Pimiento peppers

Chefs witness this on a daily basis, but most of us disconnect from the notion that food influences us far beyond the digestive tract.  Eating is a multi-sensual experience and what we hear plays a significant role.  With food,  sound supports the other senses, placing us in a three dimensional experience.Even though it seems to play a background role, the influence of sound on our heart and mind is perhaps the most powerful sense.In Feng Shui and Vedic Vastu, sound is recognized as having the ability to create motion through vibration.What we hear inspires us to react and that is why the aural environment is important in all stages of the food experience.

According to Pythagorus, and confirmed by Plato, sound is the primordial element.This is also embraced by the Vedas from India, which are considered by many to be the oldest books in the world.According to these beliefs, sound is the original element that creates vibration, thus causing movement in the universe.If we could hear across the entire aural spectrum, everything would have a sound, including the silence we currently perceive.According to the Vedas, physical environments can change through sound and it is also an important tool for spiritual connections.Sound is a key part of our environment affecting our mind, body and spirit.Often, ancient Greeks spoke in song.This is still evident through Cretan spontaneous poetry known as Mantinades.Sanskrit is a poetic language, verbalized with meter and rhythm, often with melodious incantations.Sanskrit is called Deva Nagiri, because it is believed to be a heavenly language and is structured in a way that creates change and movement when enunciated.Vedic Brahmins maintain chanting specific Sanskrit mantras can change physical environments, mundane elements and alter the cycles of action and reaction they call Karma.

crunchy salad

More accessible to everyday thoughts, music can change moods, evoke passions and greatly effect perception.  White noise and harsh noises can also make a difference.Cutting words, arguing, criticism and expressions of anger are vocal distractions which can  affect us in both subtle and gross ways.Abrasive soundscapes often create stress, adding clutter and distraction to thoughts and actions.  Sound affects our mindset, bodily movement and clarity of spirit.It is natural to see how an aural environment influences cooking.For me, cooking is an expression of what lies within, most often I see culinary actions as a conveyance, of knowledge, tradition and creative expression.As some people are eloquent speakers, the eloquence I rely on the most is in the language of food and all that goes with it.


Choosing sounds

Often, traveling to Crete with my father and son, we found simple tavernas where waves lapped in symphonic meter by our feet while feasting on a crisp cucumber salad glistening with the liquid gold of fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil. Local dialects epitomized the Greek word onomatopoeia, with mellifluous chatter beautifully decorating the aural landscape. Mixed with the scents of the sea and the olive oil basted grills we entered a meditative state, much like Odysseus and the Sirens, where a concentrated effort to extract ourselves from the hypnosis was necessary to accomplish tasks of the day.


A visual landscape is dramatically enhanced by sound.The transition from silent film to ‘talkies’ is one example of the difference.Sound gives depth and definition to sight.To create a fulfilling dining experience, chefs and restaurateurs sculpt the aural experience to compliment and enhance the sensual experience.In dining, sound is a compliment to the meal, a background enhancement that soothes and excites indirectly. Anticipation and salivation are encouraged with the sight of food cooking uttering companion sounds like crackling, spurting, bubbling, puffing and sputteringSound also plays a direct part as an accompaniment to taste, touch and aroma as food is consumed and we sense such things as crunching, slurping, chewing and swallowing.In some old cultures, a good belch at the end of a meal signifies a cook’s success.Listening, and becoming sensitive, to the sounds of cooking and eating is a very important part of the world of cooking.Just as a spice can change the nature of a preparation, so what we hear when cooking and eating alters the food and how we digest it.

Cold preparations in particular seem to produce more sounds due to brittleness enhanced by the temperature.  While eating, these dishes produce a mellifluous combination of crunches, snaps and juicy sound bites that are intriguing, fun and fresh.


The snack food industry is testimony to the human addiction to crunch. Thinking about it, if we take the sound away from crunching, the feel alone is not enough to satisfy. It is the sound, inside and outside the jaw, which pleases our senses and creates the moment of satisfaction until the next bite. Crackers, chips, nuts, apples, corn, celery, carrots and many other foods are crunch worthy. In a dinner, a light, delicate crunch from a garnish or integrated crispy pastry provides a surprising and very pleasant addition to the sensual experience. A salad is an ideal course for exploring crunching with fresh, crispy greens, delicately cut vegetables, toasted nuts and the snap of fresh cherry tomatoes.


Dessert can turn into an extravaganza for all the senses by adding the crunch factor with a sweet pastry or candied nut.

Creamy Cashew Carrot Soup

There is much to be said and appreciated about a cookbook which is stained with use.  The adventures of the favorite recipes continue from one generation to the next with splotches and smears of ingredients. I have a collection of cookbooks from my family, as well as many others, which have charmed me over the years with their dog-eared pages.

With the computer revolution, things have changed.  A new generation stores many of their books and recipes on their hard-drives, not their shelves.  Tens of thousands of recipes can be found online with the click of a mouse.  I have a Twitter Feed which allows me to share vegan recipes from the world-wide-web with my followers on a daily basis.

Many individual online recipes stand alone, without connection to their cultural background or the inspirations which influenced the chefs who created them.  It is different with an ebook, which is the entire book presented the way the author intended it.  I now offer my cookbook, Vegetarian Traditions, in an Ebook edition allowing me to share the most popular dishes from Inn Season Cafe anywhere in the world.  Some of the available formats are below.

Vegetarian Traditions Kindle Edition

Barnes & Noble Nook Edition

iTunes iBook Edition

Adobe Digital Editions/Sony Reader

One of the timeless Inn Season Cafe recipes was Carrot Cashew Soup–still a favorite at the Royal Oak, Michigan cafe.  Warm root-vegetable soups in the winter can be a transcending experience, lifting us into a place of healing comfort.

My earliest memories of carrots are of my father helping me to grasp scraggly green tops jutting out of the ground and pulling them to discover the bright orange tuber.  As a toddler, my father’s assistance was necessary, but I soon perfected the technique and all the carrots were harvested whether ready or not. This didn’t bother him at all; perhaps he sensed the budding of my life-long relationship to vegetables.

Carrots are quite versatile, but often under-rated. They can be eaten raw or juiced for a vitalizing drink. They can be used in salads, soups and desserts, in addition to adding sweetness and substance to a multitude of vegetable dishes. I even use pureed carrots as a base for salad dressings, sauces and in a number of dessert dishes, not the least of which is carrot cake.

Carrot Cashew Soup reveals the venerable carrot as an excellent base for a soup. When mixed with cashews and blended, it becomes a melt-in-your-mouth cream soup. Best of all–it is so easy to prepare!

Carrot Cashew Soup

Serves 6

3 cups carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup red onions,chopped

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon dill weed, chopped

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

1 tablespoon tamari

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup red bell peppers, chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup raw cashews

5 cups water

1/2 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix all ingredients, except water and parsley. Transfer to a large casserole or roasting dish. Cover and bake for one hour. Allow to cool, add 1 cup water and puree in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a soup pot, add remaining 4 cups of water, stir, reheat and simmer for 10 minutes uncovered. Serve hot and top with a sprinkle of chopped parsley in each bowl.

Recipe from the cookbook: Vegetarian Traditions: Favorite Recipes From My Years At The Legendary Inn Season Cafe

By George Vutetakis

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

Special direct-from-the-author

Holiday Price this week!

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All books purchased here are signed by the author!

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–up until December 23rd.

Michigan Book Tour, The First Part


Thursday Night:  I was full of anticipation as my evening flight from San Diego landed in Detroit.  A week of touring and catching up with old friends and family lay ahead.   As the plane taxied, I was thinking of the many ways one can benefit from my cookbook, Vegetarian Traditions, and the best way to communicate that at the numerous events.

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.

Lee Chaput of Blue Water Organics is not a farmer by trade, but has the passion of one. She discovered Elmer and Edna Slabaugh’s certified organic Amish farm in Brown City, Michigan.  Living a dedicated Amish lifestyle, the Slabaughs use neither electricity or automobiles, so Lee brings the vegetables and the feel of the Amish farm to the Birmingham Market.  Look for a post down the road for a story about the farm.


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.


Alu Methi Tikki

Vegetarian traditions are found in cultures around the world, with India being the most prominent.  As a young man, I journeyed there four times and experienced the marvelous cuisine first-hand in homes, temples restaurants and street cafes.  I learned the value of treating every meal and each morsel with respect and appreciation.  I also discovered a rich heritage of compassion toward fellow humans and animals.
The art of Indian spicing is legendary.  My kitchen arsenal for preparing sub-continent cuisine contains a number of masala dabars * and other vessels to hold over forty spices.  In addition, there are grinders, mortar & pestles, grinding stones and tawas* for roasting the various masalas*; however, there are many simple dishes from India which do not require elaborate combinations of spices, hard-to-find ingredients and equipment.  Simple, fresh and sattvic*,  Indian food can be a delightful and exciting addition to any home cook’s repertoire.
Alu methi tikki  is one of the flavorful, yet easy-to-prepare, dishes from the Gujarat region of India.  The recipe calls for fresh fenugreek, one of India’s wonder spices and well known for substantial health benefits;  the fenugreek leaves impart a rich flavor into whatever dish they are used in.  This vegetarian traditional recipe adds depth to any repertoire.

Alu Methi Tikki

(Indian Potato-fenugreek cakes)
Makes 10 cakes
1 1/2 cups creamy new potatoes, chopped and steamed until tender
1 cup packed fresh fenugreek sprouts or leaves, chopped if leaves
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup garbanzo flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil
Mash all ingredients together, except coconut oil, and work into a dough. Form into 12 patties.  In a griddle or saute pan on medium heat, add a small amount of oil.  Place several patties onto griddle.  Turn when golden brown and cook until second side is golden.  Use remaining oil as needed.  Keep warm.  Serve hot with lemon or your favorite chutney.
*Masala dabar is a covered round metal container, most often made of stainless steel, which usually has six  little vessels inside for holding spices and an inside cover tray to keep the spices from spilling
*Tawas is a flat iron skillet used for toasting spices or making flat breads like chapatis
*Masala is a mixture of spices, powdered, whole or toasted and freshly ground, which is used as a flavor base for Indian dishes.
*Sattvic means goodness.  According to Ayurveda principles, every food item falls under the influence of a mode, or combination of modes of nature.  There are three modes: Goodness, Passion and Ignorance (Sattvic, Rajarsic and Tamasic).  For optimum health, they advise eating sattvic foods as much as possible.  Sattvic foods are often defined as fresh, juicy, balanced in taste and energizing.


Ingrid Newkirk on Vegetarian Traditions

Oh, be still my heart: Vegetable Almond Quesadilla, Portabella Romescu, Benares Rice Pudding and the cherry on top–Hazelnut Torte with Hot Fudge Sauce–and all recipes are dairy-free! If there is a heaven, it is inside the covers of this gorgeous, easy-to-follow cookbook of legendary recipes–Vegetarian Traditions. Or perhaps even more heavenly, a kitchen full of cooks preparing these delicious dishes for you and your guests, so that all you have to do is think dreamy thoughts and treat your palate to a party. Vegetarian Traditions makes a gorgeous present that will be enjoyed for a lifetime. I was mightily impressed and felt immediate food cravings!

~Ingrid Newkirk, PETA president and co-founder

Vegetarian Traditions Book Tour!

The Vegetarian Guy is on Tour!
Vegetarian Traditions is about connecting the dots with our food. Knowing what we are eating, respecting where the food comes from and incorporating it into our daily routine are three important elements in the book. More than a cookbook, this is a master-key to unlock the secrets of the cuisine which has made Inn Season Cafe the go-to source for delicious and healthy food in the Metropolitan Detroit area. The restaurant was at the forefront of a culinary revival and still stands out with their dedication to using the best local and organic ingredients. Without microwave ovens and other modern shortcuts, we cooked using only traditional methods of preparation, respecting the story behind each dish and using only fresh ingredients. Health is much more than just a recipe, it is a lifestyle.
Life is good in San Diego, especially for those who participate in the local farmers market communities. Every day of the week there is a market to attend where I immerse my thoughts in the wonderfully creative possibilities of food. I make it a point getting to know each farmer I shop with and they rarely disappoint. Phil Noble of Sage Mountain Farms is one of those hard-working farmers whose dedication to the community he services is apparent in everything he does. Over the last few weeks he has invited me into his stall at the Hillcrest Farmers Market to present and sell my book and share cooking expertise with his customers. This coming Sunday, May 30th, will be a special event where I share samples of my organic Hot Fudge Sauce over Phil’s certified organic strawberries (you will never know it’s vegan!) . If you are in San Diego, join me as we decadently enjoy the bounty in one of the best markets in San Diego!
I will be back in Michigan for one week only between June 5th and the 13th. I am looking forward to seeing and speaking with the people I shared so many years with conversing in the beautiful language of food. In addition to the bookstore events where I sign books and then talk about the food and the journey, I am especially excited at being in Inn Season Cafe, at the Royal Oak Farmers Market (with Don Cinzori of Cinzori Farms) and at the Birmingham Farmers Market (with Donny Hobson, market-master and farmer.)
Here is the Michigan event schedule:
Saturday, June 5
Royal Oak Farmers Market 8 to 12
Sunday, June 6
Birmingham Farmers Market 9 to 11:30
Inn Season Cafe 12 to 3
Friday June 11
Inn Season Cafe 4-8
Saturday, June 12
Royal Oak Farmers Market 8 to 12
Sunday, June 13
Birmingham Farmers Market 9 to 1
Bookbeat Bookstore Oakpark 2pm

Cretan Horta

In one of his daily shows, Dr. Mehmet Oz talked about super foods and explained the benefits.   One of the super foods he mentioned was “Greek greens,” otherwise known as horta.  On the island of Crete, the tradition of foraging for wild greens can be traced back to Neolithic times.  It is one of the nutritional secrets of the Mediterranean diet.
The weed-like greens are hardy and have extra-potent sources of vitamins and minerals.  In San Diego, we have the benefit of having local seasonal Greek greens always available, such as spinach, Swiss chard, curly endive, lacinato kale, mustard greens and beet, turnip and radish tops.  Often some of the greens such as Lamb’s Quarters show up at farmer’s markets because they sprout like weeds amongst other crops and the farmers have learned there is a market for them.
According to Dr. Oz, Greek greens are a superfood and should be consumed as much as possible, if not daily.

Traditionally they are prepared by boiling in a small amount of water until they are tender, then dressed with a little extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt.  In Crete, they serve horta with the nutrient-rich broth which then becomes “salsa” for dipping bread into.  It is a common lunch item or side dish for dinner and features whatever edible green item is available from the fields or gardens.
As a child visiting my Greek grandparent’s house in Ohio, I remember seeing the horta on the table at almost every meal.
In the Spring, they would frequently enlist the whole family to gather dandelion greens, sometimes walking miles to an undeveloped field with the coveted weeds jutting up from the nutrient-rich soil.
Their search for Greek greens served as a link to the old country and culture of Crete while providing their family a highly nutritious super food.