It’s early morning at a bus station and Suhee and Kaori are still busy working on translating the menu for a macrobiotic cooking demonstration later in the day. They finish up before we board the bus, and then all three of us take a long nap on the way from Busan to Dajeon.
A bus and taxi ride later, and we are welcomed into a wonderful community cafe in Dajeon where Kaori is going to work with local women on a collaborative macrobiotic dessert making workshop.
Established in 2011, the cafe’s name translates roughly to “Barley and Wheat: Kitchen for Ripening Peace” and the owner tells us that the primary goal is to engage with mothers in the neighborhood, creating a social space where they can learn healthy cooking, baking, and life skills which lead to healthier families and a healthier neighborhood.
Kaori’s role in this, was to give an overview of the concept of what “macrobiotic” cooking means, and how it can be incorporated into the meals that these womens’ families eat. In the end, I think she was able to give far more than this.
A beautiful point for me to learn here, is that Kaori views women as the most powerful people in the family, a point I tend to agree with.
But the kind of ‘powerful’ that we’re talking about here doesn’t mean bread winner, CEO, or the one who wears the pants. When Kaori paints a picture of the world’s most powerful woman, she’s wearing an apron.
In the traditional role, says Kaori, women are in charge of the most critical, most important, yet most rewarding job anyone could have. They are in charge of building a healthy and compassionate foundation for their husbands and children, not only to ensure the health of their family, but to guide their family to act justly in their dealings with the world.
For Kaori, it’s no wonder the world is in an unbalanced disarray, no wonder our corporations are obsessed with extraction of wealth and resources, no wonder greed is rampant. Our profit-oriented society has taken away the role of family CEO, and with this move it has demoted the one person who lays the soil in which which our lives can grow. It has forced the mother to take on menial work, the kind of work — in industry, in corporations — for which the only goal is to make a wage. The mother figure is forced to work for a decidedly thin economic value, instead of being able to serve the deeper moral value, and the fuel on which the family, and world, can run justly.
Well, Kaori would have none of that. So she goes to work talking about food.
Food, Kaori says, is a foundation element here; the food you feed your family and the way in which you prepare it has in and of itself, the power to affect people’s attitudes and the energy they carry with them into their school work, their jobs, and their dealings with the world.
To think of it another way, we know that food is energy and we often measure that energy in calories. However, it’s also quite important to note where that energy comes from.
For plants, this energy it comes from the sun and earth in the best case (natural foods), and from oil wells and mineral mines in the worst case (industrial farmed and highly processed foods); it comes from local sources tuned to your body’s understanding of where it dwells in the best case (local and seasonal foods), and from thousands of miles away in an environment completely foreign to your body in the worst case (out of season foods and the results of international trade agreements); it is prepared with the loving energy of a family member or friends in the best case (mother, father, local small scale restaurant), and with indifference and profit-calculating motives in the worst case (most food in a grocery store or chain restaurants).
I do believe that all of these energies matter, as do, says Kaori, the yin/yang properties of the foods — which I know very little about yet. The importance of all of this, of where you food comes from, how it is prepared, much of this is lost today, as is the importance of a parent at home to care for and bring up their family with love and compassion.What has taken place of this love and compassion and family and community, is a focus on economy, GDP, wealth generation, material items, ownership of things, status… really though, what is any of that worth if the result is broken families, violence, corporate greed, low self esteem, economic inequality, and social sickness the kinds of which we’ve never seen before?
Make no mistake, all of these things are closely intertwined with each other.
Where do we start to repair this? Well the field, the kitchen, the home, and the family are some good places to start for sure. It was a really beautiful class with Kaori, learning more about the importance of what we put in our bodies, and the way we handle and prepare this food, this energy, this fuel. We are happy to have a chef and wise woman like Kaori on our team.
Hopefully you too, are inspired to think about the role of food and family in new ways. If you have your own stories or reflections, feel free to share them with us!