Feeding the Mind … Feeding the Body

Hello and Greetings from the Kitchen,
Did you know?
Diversity enriches the human experience.  We learn from those whose experiences, beliefs, and perspectives are different from our own.

So begins Executive Chef Rick Wright’s weekday e-mail note for Friday, September 19.  He continues …
     It promotes personal growth—and a healthy society.  Diversity challenges stereotyped preconceptions;  it encourages critical thinking;  and it helps us to learn to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds.
     It strengthens communities and the workplace.
     Education within a diverse setting prepares us to become good citizens in an increasingly complex, pluralistic society;  it fosters mutual respect and teamwork;  and it helps build communities whose members are judged by the quality of their character and their contributions.
     It enhances America’s economic competitiveness.  Sustaining the nation’s prosperity in the 21st century will require us to make effective use of the talents and abilities of all our citizens, in work settings that bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Today in the Dining Hall in conjunction with Dr. Al Bardi’s Psychology of Diversity Class and Students we are preparing a Hungarian meal with recipes provided by Virág “Flower” Turcsán, a sophomore from Debrecen, Hungary majoring in Political Science and IGS.  As part of Prof. Bardi’s Psychology of Human Diversity course, she was asked to share some of the traditional meals of her country.  Please read her words below:

“Cheap but filling was the motto at Hungarian army kitchen during the World Wars.  During wars it was especially hard to ‘feed the nation’ so my forefathers and foremothers were forced to make do from whatever they had left in the country.  Portioning was also in for the season, thus wartime cuisine emerged.  My family still owns cookbooks such as ‘Raided kitchen’, ‘Dinner in the trenches’ and my personal favourite  ‘Penny for your food’.  Surprisingly, these meals were not only cheap and filling, but quite tasty as well.  Hence they still represent a major section in the traditional Hungarian cookbooks.  Today, you’ll get to try some of the best meals that come from those.

Paprika:  one of the best things that comes from Hungary (after our wine of course).  Paprikás Csirke (Chicken Paprikash) is one of the most traditional meals you can find.  It has everything you wish for:  chicken, paprika (the hotter/redder the better), sour cream, and noodles!

It’s getting chilly on the Mountain, time for layering!  I’m not talking about fashion;  I’m talking about food!  Layered dishes are extremely popular in Hungary, and one of the all-time favorites is Rakott Krumpli (Layered Potatoes – some would call this the Eastern European lasagna).  Get ready for some yummy sausage, cheese, eggs and potatoes layered on top of each other!

Lángos (Hungarian Pizza or Fried Dough) is a meal Hungarians only eat at the beach.  You have to be exhausted from swimming and tanning to be able to fully appreciate Lángos.  It’s also a great remedy for hangovers.  Note: the more garlic you put on top, the better.

By now, you may have realized that Hungarians love them some paprika (we even have a TV channel named after it!).  But, we not only call the spice paprika, we also call bell peppers by that name;  this dish has both!  Töltött Paprika (Stuffed Pepper) is pretty (healthy looking) on the outside and yummy on the inside.”

Then on Friday, October 24 we find

Hello and Greetings from the Kitchen,
Did you know?
Today in the McClurg Dining Hall it’s Food Day and Chef and Farmer Day and Food Culture Diversity Daya trifecta of deliciousness.

Food Day is celebrated Globally and McClurg Dining Hall is one of three sponsor sites in the great State of Tennessee.   ~ EAT FOOD REAL FOOD~

We are, as always, featuring Local goods and Produce in the McClurg Dining Hall … just a few of the Farms we purchase from:  The University Farm, Green Door Gourmet, Pickett Farm, Crowe Mountain Orchard, White City Produce, Lost Cove Farms, Sequatchie Cove Farms and Creamery, Fiery Fungi.
Emmitt And Lizzie Motlow are in the House today as a part of our Chef and Farmer Series (12-1) to meet and greet you over a Moroccan Lamb Stew prepared with lamb from their Lost Cove Farm.

The Dining Hall and Dr. Al Bardi’s Psychology of Diversity Class are Celebrating the Colombian Food Culture today with a meal of Arroz Mezclado con Plataconas  …  sophomore Sonia Francone has supplied us with the recipes and we are busy preparing this meal.

“Arroz Mezclado con Plataconas translates to deliciousness!
This Colombian dinner entree luxuriously sits at the top of the menu at every fancy restaurant from Colombia’s island coast all the way to its land coast.  This plate has traveled across the country since the republic was first established and endured war and strife.  Women cooked Arroz Mezclado con Plataconas and fed the soldiers during drafts, trainings, and war, most importantly, because the dish contained all sources of essential proteins.  Women would cook this plate, diverse with all food types, from salad greens to grainy rice pellets, for their families at home in order to keep the sense of family and cozy hominess.  In addition, women encouraged their family to eat around 6:45 PM, the same time that soldiers ate.  Since then, this plate has gained the reputation of union and is cooked during holidays, birthdays, and weddings. 
The significance of the ingredients strengthens the feeling of oneness that warms the scrumptious dinner plate.  During the early 1900s, the USA developed a deep interest in the Panama Canal;  however, this canal was owned and operated by Colombia, as what is known as Panama today was once part of Colombia.    The USA proved successful in its attempt to split Colombia in half;  although, it could not split the unanimity of the people.  The avocado encircling the tomato was symbolic of a hug and embracement.  Moreover, the flattened plantains, or plataconas, came about from soldiers’ fighting against the USA … use of the base of mugs to flatten the plantain, since it facilitated the frying and made handy use of the few cooking materials and kitchen appliances they had in their possession.  This method of flattening the plantains was adopted by all Colombians and, today, Panamanians still use this ancient practice when preparing plantains.  Hence, even though no longer one republic, Panama and Colombia maintain a shared lineage of cultural traditions.  ‌
To conclude, this meal is often eaten with either salsa, bachata, or merengue stuffing the dining room with rhythm, as this plate is often eaten during celebratory occasions.  I hope all people from all distinct cultural backgrounds enjoy this seemingly simple, but highly valuable dish.”

Then on Friday, November 14 we find

Hello and Greetings from the Kitchen,
Did you know?
Food has a profound capacity for bringing meaning and fostering community.

(adapted from a piece by Thomas Moore – a former Catholic monk and the author of many books, including Care of the Soul and Dark Nights of the Soul.)
At the personal level, food is closely connected to that deep power of the human soul, memory.  The mere smell of food can send you back in time to an earlier part of your life and give you a bittersweet feeling for the past and wishes for the present.  Specific recipes and their aromas connect with specific places and times.  Food serves our memory, which deepens experience.  If you want to know the most deep-seated truths of human life, look to the religions.  They all know that food makes community and that at a profound spiritual level eating together is communion, a commingling of souls.
Religions say that, when you eat certain foods, God dwells within you.  The ancient Greeks called it omophagia, eating the god.  Christians eat bread and drink wine, knowing that mysteriously, sacramentally, this special food will fill their souls with the divine.  The Jewish Seder, the Sikhgurdwara, and Islam’s celebration of the Prophet’s birthday involve food and feasting.  By connecting food and ritual so closely, religions show that food has a profound capacity for meaning and for fostering community.
Perhaps the greatest challenge in this time of rapid technological advance, and the shrinking of the globe is to create a world community.  But that important task can’t be done in the abstract.  Food must play a role.  Food as community, not as a commodity.  Whatever power allows lunch to foster friendship, wedding cake a marriage, and bread and wine a religion could make a community of the world’s population.  But we need first to restore soul to food.
Ways to do this are quite simple.  We could grow food in a humane setting:  a garden or a real farm.  We could learn to prepare it, each of us, authentically, with concern and pleasure.  And we could return to graceful dining:  eating with manners and style with the family, friends and community.  There is always a place for a quick meal, but everyone also needs communion, the intimate experience of conviviality that only food can provide.
Cooking is good soul art.  It offers immediate contact with the food we eat.  It’s contemplative, as well, when you cut and slice vegetables or watch a pot simmer or keep an eye on the oven.  Cooking can teach you how to live:  observantly, patiently, creatively, artistically and lovingly.  It can be communal and familial.  Everyone can have a part.

So today with Dr. Bardi’s Psychology of Diversity Class and Student Daryl Curry we celebrate the soul of food or Soul FoodDaryl Curry sends this explanation of soul food:

“The technical definition of soul food is traditional African American cuisine and this tradition has a link that can be traced all the way back to slavery and sometimes even further.  Take today’s dish, fried chicken, for example.  Although it is a food that has been stereotyped to African Americans, it is interesting that before African slaves were brought to the U.S., it had not been a culturally dominant dish.  However, when forced to cook the food while working on plantations, African cooks began to use a new variety of spices, mostly pepper and salt, that enriched the Chicken's flavor.  Also, after many forms of economical and social oppression, these men and women could not afford to purchase or raise the more expensive meats, and would instead cook chickens as they were cheap both in purchase and to raise.  As these fried chicken recipes have been used increasingly throughout history, it has now become a staple in African American cuisine.”

Psychology of Diversity Meal

Southern Fried Local Happy Chicken
~ antibiotic free, growth hormone free, healthy, happy, free ranging birds ~
(Three Forks Chicken Ranch, Nashville area)

Several other e-mail notes from Chef Rick caught our eye … some excerpts …

Nov. 7
With restaurants offering enormous plates of food, drink cups often in “Big Gulp” sizes and snacks sold in king-sized packages, it can be hard to know how much to eat sometimes.
It's difficult to avoid eating bigger at home and while away from Home too.  The size of dinner plates, muffin tins and pizza pans have grown.  Cars have larger cup holders to accommodate the drink sizes stores sell.  As everything gets bigger, bigger starts to seem like the norm, distorting how we think about a serving size or the “right” amount.  One study found that modern portion sizes of popular foods added an extra 50 to 150 calories.  While that might not sound like too much, an extra 100 calories per day can pack on an extra 10 pounds of weight in a year!

What you can do to Manage Your Portions:

  • Learn to read food labels.  (number of servings)
  • Compare marketplace portions to recommended serving sizes.
  • Repackage supersize bags.
  • Share a meal.  (when eating out)
  • Eat half or less.  (take the rest home as another meal)
  • Use a smaller plate.  (at home)
  • Slow down and skip second helpings.

Nov. 13
Interestingly, most herbs and spices have health benefits attached to them, not to mention they improve the taste of so many foods!
Herbs and Spices have antibacterial and antiviral properties and many are high in B-vitamins and trace minerals.  True sea salt, for instance, contains 93 trace minerals.
Most herbs and spices also contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.

Nov. 19
The other night I was invited to McCrady Hall to lead a discussion about healthy eating, it was a great deal of fun talking to the "McCradians", so a heartfelt thanks to the residents of McCrady Hall for opening their living space to this Chef.  I came away from that conversation realizing that many of you all are not eating breakfast at all.  So I am switching gears from taking about food waste to the importance of breaking your fast.
Breakfast sets us up for the day.  While we may not all require a huge breakfast to set us up for a day of labor or athletics, breakfast “breaks our fast” and fuels our metabolism for the busy day ahead.  Why “tank up” with a giant supper when all we are fueling is sleep!  Breakfast is also a meal where many of us naturally gravitate to healthy foods we may neglect at other meals:  whole grains, lowfat dairy products and fruit.  Cereal with milk;  fruited yogurt;  oatmeal with a banana – all great choices that are easy, quick, and nutrient dense.
But I can’t afford the time to eat!
Well, can you afford “bottoming out” mid-morning, losing your focus and productivity, and grabbing whatever snack you can find?  A sugary “coffeechino” and donut mid-morning will not get you back on track.  Make a few minutes in the morning to fuel yourself so you arrive at lunchtime with a healthy and appropriate appetite.
But I really need that extra few minutes of sleep!
Pressures of work and school mean that everyone’s day is jam-packed.  While you may not have a minute to spare in the morning, think of your evening routine.  Is there a half hour where you kick back and indulge in little mindless TV?  Experiment with capturing that evening time as sleep and getting up a bit earlier to have breakfast and a quick walk in the early brisk morning air and sunlight to start your day strong.
Whatever your choice, eat something … and break your fast.  If you think you're doing fine with no breakfast, just try changing your tune for a week – you're likely to notice a difference.  You will undoubtedly perform better with some fuel in your system, and, hopefully, become a breakfast believer.

Nov. 21
The arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans brought new Thanksgiving traditions to the American scene.  Today’s national Thanksgiving celebration is a blend of two traditions:  the New England custom of rejoicing after a successful harvest, based on ancient English harvest festivals and the Puritan Thanksgiving, a solemn religious observance combining prayer and feasting.
Florida, Texas, Maine and Virginia each declare itself the site of the First Thanksgiving and historical documents support the various claims.  Spanish explorers and other English Colonists celebrated religious services of thanksgiving years before Mayflower arrived.  However, few people knew about these events until the 20th century.  They were isolated celebrations, forgotten long before the establishment of the American holiday, and they played no role in the evolution of Thanksgiving.  But as James W. Baker states in his book, Thanksgiving:  The Biography of an American Holiday, “despite disagreements over the details” the 3-day event in Plymouth in the fall of 1621 was “the historical birth of the American Thanksgiving holiday.”
The American Thanksgiving also has its origin in the faith practices of Puritan New England, where strict Calvinist doctrine sanctioned only the Sabbath, fast days and thanksgivings as religious holidays or “holy days.”  To the Puritans, a true “thanksgiving” was a day of prayer and pious humiliation, thanking God for His special Providence.  Auspicious events, such as the sudden ending of war, drought or pestilence, might inspire a thanksgiving proclamation.  It was like having an extra Sabbath during the week.  Fasts and thanksgivings never fell on a Sunday.  In the early 1600s, they were not annual events.  Simultaneously instituted in Plymouth, Connecticut and Massachusetts, Thanksgiving became a regular event by the middle of the 17th century and it was proclaimed each autumn by the individual Colonies.
The holiday changed as the dogmatic Puritans of the 17th century evolved into the 18th century’s more cosmopolitan Yankees.  By the 1700s, the emotional significance of the New England family united around a dinner table overshadowed the civil and religious importance of Thanksgiving.  Carried by Yankee emigrants moving westward and the popular press, New England’s holiday traditions would spread to the rest of the nation.
The Continental Congress proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777.  A somber event, it specifically recommended “that servile labor and such recreations (although at other times innocent) may be unbecoming the purpose of this appointment [and should] be omitted on so solemn an occasion.”

Dec. 5
They were here in the New World, those cranberries.  Stars waiting to be discovered, they spread across North America, hiding in bogs, in acid, sandy soil, waiting for a hand to reach down and pick them.  Those bouncy, gleaming but oh-so tart little berries which would come to be known as cranberries were found from Newfoundland to the Carolinas, from Arkansas to Minnesota, even into Oregon and Washington State.  Not knowing the nutrition they offered, we took to cranberries’ pleasant tartness and today cranberries gleam like ruby-colored jewels on holiday tables to provide us with visual pleaser and a dose of nutrition as well.
Cranberries are unlike any other fruit in the world.  From Cape Cod to Washington State, the cranberry has played a role in holiday culture and family health & wellness for years.  Its unique health benefits and refreshing, tart taste put it in a league of its own when it comes to healthy refreshment.
Native Americans, long before the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, mixed deer meat and mashed cranberries to make pemmican – a convenience food that kept for long periods of time.  They also believed that cranberries had medicinal value, and were used by medicine men as an ingredient in poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds.  Cranberry juice was a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing.  The Delaware Indians in New Jersey used the cranberry as a symbol of peace.
The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America – the Concord grape and blueberry being the others.  Cranberries were widely found in Massachusetts, as documented by the Pilgrims who settled there.  Rumor has it that cranberries may have been served at the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth.  Recipes using cranberries date back to the 1700s.
Though cranberries are tiny, they are potent.  Packed with nutrition, they are high in vitamin C and in fiber.  But cranberries, like their relative the blueberry, also contain antioxidants in abundance which has antibacterial effects on the body.
In documents that have survived since the 17th century we have learned that cranberries were used then, not for their nutrition, but for an assortment of medicinal purposes:  stomach ailments, liver problems, and blood disorders.  Cranberries traveled to sea as a protection against scurvy.  Though vitamin content as part of our daily nutrition was not known at the time, it was the high vitamin C content in cranberries that was valuable.

You are what you eat.

This slogan version of French lawyer and gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” was brought to mind by Chef Rick's many weekday notes.  [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.  In Physiologie du Goût, ou Méditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826.]

Which leads to American satirist and cynic Ambrose Bierce's 1911 entry in The Devil's Dictionary:  Edible, adj.:  Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.

as Chef Rick closes each of his notes:   eatwellbewell