
investigations and speaking to audiences around the
world about his discoveries--about our extraordinary
hidden heritage, commonsense whole-foods nutrition and
the need to reevaluate some of our modern dietary and
Steve is the author of the book Energetics of Food:
Encounters with Your Most Intimate Relationships.