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Then I was off to Good Earth, an organic supermarket on the other side of the city, for a healthy bunch of carrots. Lips that touch insecticide shall never touch mine, I warbled. The next stop was at Greenberg's Natural Foods in the East Village. Mr. Greenberg specializes in beans, which fill immense bins. There were 15 varieties of beans to choose from in a multitude of colors—lentils, soybeans, aduki beans, black and pink beans, red lentils, pinto, navy, lima, horse and mung beans. I am very fond of beans. So is Harry. An artist friend of ours used to make beautiful pictures using nothing but beans, which he glued to a canvas in a variety of designs. He was a talented fellow, always looking for new mediums. I bought some aduki beans and headed for the Demeter restaurant, not far from Greenberg's.
The Demeter is a stronghold of macrobiotic devotees and hippies who know, or think they know, the importance of being not too yin (ice cream and fruit are yin) and not too yang (meat and eggs are yang) but somewhere in between so that the opposing but complementary Zen forces will prolong life and keep one from being sanpaku. Do the whites of your eyes show under the iris? You are sanpaku, a. disastrous thing to be in macrobiotic circles.
The Demeter, a small, dimly lit room, was furnished with wooden tables that were sturdy though unfinished. Behind a barricade four feet high at the back of the room was a steam table. A young man with very long hair was stirring something in a caldron. It turned out to be brown rice, which he ladled onto a plate and presented wordlessly to a customer. The customer took a mug from a shelf and poured himself tea from a battered and apparently communal teapot. No one paid any attention to me. I sat quietly, contemplating my bag of aduki beans and the organic carrots, which were going to give me a new grip on my destiny. Finally a girl dressed in an ankle-length skirt came over to my table. I looked her squarely in the eye so that she could see she was not dealing with someone who was sanpaku.
"What do you recommend?" I asked, as though torn between the cr�pes suzette and mousse au chocolat. She gestured toward a blackboard attached to one wall, on which several items were scrawled in chalk.
"Tell him what you want." She pointed to the chef, still stirring trancelike, and moved off. "The tea," she added, over her shoulder, pointing to the kettle, "is free." It was hot and tasteless. It could have used some of my Fixfenchel. I ordered the vegetable plate, macrobiotic style, 75�. Brown rice, beans, mixed greens and seaweed. The seaweed, with which I was making my first acquaintance, looked like a mound of thin brown worms that had been beaten to death. It tasted of fish and brackish water. Seaweed is apparently one of the higher forms of vegetarianism. "The Bible indicates that for 10 generations before the Flood people lived an average of 912 years. After the Flood they began eating flesh. The life of the next 10 generations was shortened to an average of 317 years," wrote a physician named Owen S. Parrett in an article explaining why he became a vegetarian.
That evening an enthusiastic friend bounded over with Zen Cookery, The Soybean Cookbook, The Natural Foods Cookbook, George Ohsawa's Zen Macrobiotics, a text on the philosophy of Oriental medicine, and a final offering that proved to be the most important of all. This was a jar of Bulgarian yogurt culture, with which I was to make my own nourishing yogurt.
I started immediately. Yogurt must be made in an incubator, preferably electric, but no special equipment is needed. A deep pot with a lid will do. Making yogurt seemed fairly simple, though the recipe nagged endlessly about keeping the temperature constant while the mixture thickened. Nothing is simple. First the pot was filled with a pint of fresh milk and brought to a boil. All one had to do after that was wait for it to cool to lukewarm, then pour in the Bulgarian yogurt culture, which had to be stirred with a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, six jars were warming in the oven. Finally, when everything including me was lukewarm, I poured the mixture into the jars, popped them into the pot, filled it three-quarters full of warm water and covered the creation with a lid. Mission accomplished. Just as I was wrapping a heavy towel around the pot to conserve the heat, Harry wandered in, nodded coldly and asked a not illogical question: "What's that?"
"An incubator. All we need do now is wait."
"The recipe says about two hours."