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Book Features: The Energetics of Food by Steve Gagné

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 education process.

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 it’s 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 doesn’t 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 and chemicals.

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 family.

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 do?

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 Gagné

Steve sees himself as an ordinary man investigating extraordinary information.

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.

Steve’s 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 scientific trends.

Steve is the author of the book Energetics of Food: Encounters with Your Most Intimate Relationships.

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