The first thing I did after picking up my rental vehicle was load 1200 pounds of books from the shipping terminal into the car. Good thing the Chevrolet Traverse had substantial shock-absorbers! It was hot and humid and after that workout, I was eager to get to the hotel.
Friday: A meeting with Dr. Michael Dangovian of the Wellness Training Institute kicked off the day. We discussed my participation at Saturday’s celebration of the first anniversary of his institute. We see this event as the first step in a Food as Medicine program.
Later that day, I made my way to Stephan Brink’s Health Oasis in Royal Oak to teach the art of spicing, namely, how to make masala.
The class was a benefit for the local chapter of Women For Women, a group which helps women deal with health and social crisis situations. It was held outdoors in a courtyard; the balmy Michigan evening added to the intimacy and culinary magic.
Masalas are provocative spice mixtures which are the basis for Indian cuisine. I demonstrated, to the twenty or so attendees, how to toast, grind and mix three masalas and provided spicing techniques for making a large variety of Indian dishes with the authentic flavors achieved only through the freshly ground spices. The intoxicating scents of toasting urad dal, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and a multitude of other whole spices wafted through the quiet neighborhood.
Inn Season Cafe provided a delicious Bengali Rice Salad which satiated the wetted appetites. Most of the guests took my cookbook home with them.
Saturday: At 7:30am I arrived at the Royal Oak Farmers Market, the bustling 81 year-old indoor market. Don, Donna and Anthony Cinzori welcomed me as if I were long lost family. They have one of the largest certified organic farms in Michigan and tirelessly provide some of the best produce I have seen anywhere. The Cinzori family is warm, generous and knowledgeable. I always look forward to discussing the latest in produce and organic trends with Don.
There wasn’t much time for that this day. The market started to buzz and customers hummed around the colorful Cinzori stall like bees looking for sweet nectar. The market is like a second home and I was able to speak with one person after another about the cookbook and the Don’s produce, which had inspired many of the recipes.
At about one o’clock, my son Spyros and I headed over to the Wellness Training Institute in Sterling Heights. Dr. Michael Dangovian was celebrating the first anniversary of his new clinic and I was honored to be the featured speaker. Over two-hundred people attended the event which included food from Inn Season Cafe, talks by Dr. Dangovian and various teachers who participate in his program of integrative medicine and preventative cardiology.
My lecture was organized around the importance of connecting the dots with your food–knowing where it comes from and supporting your local farmers. I also spoke about food and community, food being not only the primary nourishing element in life, but the primary nurturing element. All the great food cultures of the world weave food into the daily fabric of life and see it as a measure of life’s quality. Without it, there is no benefit to longevity.
Most of the questions fielded were about specific ingredients I recommended and the health benefits they provide. The afternoon was a success and as a result, Dr. Dangovian and I are planning future events with targeted information for attendees to gain specific tools they can apply toward a healthier life. This was just the beginning and we are excited by the possibilities. If there is one thing I have missed about running the restaurant, it was seeing the fulfillment in the faces of our guests. This Saturday afternoon, I saw the same looks.
Sunday: I arrived early at the Birmingham Farmers Market, an empty parking lot with a few tents going up. As I set up my booth, the market began to take shape; trucks pulled up with bushels of fresh corn, potatoes, zucchinis, pumpkins and fresh flowers. A number of organic farmers came together on the south side of the lot with their splendid hand-picked vegetables.
Cousin Donny Hobson, the market master, is not just a farmer, he is a showman. This day he planned to attract shoppers with Hay-Day. Antique tractors, farm implements and bales of hay decorated the market with a festive county fair-like atmosphere.
Two of my favorite farms at the Birmingham market are Natures Pace Organics and Blue Water Organics. Natures Pace is family-operated with a core dedication to sustainable foods.
Each week there is something new at the market. I loved being in Michigan at the beginning of the harvest with the trees displaying the vivid colors of autumn.