Upon arrival at the hotel and reaching your room, and after finding the mini-bar and removing the various liquids and plastic containers of nuts and candies the hotel provides, you open the suitcase that has clothes surrounding the various cooking essentials and staples to keep them protected from the horrors of airplane luggage compartments.
The rice cooker comes with two measuring cups (each a small useful plastic container, easily misplaced, and important to keep track of for measuring), one container rice to two containers water. Water, of course, is important. Bring with you or seek out immediately a source for a decent bottled variety, whether through the hotel or the nearest food store.
Okay, you have the staples, brown rice and beans, and now—more frequently than in the early macro-touring days—have obtained some fresh vegetables from a local health food store (they are increasing in number and in unlikely places—the Grand Appetit in the Marais, Paris, for example). You can embellish the meal with smoked salmon and lemon, a decent whole-grain loaf of bread or crackers, and a bottle of red wine, not necessarily macrobiotic, but convivial.
The next step is to search for the electrical outlet. If there is more than one, gratitude abounds. The finding of an outlet sounds simple, but more often than not, the only one is behind a large, heavy, and totally useless piece of furniture covered with the hotel’s printed material advertising its charms and what number to call to reserve a room in the next charming place in their chain.
If the search for an outlet is successful in a reasonable amount of time, you go to the next step. But if, as often, the outlet remains invisible, you remember David Tudor’s dictum: “There has to be one. The maid needs it for the vacuum.” I recall a closet of a room in London where it was necessary to request the appearance of and aid from David Tudor. He searched and found it hidden behind the TV, invisible to all except his—and presumably the maid’s—sharp eye.
Not all circumstances are as dire as that one. Some hotels, unpredictably, provide outlets in any number of places and free of encumbrances, making the cooking procedure a matter of choice as to which area is most suitable for the kitchen.
The beans are first, and if you have arrived the night before and have made suitable arrangements for bottled water, soaking is useful, reducing the cooking time, helpful when one pot has to serve. The beans are cooked with kombu seaweed broken up into small pieces, thyme, and bay leaf, and in recent trips a whole small clove of garlic, produced out of the food satchel. The cooking of the beans is done in the early morning during my yoga period, they only require an occasional stirring to keep their spirits up.
The yoga and the beans take roughly an hour, you turn them off (and if it’s a nervous hotel, hide the container in a drawer) and leave for the day’s schedule at the theater, which includes class and rehearsal. Coming back at four in the afternoon, eating a small amount of food before the evening show, and taking a nap, during which time the rice may be cooked, same procedure, same pot (one always carries various plastic containers for transferring food). With the rice, the cooker works automatically; once the four cups of water to two of rice have been used up, it turns itself off.
(Several of the dancers carry rice cookers, and start them cooking in the dressing rooms as rehearsal begins. On one tour, in a theater sadly lacking in any affluence of electricity, it gave up as the fourth rice cooker was turned on, and there was a brown-out).
Okay, basics are cooked. Next encounter is after the show, the curtain down to thunderous applause, and as soon as manageable one gets to the hotel, heats water in the pot to parboil vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, kale, string beans, sometimes carrots, even chard cut up), and, while this is going on, climbs into the bathtub to hope the muscular structure recovers some resilience.
When the vegetables are done, cooked through but still crisp, al dente if lucky, remove them, keep the cooking water for another day, put the mixture of rice, beans, vegetables with a small amount of Braggs Liquid into the pot to heat for some minor minutes, while the wine is opened—and if in Paris, the hors d’oeuvres are celeri rémoulade, carrot salad, endive, and, in season, tomatoes—and taste the wine.
One of the pleasant changes, particularly in Paris, is to find a plain roasted chicken, “All our chickens are cooked with nothing.” Hummus, tabouli too, can be found more often than not, as side tastes.
Once the entrée is hot enough, serve it, along with the salmon, lemon, watercress. Dessert, forget it! Have another glass of wine.
It requires diligence and attention to find suitable vegetables, especially when shopping in foreign markets, where they are often abundant but consist mainly of root vegetables, which take an inordinate amount of cooking time, carrots excepted if cut up small enough. (Where do the Turkish markets in Hamburg obtain all those green vegetables? The stalls are profuse.)
Plates? Well, carry reusable plastic types. I tried hauling so-called chinaware only once. It became china chips in my case. But I have found a usable knife-fork-spoon trio package in a small plastic case, spotted in one of those millions of catalogues that seem to make up the mail most days.
Occasionally I eat out, if there is a couscous restaurant in the neighborhood or city, even miles away if recommended. It is a great cuisine, suitable to the macrobiotic world. Imagine cooking a whole dinner over one small fire.
Places, Restaurants, and Shopping in Various Cities:
Grand Appetit, Paris (both carry-out and lunch)
Vidasana Restaurant, Barcelona
Earth in April, Cleveland, great market
Whole Foods, Austin, Texas
La Bioteka, Madrid (Take-out too!)
East/West, Old Street, London
Whole Foods, University Way, Berkeley
What’s the name of the large supermarket in Minnesota?
Berlin? Yes, Macro Center, for eat-in or take-out
Large Supermarket, Durham, North Carolina
Whole Foods, Amherst, Massachusetts
Tenmi Restaurant, near Shibuya Station, Tokyo
Yin Yang Restaurant, Modena
The Natural Cafe, Santa Fe
Nowhere Cafe, Los Angeles
Restaurant Shizen (Japanese Macrobiotic), Amsterdam
Centro Macro-Biotique, 4 via della Vita, Rome
And there’s always couscous:
La Couscouserie, Avignon
Couscous Franco Marocain, Metz
The Scheherezade Decor Number, Toulon
In the Old Town, Antwerp
I stay with the macrobiotic cuisine. It is extremely suitable to my system, and under touring conditions with performance deadlines, that is an a priori of the first order. I also enjoy the tastes, the separate tastes of plain food that can make a dinner a pleasure even under these conditions.
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.