‘Finding wellness in one’s roots’

Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art of Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit

By Candice Kumai (New York: Harper Wave, 2018, 336 pp., $29.99 hardcover)

Candice Kumai is a well known wellness writer, chef, and content creator who has written a book that is a mixture of memoir, self-help and cookbook. Her recognized contributions to national wellness and lifestyle publications such as Elle, Cosmopolitan and Shape provides her a unique platform to discuss wellness.

In her discussion of wellness, she infuses past ancestral rituals with the present. She celebrates her mixed heritage of her Japanese immigrant mother and Polish American father. A strength of her book is her message that in our imperfections we can find golden repair. Kumai with her good looks and good luck could be viewed as “perfect,” but throughout the book she shares her vulnerable moments from her earliest memories as a child feeling out of place being mixed race to her failed past relationships. Her running theme is that of wellness.

In the first section of the book, Kumai discusses how her  journey to visit relatives in Japan brought  her healing to her mind, body and spirit. Kumai follows her maternal roots to discover self-care through observing a kintsugi master. She finds that the art of kintsugi is about sealing broken pottery with gold. She views this Japanese art form as golden repair — finding wholeness in brokenness.  She writes that kintsugi, the Japanese art of golden repair, brings out the “broken, difficult or painful parts of you as radiating light, gold and beauty.”

A theme in this first section is the “cracks that make you beautiful.” Using her own personal experiences, she introduces readers to Japanese terms that are focused on self care. She discusses 10 principles that have helped her including wabi-sabi, which celebrates imperfection; gaman, which means living with great resilience; kaizen, which translates to continuous improvement; eiyoshoku, to nourish your body; ganbatte, which means to do you best; ki o tsukete, which means to take great care; shikata ga nai, which means to accept what cannot be helped; yuimaru, which celebrates care for your inner circle; kansha, gratitude; and osettai, to be of service to others.

The second half of her book is focused on nourishment, eiyoshoku. Kumai interweaves family memories with her message that cooking for yourself is the best way to nourish oneself. This section focuses on describing Japanese pantry items and is then followed by recipes that are breakfast and starters, noodles and soups and main dishes, big bowls, Japanese inspired sweets. A strength of this section is that all the recipes are plant-based. Recipes that seem innovative and interesting include “miso-avocado toast,” “avocado soba greens bowl” and “miso kale caesar salad.”

Although Kumai’s recipes do include brown rice, quinoa, gluten-free flour and less of a reliance on sugar and white rice, a limitation of Kumai’s wellness writings is her omission on the importance of eating low on the glycemic index.

Sections three and four of the book focus on lifestyle, kurashikata, and heart, kokoro and continues her discussion of wellness.

Throughout her book, Kumai’s strength is her ability to elevate the message of finding wellness in one’s roots — a message that those in the Asian American community can and will appreciate.

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