Serving the Community, Sharing the Dream

Macrobiotic Summer Conference Report - by Alex Jack and Bettina Zumdick

Participants, teachers, and staff at a group photo on the Eastover portico.

Participants, teachers, and staff at a group photo on the Eastover portico.

The food makes the blood,

The blood makes the cells,

The cells make the tissues,

The tissues make the organs

The organs make the body.

And here we be.


Marlene Tara-Watson’s lyrical group chant, led in her Scottish brogue, became the mantra of this year’s Macrobiotic Summer Conference and resounded through a week of inspiring cooking classes and lectures; healthy, delicious meals; and a memorable Gala.

The 44th annual event, hosted for the third year by Planetary Health, Inc., the nonprofit sponsor of Amberwaves, featured pioneer educator Bill Tara and his wife, Marlene, a celebrity chef, and attracted about 100 participants, teachers, and staff. The conference included 20 lectures, 15 cooking classes, 12 exercise classes, a symposium on Alzheimer’s & Diet, and a live performance of the Miso Happy Show (see sidebar “Tally Ho: The Royals Come to Eastover”). The week-long assembly climaxed with the Gala keynote and banquet at which Bill, co-director with Marlene of MACROVegan in London, delivered a sterling address on “The Future of Nutrition” and received the annual Michio Kushi Peace Prize (see sidebar “The Greatest Play in the World”).

Nestled amid breathtaking Berkshire mountain views, the Macrobiotic Summer Conference, convening from July 28 to August 3 at Eastover, a spacious holistic resort in Lenox, MA, was a ringing success as a sampling of comments from attendees suggests:

“Life-giving, enlightening and life-changing!”

“Every meal was a hero!”

“Beautiful people, beautiful weather and beautiful scenery.”

“It is epic to be with like-minded people and get to know many most likely life-long friends!”

The theme of the conference, “Celebrating Planetary Food with Our Celebrity Chefs” was embodied in daily cooking classes, including Marlene Watson-Tara’s “My Vegan Kitchen”; Warren Kramer’s “Delicious Bean & Protein Cuisine,” Kunio Takaki’s “Natto Workshop,” Bettina Zumdick’s “Favorite, Scrumptious Dishes,” Judy MacKenney’s “Delicious, Natural Macrobiotic Appetizers,” Virginia Harper’s “Cooking for Intestinal Health,” Mariya Ivanov and Alex Jack’s “Our Daily Soup,” Naomi I. Esko’s “Party Sushi,” Jane and Lino Stanchich’s “A Couple in the Kitchen,” Sachi Kato’s “Flavorful Sauces Around the World,”  Sheri DeMaris’ “Oodles of Noodles,” and Christina Pirello’s “Love, Italian Style.” The cooking classes were held in the renovated Miso Happy House teaching kitchen and included tastings, recipe handouts, and a Q&A session with presenters.

Lectures and slide shows included Cathy Albanese on “Healthy Bones,” Edward Esko on “How Umeboshi Works,” Tom Monte on “A Path for the Consciously Evolving Human Being,” Rich Myers on “Wireless Radiation: Health Hazards & Precautions, and Donna Clifford, R.N. on “The Threat of Mandatory Vaccinations.” Judy MacKenney moderated a panel on “Our Macrobiotic Heritage” with anecdotes about the early macrobiotic community and the Kushis by Lino and Jane Stanchich and Carol Louro.

Responding to popular request, evenings this year were devoted to social activities instead of classes. On Monday evening, Bettina and Alex hosted a “Getting to Know You Night” in which people paired up with someone they didn’t know and then introduced each another to the group as a whole. People also broke into discussion groups based on their 9 Star Ki signs to discuss their ideal vacation and then report back to the ensemble. (The Metals wanted a structured holiday with clear goals, while the Trees loved the idea of enjoying delicious, healthy food more than the actual food itself.) Tuesday evening featured a concert at Tanglewood Music Festival, just 10 minutes away in Lenox.  In Ozawa Hall, English classical pianist Paul Lewis performed a recital with music by Haydn, Brahms, and Beethoven, while the audience relaxed outside on lawn seats and enjoyed a picnic dinner prepared by the conference kitchen staff.

Bodywork and exercise classes included “Morning Do-In” with Larry MacKenney, “Qigong” with Greg DiLisio, “Revitalizing Massage, Movement and Meditation” with Masumi Goldman, and “Awakening Exercises” with Alex. In addition to macrobiotic health consultations and 9 Star Ki sessions, Miwaka Ohara offered acupuncture treatments, Shanon Waddington gave psychic readings, and Sheri DeMaris advised on menu planning.

The conference food received glowing reviews. Head chef Amber Maisano and sous chefs Alex Garberg and Lauribel Lopez, and their support staff, turned out three delicious vegan macrobiotic meals each day. Participants especially enjoyed the lasagna, tempura, and other rich entrées as well as the daily salad bar. Pastry chefs Anna Aeschlimann and Mariya Ivanov prepared fresh, naturally sweetened desserts for the café, including Lemon Mousse, Carrot Cake, Peanut Butter Pie with Strawberry Sauce, Apricot Jam-Dot Cookies, Watermelon Kanten, Nori Nut Crunch, and Crispy Almond Butter Treats with Raisins.

Gourmet dining climaxed with the Gala banquet on Friday, August 4 prepared by Amber and the kitchen staff. The evening began with an outdoor social hour on the Eastover plaza featuring a buffet of home-made plant-based cheeses, including Miso Fermented Tofu, Cashew Chive, Macadamia Rosemary Ricotta, Baked Herbed Tofu Chevre, and Almond Cheese served with Sourdough Baguettes, Fresh Fruit and Jam, Kalamata Olives, Hummus, and Sparkling Apple Cider.

After taking a group photograph, the assembly moved indoors for the soup course of

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Cilantro, Lime, House-Made Soy Yogurt, Micro Greens, and Edible Flowers. The main course consisted of White Vegetable Lasagna with Garlic Cauliflower Sauce, Corn and Rice Lasagna Noodles, Tofu Ricotta with Fresh Thyme, Roasted Seasonal Vegetables, Walnut Basil Cream Garnished with Steamed Baby Vegetables. These were accompanied by Braised Fennel and Beets with Orange and Toasted Fennel Seeds, Blanched Broccoli Rabe with a Pine Nut Lemon Dressing, and Fresh Salad of Cucumber, Radish, Chicory, and Cauliflower with Pickled Vegetables and a Fresh Dill Vinaigrette. Dessert included Watermelon Panna Cotta with Amasake, House-Made Almond Milk, Lemon, Vanilla Lace Cookie, and Fresh Mint and an assortment of beverages.

The highlight of the festive banquet, the Kushi Peace Prize, was awarded to Bill Tara for his outstanding lifetime contribution to health, peace, and sustainability. One of Michio and Aveline Kushis’ earliest students in Boston in the 1960s, Bill served as vice president of Erewhon Natural Foods and went on to found Sunwheel Natural Foods, the Community Health Foundation, and the Kushi Institute in the UK. He later served as executive director of the K.I. in Boston and has traveled, taught, and counseled for many decades throughout the world.

The fundraising auction, presided over by Los Angeles auctioneer Mark Shustrin and Planetary Health development director Maria Ahverdyan, raised thousands of dollars for macrobiotic education. Auctioned items included an Omega R&R getaway retreat, a Great Life Mountain Weekend Seminar with Jane and Lino Stanchich, the original manuscript of Food Governs Your Destiny by Namboku Mizuno and translated by Aveline Kushi, a lovely oil pastel painting by Bettina, an online level of the Macrobiotic International Institute with Edward Esko, an in-depth personal menu planning session on Skype with chef Sachi Kato, and an early macrobiotic periodical collection.

About 50 natural foods and wellness companies donated ten thousand dollars’ worth of food and raffle items to the conference, including Eden Foods, Jovial, The Bridge Tofu, Once Again, Badger Health Body Care, Vitamix, Rhapsody, Bionaturae, Mountain Rose Herbs, Masao’s Kitchen, South River Miso Company, Edward & Sons, Cold Mountain Miso, Go Macro Bar, Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, Rhapsody, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Simone’s Kitchen, Natural Import Company, Vegan Rob’s, Mi Tierra Corn Tortillas, Hawthorne Valley Ferments, Newman’s Own, Kuhn Rikon, Rose Mountain Herbs. Local Berkshire donors included Holiday Brook Farm, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Baba Louie’s, Real Pickles, Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Stop & Shop, Price Chopper, and the Big Y. Kyocera, a Japanese ceramics company, donated ceramic vegetable knives to each cooking teacher.

Next year’s Summer Conference will be held again at Eastover from July 26 to August 1, 2020. For information, please visit


Sidebar: The Greatest Play in the World

Bill Tara receives the Michio Kushi Peace Prize from Alex Jack and Bettina Zumdick.

At the Michio Kushi Peace Prize ceremony at the Summer Conference Gala, Bill described how he got into macrobiotics.—Ed.

In 1968, I went to Boston. I’d been experimenting with marobiotics on my own for about a year with a little group of friends in San Francisco. One of them, my roommate, had heard about Michio Kushi, this mythological figure, and we knew nothing about him. We were practicing out of George Ohsawa’s books.

We were designing light shows for rock ‘n roll concerts. I then had hair and everything! We got a contract to do a light show in Washington, D.C., at a big new rock club that was opening. Paul went to scout this show and then went on to Boston and called me up. He said, “Well, I met Michio Kushi yesterday.” And I said, “How is it?” He said, “Sell all the equipment and come out.”

We had a whole studio: light equipment, photography equipment, and projectors. I was setting up another show at the time, and I said, “Is a month and a half OK?” So we came out, six or seven of us, our whole crew. The day after arriving, someone said, “Michio Kushi wants to meet you.” And I said, “That’s cool.”

We went over to his house and went into the room. I had on my best leather jacket and cowboy boots and we sat down. Michio was sitting there smoking—inscrutable—and asked me, “So what do you do?” And I said, “I do theater.” And he said, “What kind of theater?” I said, “You name it, I’ve done it. I’ve done Shakespeare, modern theatre, Moliere.”

Michio said, “Well, I’m producing a play that is so big that it’s going to change the world.”

And that’s what it took for me, that’s the kind of play I’m looking for. He got me. He knew exactly what to say. And that play has been going on in my life ever since.




Bettina Zumdick