KAZUSA JIBIKI, NEW YORK USA
RESTAURANTEUR OF LOVELY DAY
ON MACROBIOTIC NUTRITION AND HEALING
Kazusa Jibiki is the owner of a busy little restaurant in Nolita called Lovely Day and also happens to be my boss. For someone of her age - her body, energy and attitude is fitter and more at peace than a lot of the people I know currently enjoying their twenties and early thirties.
Being so curious as to how someone could look and remain so young at heart, it has been people like Kazusa herself who have been the main source of inspiration to start this very project, Belle Luna Vie.
Never have I met someone so generous, spirited, at peace and alive - I hope the topics we discuss in our conversation surrounding macrobiotics, nutrition and mental health can inspire us all to appreciate the idea of letting go and ageing gracefully.
I FIND MORNING RITUALS AND HOW ONE CHOOSES TO START THE DAY BOTH IMPORTANT AND INTERESTING. WALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNINGS?
I usually wake up at 8am and I go straight to the kettle to start boiling some filtered water for tea. Starting my day with tea is very important to me, its my ritual. I try to have it a different way everyday - sometimes with honey or almond milk, lemon or chai. I usually then go ahead and make miso soup. I have so much energy in the morning that I try and utilise that time efficiently and prepare foods for the rest of the day - cooking rice, steaming vegetables etc. Ive been experimenting with rice for some time now, its become a little project for me and keeps things interesting. I stick to brown rice but have been cooking it with different ingredients such as ginger or with organic mu radish and just see how it turns out. Right now I have one with purple radish and ginger and its been really tasty. I have been doing the same with miso soup also - because I have it a lot its important to keep it new and exciting.
Then I do some light stretching for about five mins while watching the Japanese news and start my working day around 8:30am with checking my emails and calling the restaurant.
I have an alarm in my iCloud for 9am every morning and I do a morning gratitude prayer - just a short prayer, to thank god (anyones god) and all the great spirits and ancestors to say thank you for another beautiful day. If its raining outside, I say thank you because its great for the farms and the farmers and if its snowing its great for the people in the mountains. Thank you for peace and living in a city without wars, families health, my health, my house, family, friends, great staff and great food. Every morning I never miss it - it really makes a great difference.
IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO EAT JAPANESE?
Its not important for me to eat Japanese all the time but right now it has become important for me to rediscover Japanese cooking and traditions. I find it really interesting because for many years I neglected Japanese culture, especially when I was younger and living in New York. I was living here and eating foods from all different ethnicities, whether it be French, Italian or Spanish - I just found myself feeling really out of touch. So now I'm putting my energy and focus back into the home cooking that I grew up with in Japan. I always cook with local produce, meat and fish and sometimes its a little bit challenging but its never anything extravagant or extremely complicated. It doesn't matter what I cook as long as its authentic and to me home cooking makes me feel safe, loved and warm and to feel those things are the most important.
AND FOR DINNER?
For me to have a cooked dinner, whether you cook it yourself or someone cooks it for you is also really important. Recently its been Japanese because of the stage I'm currently going through but sometimes because I am so busy, it could be something as simple as searing salmon with brown butter, lemon sauce and vegetables. The good thing is I always have a good amount of vegetables in the pantry at all times so its easy for me to cook and experiment new dishes. I try to not cook with the same vegetables and be adventurous with trying out new types constantly. Variety and broadening my range is very important.
IM READING THIS BOOK AND IT EMPHASISES HOW EATING VARIETY IS KEY TO ACHIEVING OPTIMAL NUTRITIONAL HEALTH BECAUSE YOUR BODY NEEDS TO SOURCE ITS NUTRIENTS FROM A RANGE OF DIFFERENT FOODS TO MAKE SURE WE ARE ALL NOURISHED WITH EVERYTHING WE NEED.
Yes most definitely so I consciously always include different root vegetables, greens, yellow and orange vegetables and grains (which is always rice). I always buy local produce and both at home and the restaurant we use seasonal vegetables and ingredients because I think thats really important as well. Im also really into fermented foods and fermenting and pickling on my own. Ive been really into pickling with koji lately and I make my own and spread it on fish or meat. My boyfriend has a parasite problem in his stomach and is really sensitive and the reactions usually show up on his skin so its important for him to always have something fermented. Not many people are actually aware of how good miso soup is for you as well.
IS THIS WAY OF LIVING AND EATING HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOUR INTEREST AND BRIEF STUDY INTO MACROBIOTIC NUTRITION?
In Japan we kind of grew up around eating and living this way without even thinking or being aware that it was something called macrobiotic nutrition. Its interesting now to know the theory of macrobiotics because at the time it was just the way our grandmothers and mothers were eating and cooking. To me it sounds very much like a study or science but I think you just tell by cooking and eating what makes your body feel good. And in saying that, not what feels good while you're eating, because fried foods and sugars will always taste amazing, but how your body is reacting and feeling afterwards. When you wake up in the morning, try and engage and feel your stomach or become aware of the swelling in you face, the puffiness in the eyes - most people don't know the affect that certain foods or ingredients has to our bodies so I think its good to be a little educated.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS EATEN SO CONSCIOUSLY?
Thats a really good question because after I opened Lovely Day, I was so busy working on the restaurant and juggling two other jobs at the time that I found myself eating out nearly every meal. I didn't have any time to cook for myself so I ended up eating a lot of fried and spicy foods and foods that were rich and dense like meat.
I traveled back to Japan and one day I was eating sushi with my parents and they were shocked at how much wasabi I was putting on my food. They pointed it out and all they said was "you must be very stressed". I didn't realise what I was doing and what the reason was behind why my parents linked it back to stress at the time but that was suddenly the beginning of all these red flags.
Some time after that every time I ate I started to experience intense pains in my stomach as if I no longer could digest food properly and so I stopped eating because it became so painful. I went to the doctor and had a colonoscopy and found that the inner lining of my stomach was inflamed and I had gastritis. I look back now and think it was a combination of eating spicy and fried foods, stress, drinking and not sleeping well. It was around the same time then that my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. I know my mother loved to eat cakes, breads, donuts and other foods that were rich and heavy. Thats when we both decided to do some damage control and started looking back to our roots and heritage and returned to traditional cooking. The doctors also recommended practicing macrobiotics so she started to grow her own vegetables around the house and we both became very aware. It really affected us.
WHAT CHANGES IN YOUR BODY AND MENTAL HEALTH HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED SINCE MAKING THOSE CHANGES IN YOUR DIET?
I feel lighter and have more energy. My mood also became more balanced and grounded. Foods have different energies and its important to know what does what to your body and what doesn't. Like spicy foods have a fiery energy, or some other foods transmit heavier energies and alcohol is almost always a depressant. I also realised whatever foods or diet you grew up eating is also very important for your mental health. Like American people grew up eating dense carbohydrates like bread and potatoes and thats great, they can eat a little more of that compared to the rest of us because their organs are used to digesting them and there is a good extent of mental comfort attached to those foods. In having said that, there is always room to improve our diet. For instance, minor changes and slight moderations in perhaps the use of processed condiments or sauces you had growing up, thinking of things that arent necessary and you can cut out as an adult.
I think everyones bodies are different and certain people say that your zodiac signs and when and where you were born can affect what you are compatible with so its all about experimenting and finding what works for you. People might have been vegetarian or vegan their whole lives but its important to harness your inner intuition and not become an extremist. My macrobiotic teacher once said to me that if I'm having a meal with company, even if the meal shared isn't one that fits in with your diet or morals, its just as important to let go and enjoy it and present. If you don't relax and allow yourself to enjoy the meal, the stressful energy and grip of it all will actually end up doing more harm to your body in the long run. Just let go and enjoy something that has been made for you, its not the end of the world.
DO YOU HAVE ANY RITUALS THAT HELP YOU BE PRESENT WITH COOKING AND EATING?
Food is really important to me and so I enjoy every meal from breakfast, lunch to snacking in the afternoon and dinner. I make a conscious effort to not just pass the meal and stuff my face but be completely present in the even of eating. I try and sit down and really enjoy everything. Before every meal I say a little prayer, like a little bon appetite! to myself to prepare for the feast I am about to experience.
In Japan we say, "itadakimasu" and it makes you appreciate everything and become consciously aware of what we are about to eat. When I was growing up in Japan, my parents told me that "itadakimasu" was also a way of showing your appreciation of whatever was being sacrificed for you, whether it be meat or fish. Its a way of acknowledging that something you are about to eat had a life and died for you so you voice an appreciation for their lives and their sacrifice. Psychologically, it makes the food better for me too.
DO YOU EXERCISE?
Just light stretching every morning about five mins is all and I bike a lot in the summer. I don't take elevators, I will always take the stairs - its just the little things like that because I don't have enough time or an hour out of my day to go to the gym. When I'm at home watching tv or a movie, I'm always there doing my stretches and making use of the time. I used to do a lot of yoga and I did ballroom dancing everyday for three years, it was so much fun. But now with the restaurant I don't really have time for it anymore.
HOW ARE YOU LOOKING SO YOUNG FOR YOUR AGE?
Well I don't really exercise so maybe its good digestion? I try and eat a lot of vegetables with fiber so my body can process, digest and expel things quite quickly and smoothly. Ever since I was diagnosed with gastritis, I'm always consciously thinking about my stomachs lining because seeing the photos from the colonoscopy left me quite scarred and feeling horrible. I now take really good care of it so I think maybe thats why I never really gain weight. In the winter I don't bike around so I do feel a little heavier but when its warm out and I'm biking around the city, my body stays very lean and toned.
DO YOU THINK ITS YOUR POSITIVE MENTALITY TOWARDS FOOD ALSO? I KNOW A LOT OF WOMEN WHO DIET AND I'VE SEEN SO MANY IN THE LONG RUN ADOPT STRESSFUL AND ANXIOUS RELATIONSHIPS WITH FOOD AND EATING RATHER THAN ONES THATS HARMONIOUS AND PEACEFUL. HAVE YOU EVER DIETED OR RESTRICTED?
I know some women who are very hardcore about working out and dieting but I never have. I don't think I can do that, I would get so stressed out and feel like all that energy put into restricting would affect something else in my body negatively. For me its never been about restriction but instead focusing more on positive enforcements. I like to find good things to eat that I enjoy eating so I can eat them in abundance and not feel bad or have my body and mind pay for it. So its not about "oh I cant have this" but "I can have this and it tastes amazing and I can eat as much of it as I want". You can only eat so much, so if you only eat good things and you feel full and great then you're less likely to be left with room for anything else.
HOW ABOUT COFFEE OR ALCOHOL?
I used to drink coffee and now I just drink tea. I'm not sure but it came to a point where coffee had such an affect on me and I started to get withdrawals and I didn't like the idea of that. It was seven years ago I had a bad experience after drinking a cup of coffee and getting anxiety that I haven't touched coffee since. Now I drink six to sevens cups of tea a day, usually english breakfast tea (no caffeinated tea's after 3pm) and if I wake up in the morning and feel a little weak, I will always go to green tea. Somehow green tea feels lighter and cleaner. I like to grate ginger and make my own ginger tea with honey.
I used to love having a beer after work or having certain cocktails, I loved dirty martinis in my twenties but now I don't miss it at all. If I drink now, I am really conscious of making sure its good liquor or wine, maybe organic hot cider from upstate or good sake. If I drink wine its always about choosing one with less sulfur and sulphites and organic if I can. I think I've consumed enough alcohol when I was in my twenties to last me my lifetime so now I don't really crave it. Now, I have so many other things I would rather do, like sleep or watch a really good movie.
WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER IS IMPORTANT TO PRIORITISE IN ACHIEVING POSITIVE HEALTH?
I know what it feels like to be in those dark moments that life grants you so I think I could only go off of what has helped me. I think sunlight is very important, I try and be in the sun everyday and I'm lucky because my apartment gets a lot of light so in the morning I'm always chasing the sun like a cat. Not having too much caffeine is also important - I have so many friends who have had panic attacks from coffee alone its quite scary. And staying away from foods that are very strong, like spicy foods - I think spicy foods can make your brain go a little wild. And miso soup? Miso soup is so good form you. I think its also really good to have music you enjoy in your life also. Relationships - and sharing a meal with someone is important. Its nice to have dinner with your friends but sharing a meal from the same plate with someone is really intimate and nice.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE BEAUTY AND WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER TO BE BEAUTIFUL TODAY?
I don't know if you've ever met my friend Vivien - I think she's really beautiful. She's not a model, or is she model thin or a certain body type but she's so confident and has such a pleasant energy. It draws people to her in the way that people sort of start to need her. People need her energy because it is so beautiful and pure and I think thats what makes her so beautiful to me.
She's also spiritual and a O blood type. They say when you lose blood, type O is the only blood that can be transfused into anyones body regardless of what their type is. She can blend with anyone in that way and I also find that interesting.
I don't notice physical features or pay much attention to physical attraction but am drawn to the overall energy of someone and how they carry themselves and speak. And humour - to me funny it always beautiful. Anything that can make people smile.