A leader in health food movement
By Associated Press, 7/6/2001
BROOKLINE - Aveline Kushi, a leader of the health food movement who helped found one of the nation's first natural food stores, died Tuesday of cancer. She was 78.
With her husband, Michio, the Japanese-born Ms. Kushi was a leading proponent of alternative medicine and of macrobiotics, the belief that eating a mostly vegetarian diet of organic grains and produce affects far more than physical health.
Practitioners believe that eating meat and processed foods contributes to aggression and disharmony not only in individuals, but in whole societies, undermining prospects for world peace.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Michio Kushi said his wife's influence was enormous. ''She is the originator of the natural food movement in America. Even the word `natural food,' she chose to use that,'' he said.
''The people who began the movement and who are leading the movement have lost their symbol and inspiration,'' he said.
Christine Akbar, a Kushi family spokeswoman, said Ms. Kushi underwent traditional radiation therapy after learning she had cancer of the cervix nine years ago. When the cancer spread to her bones, she was told there was no other conventional treatment available, Akbar said. Ms. Kushi relied on acupuncture and other Eastern medicines and the cancer was in remission for several years.
Among her books are ''Aveline Kushi's Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking'' and ''Macrobiotic Cancer Prevention Cookbook.''
In the early 1960s, the Kushis moved from New York to the Boston area, where they formed study groups to discuss diet and its effects on health and world peace.
The groups generated demand for natural and organic foods, and in 1966 Aveline Kushi opened Erewhon, a Brookline shop named for a utopian novel by British philosopher Samuel Butler. She shortly afterward opened a branch in Los Angeles. In 1983, she sold the company, which had become one of the nation's largest natural food chains.
Born in Yokota, Japan, she came to the United States in 1951.
''When we first arrived in this beautiful country over three decades ago, there was almost no good food,'' she wrote in her autobiography, ''Aveline: The Life and Dream of the Woman Behind Macrobiotics Today.'' ''We would have to make wonderful food available to everybody ourselves.''
In 1978, the couple founded the Kushi Institute, a school to teach macrobiotics. Thousands have attended the institute's courses and those offered by a sister school in Amsterdam. The Massachusetts school moved to Becket in 1990.
Besides her husband, she leaves four sons, Arnold of North Carolina, Lawrence of New York, Phillip of Becket, and Hisao of California; seven brothers and sisters, Miyako Okada, Makoto Yokoyama, Atsumi Mimura, and Junko Asano, all of Japan, Kyu Yokoyama of New York, Yoko Kendall of Worthington, and Masaru Yokoyama of Texas; and 13 grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in the First Unitarian Church in Brookline. Burial will be private.
This story ran on page B7 of the Boston Globe on 7/6/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.
Reflections On Aveline
By David Briscoe
In 1999 I sent Aveline and Michio a letter about serious health problems that a family member was experiencing. I didn't want to bother them with a phone call. I thought I might hear from a secretary at some point, but imagine my astonishment to hear Aveline's voice on our answering machine the very day she opened the letter. She was offering her and Michio's full support, and she insisted that I bring the relative to the Summer Conference where Michio would give her a consultation gratis. I was overcome with gratitude. This was during a time when Aveline was not well. Aveline was always so generous and supportive of me and my family over the years, even though we were not personally close students like those who had spent many years in Boston studying with her. Neither were we donors, nor had we ever done anything of significance for Michio and Aveline or the Kushi Institute. I imagine that Aveline was generous in this unseen way with many, many others.
When Michio and Aveline came to our former center in Kansas City for a few days in 1989, I remember Aveline expressing her deep appreciation for the fact that we had arranged a hotel suite with a kitchen, even though their secretary had advised us against a kitchen. Aveline thanked Cynthia for giving her the opportunity to cook for Michio during the time they were in town. She expressed childlike delight to have been able to make soba noodles and broth for him. Throughout their whole stay, Aveline's expressions of appreciation for what we and our helpers had done to create the weekend program, flowed like a gentle stream. Everyone was brightened by her presence. It was an experience no one involved will ever forget.
I had only a few cooking classes with Aveline back in the early 80's, but they changed the course of my macrobiotic practice. Up until then, my cooking had been pretty crude with lots of fried vegetables and salty seasonings. A cooking class with Aveline was like attending a little ballet. I sat there entranced as she added a touch of flavor here, a swish of green garnish there. It seemed that something got burnt almost every time I attended one of her classes (there were always so many questions being asked), but she inevitably turned it into some sort of delicious sauce or gravy. I could not figure it out. How did she do it? Aveline's cooking classes showed me how to bring a delicate and sensitive touch to my cooking. When I returned to my own kitchen and applied what I had learned, I could see the sparkle of what she had taught starting to shine from beneath the crude lumps of my meals. For all these years since those few cooking classes, whenever I have prepared a meal or presented a cooking class, there has been a hint of Aveline there behind each attempt to create a balanced, beautiful and simple combination of dishes.
The first class I attended of hers was at a seminar in Chicago in 1981. Cynthia and I had driven 10 hours from Kansas City for the rare opportunity to be with Michio and Aveline in the Midwest. The set up in the hotel ballroom was less than ideal. The electricity to the hot plates being used for the class kept going off. Ever cool and collected, Aveline charmed us with her patience and graciousness. The food she served that day opened the door to a new quality and energy in my own cooking.
At another cooking class during a healing seminar in Boston, many students were speaking out questions as Aveline moved about delicately attending to the pots and foods in front of her. The questions came from all sides: "What's the medicinal quality of shiitake?," "What's the medicinal quality of rice vinegar?," "What's the medicinal quality of shoyu?" The questions persisted like that for a while. Finally, Aveline gracefully approached the microphone, and smiling she spoke: "Delicious flavor is the most medicinal quality." Those are words I have never forgotten. If one can achieve a delicious flavor with the simplest of macrobiotic foods, without spices, herbs, fats and sweeteners, one has become a true macrobiotic cook. Such was Aveline's cooking. The foods served at those classes provided the cleanest and brightest tastes I have experienced since starting macrobiotics in 1972. They became the standard by which I have judged my own cooking ever since.
"All of us at Macrobiotics America extend our deepest appreciation to you, Aveline, for your years of helping humanity and the earth through teaching all over the world about the importance of simple whole grains and vegetables. Reflecting on your life-long example, we rededicate our days ahead to sharing the wonderful way of macrobiotics with all humanity. We pray for your spirit's happy journey of infinite wonder."
Books by Aveline Kushi