Holiday Spirit is Alive in Michigan

The first week of December was another whirlwind trip to Michigan for events, book signings and talks.  It has been three years since my feet felt the cold pavement of a Detroit winter.  I bit my lip and braced for the cold as I dashed into the Cacao Tree Cafe where I found warmth, refuge and good energy.

Former employee and friend, Amber Poupore, has recently begun her adventure as a restaurateur.  Her emphasis is raw and vegan; the food was delicious and energizing.

My initial book-signing appearance was at the Birmingham Winter Markt, their first annual German-style holiday festival.

Cousin Don Hobson, farmer and market-master for the Birmingham Farmers Market, invited me to share a booth with him.  His homemade jams and kettle corn were on one side and my books on the other.

When I suggested space heaters, he said he was country and wouldn’t need them.  The morning following an evening of selling in the 19 degree cold, Cousin Don arrived with two space heaters under his arms.  The Markt turned out to be a charming event in spite of the colder than usual weather.  Stalwart and hardy Michiganders, inspired with Holiday spirit, flocked to the outdoor Markt.  As twilight approached, the park became magical with the beautiful lights, music and good cheer.

The next day I left signed books with my son, Spyros, and headed to a book-signing at the warm and cozy Borders Bookstore, just a few blocks away.  At both events, I saw many old friends and met new ones.

Monday morning started with an interview on the Craig Fahle show on the local NPR station, WDET.  As I drove to the studio in Detroit, I marveled at the renewed energy in the area.  I had a strong sense that people were not lying down and accepting their fate in these tough economic times.  Nowhere was this more visible (and audible) than when I entered the studio of WDET.  The positive energy they all seemed to have about Detroit was contagious–it felt as if I was participating in a grand experiment of urban renewal.

My next stop was Whole Foods Market in Troy.  They sponsored my events, providing me with the food I needed to teach my classes and gave me brochures for the inspiring healthy-food program created by Dr. Joel Furhman.

Tuesday was lunch with Halim and Lamia of Oasis Mart in Royal Oak.  We have been business associates and friends since Inn Season Cafe opened in 1981.  Lamia is a fantastic cook–a real neighborhood treasure.  She served a delicious crushed lentil soup, biryani rice, majdara, hummus, babaghanoush, lentil salad and baklava.  They invited friends and customers to come by for a meet and greet.  It was a joyous affair with great food and company.

In the evening, at the Wayne County Community College (WCCC), 76 people showed up for my cooking demonstration and talk about vegetarian food for the holidays.

I taught the enthusiastic crowd how to make Quinoa-Corn Arepas and Cranberry Chocolate Salsa with Toasted Pepita and Fire-Roasted Poblano Chile Pesto.

Inn Season Cafe provided Cashew Vegetable Chili and their house bread.  The food and book were big hits and we discussed a repeat in the Spring.

The next afternoon  was spent in Grosse Pointe at the TV5 studio in the War Memorial, a grand old estate built by Russell Alger Jr.  Robert Taylor and his wife, Pamela Hill Taylor, hosted me on their show Out of the Ordinary and into the Extraordinary.  It gave me a chance to talk about the hard-working farmers and bountiful farmers markets in Michigan, as well as the impact they have on the community.  We discussed how to enjoy the holidays while making healthy food choices and where to start with those New Years resolutions.  The fun and informative show is now available in eight Michigan counties in the public access area of ATT and Comcast cable services.

Wednesday evening was the sold-out event Food is Medicine at the Wellness Training Institute with cardiologist Dr. Michael Dangovian.

We took turns discussing how food is not only the key to nourishing the body, but also one of the key factors for reducing stress in life.

In addition to demonstrating the same dishes from WCCC, I also prepared the Shiitake Mushroom Saute recipe from my book.  Inn Season Cafe provided Budapest Mushroom Soup and their house bread as well as a delicious Bengali Rice Salad.

We’re already planning our next event for March 30, 2011.  If you are interested, please contact the Wellness Training Institute.

Overall, my Michigan visit was personally very satisfying as I saw progress in the food/health ideals that I worked for during my restaurant years.

Inn Season Cafe is thriving, The Cacao Tree is just simply amazing and the Wellness Training Institute represents the future of medicine.  I’m gratified to be part of this movement in Detroit.

Vegetarian Traditions Cookbook

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