On food, life, and such things

As I'm now re-booting my food blogs again, I thought I'd start off with a little musing about the future direction of this site as well as JustBento.

Since the start of my medical woes last year, I've been thinking a lot about food and health. Although we want our food to just be fun and delicious, it's also what fuels and supports our bodies. Most of this site has been about the fun and delicious part of food, although I have tried to pay some attention to the health aspects.

One unfortunate effect of my cancer surgery was that it seems to have pushed what was my pre-diabetic condition into full blown diabetes. This happened not because my eating habits got worse, or that I gained weight - on the contrary, I lost weight last year despite not getting a lot of exercise simply because I lost my appetite for long stretches of time - but probably due to the stress of the surgeries and so on. I also don't really think that anything I ate caused my cancer - cancer of the uterus and cervix is not necessarily connected with ones dietary habits, unlike other types of cancer. But in any case, I realized that this was the dawn of a new era in my life. I can no longer just eat whatever strikes my fancy.

Bummer? Well, yes. But it's not so bad. I've always loved fresh, homemade food, and that already gives me a leg up on someone who might have been used to eating out all the time. When you cook for yourself, you know what you are putting in your mouth - or you should (ingredient knowledge is key). And I am lucky in that I find cooking to be a relaxing, enjoyable thing, not something to dread or stress over.

What can I say - I love food; the way it looks, the way it tastes, the way it smells. The way it can make people happy and content. The most depressing thing that happened during the lowest points of the past year or so were when I totally lost my appetite, and food in general was not appealing anymore. It made me so sad to think that one of the biggest joys in my life could be lost. When I started to find that a whiff of sautéing onions made my mouth water again, and that gazing into the window of a patisserie was fun and exciting once more, I knew that I was on my way back to health, and life. (And when my doctors stopped talking about my condition and started poking me about losing weight I knew they were less worried too. ^_^;)

Speaking of stress: More than ever, I am convinced that stress has a far greater impact on ones health than we can ever fathom. Every time I've had a major setback healthwise, it's been caused by stress - physical stress, such as the six (!) surgeries I've had in 2 years, or emotional and psychological stress, such as the death of my father, or getting burglarized, or just the stresses of daily life.

You always hear about people who are changed after a major illness. The stories you hear the most are the ones who become much better people - the businessman who turns to philanthopy and such. I haven't changed that drastically myself, but one thing that has changed is that I think I've stopped worrying so much. I used to worry about big and little things all the time, and you know what - it's not really worth it. (Another interesting aftereffect of my illness is, I'm no longer afraid of dying, after having come rather close to it. Perhaps I'll talk about at another time.)

So what does all of that have to do with my food blogging? Well, you may not notice a big change actually. But you may see me talking a bit more about the health aspects of certain foods. My emphasis on Japanese food will not change, since happily a lot of Japanese dishes are quite healthy. You'll see a lot more food from southern France, since I'm discovering more and more delicious things to incorporate into our daily routine. And there will still be a few treats, even stuff with (gasp) sugar, since sweet things are just fun to make! Stress reduction for the win.

Life has to be fun in order to keep living, and so does blogging, right?

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Glad to see you back! And that you're feeling better (or getting better, or both!) You're so right about the stress of things, but a lot of the time it's so hard to see the forest for the trees :/

So good to see you back! I'm a fan of the direction you want to take this. My family is very big on all the things you talked about, especially seeing food as fuel and stress management. I hope your body "resets" from the traumas soon and that food and life in general help you get there! No Fear. :)

Great to see you back Maki.

Reading about your loss of appetite reminded me of my friend Dave, who has survived throat cancer. Minus all his salivary glands and, more temporarily, tastebuds. It's been over ten years now and his tastebuds are finally returning and he can again enjoy some foods. He said that for the first several years food either tasted like cotton wool or nasty. Imagine that! Be thankful for small mercies, I say.

Miss Itoh, I'm glad to see that you're recovering, but also saddened to hear about the diabetes. I'm equally glad you're coming back to your previous joys, and eagerly await the next time you're able to post something yummy or informative!

I'm glad you're feeling more like your old self and are able to enjoy food and cooking and blogging again. I'm trying to eat healthier myself so I look forward to what new things you will show us in the future ^_^

So glad you are doing better. It's good to see your posts again.

While I have not been through any major medical crisis as bad as yours has been, things having been too good. I tend to try to eat decently. However I was reminded of Okinawa and the way some people eat and live there. I have been trying to find recipes not just from there but from Greece and other areas where every day eating supports a healthier life. It's a challenge!

I look forward to seeing what you will be posting in the future!

I'm so glad you are feeling better. Regaining one's appetite for food and for living is key, as is examining the rest of the journey. I think you hit it right on the head about stress too. Find laughter when you're stress. I hear it releases good chemicals in your body, and I think it is only reason I am still alive today. Much <3

Glad to see you feeling better! And I'm looking forward to seeing the healthy foods you'll be sharing. We can all use tips for healthier meals!

It is so good to have you back!

You can do it! Just keep going! Keep feeling good!

Glad you're starting to feel better! Healthy isn't bad. :)

So glad you've got 'better' in a subjective sense; hopefully remission will last a long time.

As for developing Type I diabetes; I live with someone who was diagnosed at the age of 33 with the disease (not due to bad diet/diabetes type II etc.) and my interest in asian and Japanese food has had a wondrous effect on his blood-glucose control (I'm the chef in the household kitchen!).

I have a bowel disease - now the only type of foods that don't cause me problems are Japanese. The wonders of miso soup when I have an upset stomach...

You have a wonderful blog; glad you are back!

Kind regards

Happy to see you here again. I'm so glad you're feeling better.

Happy you are feeling better! I agree that stress is a big cause of health problems. I feel the worst when I'm stressed.

Hurrah! So glad to see you back Maki!!!! <3

due to your good nature and skilled hand at cooking and writing, i feel assured that whichever way you wish to walk with this blog will bring me and my tummy big happiness. congratulations on your return and continued climb back to full health. forever a reader fan of your writings and shares... best sent ~

Courage Maki !

I'm so glad to hear that you've recovered! And I can sort of relate to you because my dad has diabetes as well so he has to watch what he eats. But, knowing the wonderful blogger you are, I'm sure you'll make good out of it and start making healthy *and* fun recipes! ^_^ I would choose healthy food over fast food any day, so I'm looking forward to your future posts :) Take care, Maki~~

Glad to "read" that you are back. Keep on keeping on. Looking forward to your blogs again :)


I have missed your presence oh so very much.

Congratulations on overcoming so much without becoming a grinch :P

I have lost count how many times I have prayed for your recovery. I am just too happy!!

Here's to getting better and better *cheers!*


I believe Cancer is totally diet related. I was diagnosed with an early sign of cervical cancer, and had done some treatments. After I changed my diet, I no longer see any sign of the cancer coming back. Now, it's been so many years, I still pay close attention on how to eat healthfully. A very low fat diet will definitely help.

Good luck.

I'm actually oddly glad to see this, strange as that sounds. In my pregnancy, we discovered that I had what we thought was gestational diabetes. In reality, it was a precusor to being pre-diabetic. I'm right on that edge of Type II, just as you were. The thing is, I'm healthy. Not just slimmer, but actually healthy. I never ate much sugar, and the only thing we did that was ever really suspect was white rice. But, it wasn't enough.

My health went from something I just sort of thought about, to something that dominates the majority of my life now. I try to keep my stress low, because stress raises blood sugar levels so much, but it's so frustrating to find that I have so few resources available, even online, for the change in my health when it comes to things like cooking. And the restrictions have made it so that more and more, I feel like I cannot enjoy food.

So, I know it sounds weird to say that I'm happy you've had these life changes, because I know how much they really suck, but I just know that you can help so many people like you, and like me, who need to find different and better sources for our food choices without sacrificing the joy that food can bring to a life.

What a really good post, thank you for sharing. I'm really excited to see the new focus for your blog.

Maybe not a topic for right away, but if you ever have the time or inclination, could you tell us a bit about the traditional Japanese food healing thing. I've heard people mention something about five colours, five tastes... something like that. It seems that a lot of cultures have a traditional relationship between food and well being. I would love to know more about what Japanese culture has to say about it.

Hope you continue on your way to feeling better. Glad to have you back.

I'm a loving reader of your blog and am so happy to hear you are feeling a bit better! Food is a great joy for me as well. Ironically it was illness that led me to my passion for cooking. I've had a condition my whole life, but three years ago it got really bad. One of the changes I had to make in my lifestyle was a low sodium diet. I'm from Hawaii so soy sauce, like Japan is heavily used,lol. Sad as it was I eventually made the best out of it and began to cook more often,challenging the limits of flavor... which led to sheer passion :) I later found sodiumgirl.com which made me very happy. Just as I read yours (even though saddening) it has inspired me. I'm excited for you & your new chapter. In retrospect, it will be wonderful. :)

Hi Maki, so glad you are back! I am wishing you all the best in your health and life going forward.

It's SO nice to have you back!

Welcome back. Your perspectives on tailoring recipes from two great cuisines will be invaluable to all of us. Many of us in "good health" now must still attend to sugar, salt and fats in our diets. Lots of us cook for others with special food, diet and nutrition issues. Your wisdom and honesty will keep me reading.

Hey Maki, it's good to hear you're doing better! <3

I'm glad you're feeling better, as well.

*Gives you a big warm hug~*

Welcome back. <3


So glad that you are recovering, including your joy of eating! Will look forward to your healthy creations.

I'm sorry for your onset of diabetes, but if you take care of yourself, you should do pretty well. I hope you'll look into the sugar alcohol erythritol as a sugar substitute, as it's a pretty close sub. for sugar and doesn't cause digestive problems, or have icky aftertaste.

I read your blog because of the way you write, the way you choose your topics and the way you care about things in the world.

All these things are because of you, you are special!!!

Banzai!! I am glad to hear you have found your way again, best of luck to you and yours.

Love your blogs and you are still in my thoughts.

dear Maki, diabetes can be managed readily. In my view, it is better to manage much on your own and to be stricter with your diet than current medical recommendations. Test frequently, and keep your glucose low. Here is the best advice I have found: http://www.phlaunt.com/diabetes/14045524.php

You may have to translate the glucose levels into European terms.

Other important points: metformin is an excellent drug for diabetes and has an anti-cancer action.

I see diabetes as a metabolic inability to digest carbs properly, and so I avoid grains, most dairy, and root vegetables. I make exceptions for onions, garlic and a smidgin of carrot. Many foods are much higher in glucose than you may recognize, so check carb counts as you get used to a new way of eating. And if you choose to eliminate carbs, you may face the challenge of giving up a traditional staff of life: bread, pasta or rice. I meet this challenge by eating the "sauces" or stir fries as stews, without a bed of carb underneath.

Fats become your friend. Consider avocados, oils, cheeses, and nuts as some of your primary foods.

If you keep your glucose levels low, you can avoid the damage typical to diabetics: of the kidneys, retinas and nerves. Explore the website above for more information.

I know you are dedicated and resourceful, and you can do well. Good luck!

Maki, I'm so glad your back and feeling better! And as for your subtle change in venue, I'm very excited. Though not as complicated and life threatening as your illness, I too have had major surgeries to my digestive tract. So now I have to be very careful about what I feed myself, and the limitations have left me less than excited about cooking. On top of that, during the same time my favorite food blogger was down for the count so I was even less excited, as there were no longer any new interesting things I had to try waiting for me in my inbox. I can't wait to see what will be appearing here! Once again I'm glad you are doing well and super glad your back!

First, I am so glad you are back to blogging. I love seeing a post from you in my RSS feed! I'm also glad you are going to be looking at the healthy parts of food. I love food dearly, however, many foods that I have loved for years are not allowed due to acute ulcerative colitis. And now, due to being put onto a low carbohydrate diet too! I have always been a fairly healthy person in the way of food but I am now looking at foods in a completely different light. Looking forward to seeing more from you and incorporating what I can.

HI Maki I just found on your site as I was writing an ethics paper for a class. I'm interpreting Aristotle's principles to my Issei grandparent's lives. Anyway love your writing and subjects. I feel strength and a lot of love and positive force in your words. Life is about change. It happens. I'm glad to have found you and look forward to reading more.

I am also glad to have you back ... your blog is one of my favorites to read and so of course I have worried about you in the months with no posts. I am really glad to hear that your health is improving and your excitement for food is back! I know how sad and worrying it is to have no appetite and to lose interest in something that was a real joy before, and can really empathize. Also what you say about stress really resonates with me ... this year I have been dealing with (most likely stress-induced) depression and found that the silver lining was learning how to be kinder to myself, to rest more, and to recognize what is really important - namely enjoying life rather than checking off achievements. I wish you tons of luck and success with moving forward now in a healthier, less stressful, happier direction! and congrats on the kitchen!

So glad to see you back. I feared the for the worst, then was able to track you down on twitter. Anyhow, I appreciate your new direction. I think delicious food can be healthy without obsessing about it. Parisians seem to get by on a diet of ham and cheese sandwiches for the most part, so I can never see the benefit in all of these strict health food trends.

I was at Trader Joe's yesterday and a lady reacted with horror at the modest sprinkling of corn on top of a pre-packaged salad. "Corn is full of sugar!!!" she said. All I could think of was "Is this what we've come to? Fresh corn is my enemy??" /sigh

Great to see you back, Maki. I'm a huge fan of both your blogs, and I'm glad to read that things start to be looking up. Take care!

I'm happy that you're starting to feel better after a long time of worrying and such. Here's to many more years of happy, healthy, fun blogging! ^^

Hello. Soo glad that you're in better health and still able to continue this site!! Not only that, it is wonderful that you've found the good from all this. Very much looking forward to what you have to come. ♥

I admit to stalking your blogs every few days.

Thank you for having the strength to come back to your blogs and share with us the very personal stories and lessons.

I only hope that I can be as strong as you.

Welcome back! Cannot wait to see pics of your kitchen :)

Hi Maki-san,

So glad to hear you're back online and feeling better as well as getting better. I agree that stress can play havoc with health. From personal experience I found that when under a lot of stress it's impossible for me to eat certain food without having some adverse reaction whereas when everything's fine I have no issues and can eat anything. Reactions to food under stress ranged from cold-like symptoms to full body hives so keeping stress to minimum and no worrying about the small stuff, I totally support. Best wishes on your recovery and hopefully hearing more from you through your blog. I look forward to seeing what new directions you take.


Good to hear that you're feeling better, Maki. Looking forward to reading your posts again.

I'm glad to hear you're feeling a lot better and I hope you continue down the road of recovery :) My family is facing some heath crises of our own this year (not me personally, but my husband and my mother) -- as soon as one was under control we got information on another.

Glad to see you back and blogging, and not only am I looking forward to seeing pictures of your kitchen, but also some of the new foods you make and write about!

You having diabetes is bad news.
This site focusing on still healthier food is good news.

So glad you are back. I really missed your posts and worried about you.

Glad you are feeling better, you have been missed! I just sent one of your Just Bento cookbooks as a wedding gift to a cousin that is interested in eating healthy but deliciously. I know she will enjoy it for years to come. I look forward to your new entries. thx so much!

I missed you Maki and I'm glad you're back! I am pre-diabetic myself and have other health conditions (such as rampant hypertension) so I would appreciate hearing more about the health aspects of food, portion control, weight loss, etc., from you. I'm looking forward to your French-inspired cuisine as well!

Welcome back! I have missed your postings and point of view and have been rooting for you.

Dear Maki,

I am a first time commenter despite following your blog since 2009. And I just want to say how glad I am with your road to recovery from cervical cancer. And your renewed outlook on life. I wish you all the best and here's to a new year ahead! :)


Welcome back, Maki. So happy to be reading you again.

Happy New Year - I hope 2013 brings you good health, good food and many memorable moments. Rock on!

Just re-discovered your blog in my search for an okonomiyaki recipe. I was hoping to find a maangchi equivalent but for japanese cooking, and I think your blog is right on with it.

Anyway, I wanted to leave a word as a cheer up and wish you a good recovery!

Glad to see you back, And knowing that you're alright now. You're so right about the stress of things, but a lot of the time it's so hard to see the forest for the trees. I'm equally glad you're coming back to your previous joys, and eagerly await the next time you're able to post something yummy or informative. Thanks a lot