Honoring Tradition | Natural Gourmet Institute

Honoring Tradition

Posted May 24, 2018

On the last Monday in May, Americans celebrate Memorial Day to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally celebrated on May 30 and known as Decoration Day, it became a national holiday and moved to the last Monday in May in 1971 to “enable families who live some distance apart to spend more time together”.

Old and new traditions come together on this holiday. Historically, families would gather to eat a picnic meal at cemetery grounds as they decorated graves and remembered fallen family members who had served. Today, it marks the beginning of the summer season and the first official barbecues of the year.

As with many of our holidays, it’s about family and friends, and of course food. We plan meals, cook special dishes, share recipes, and most importantly, we eat together. For me, and for many of us, it’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of any holiday.

But shouldn’t we bring this enjoyment to more of our daily, non-holiday meals? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could take a breath before we take a bite? To focus not only on the need to eat to nourish our bodies, but to think about nourishing our entire selves. We focus so much on what we eat, we need to remember to consider how we eat and what impact that can have on our health.

This brings us back to the Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population published in 2014 and that I’ve referenced in my past blog posts.

Holidays are the perfect example of when we practice four of the guidelines:

  1. Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company
  2. Develop, exercise and share cooking skills
  3. Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life
  4. Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals

But how can we bring this into our daily lives? The first thought for many of us is that we simply don’t have time to sit down for a meal every time we eat. I’m guilty of this thought, too, especially when I have deadlines. We have to make the time. It’s ok to prioritize ourselves, even in the middle of a hectic work week. There are so many options for restaurants that prepare fresh food – an industry segment that’s rapidly growing – that you’re sure to find something suitable. You can pick up a quick lunch and join your coworkers in the park or in a lunch room; or sit down for a longer, more leisurely team lunch at a restaurant. For some suggestions, check out these articles in Thrillist (which features several restaurants where you’ll find Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts interns and alumni), Cooking Light, Business Insider, and Health.com.

And while you may not be able to do it every night of the week, plan one night a week – maybe a Saturday or Sunday – to prepare and share a meal with family and friends. You can all participate in the preparation, cooking, and cleaning up, extending your time together.

This is a critical component of what we practice at Natural Gourmet Institute. After all, we’re not just Kale and Quinoa, we’re also Community. In every class, from our Chef’s Training Program to our public classes, students work together to prepare and cook the meals, and then sit down together to enjoy the food. Even in the public classes, especially those with multiple sessions such as Basic Cooking Techniques, Food Therapy, and Vegan Umami: A 3-Day Intensive Course, you can see the change in the relationship between the students from day one to day ten. The students turn from classmates to friends. This transformation is even more profound for the Chef’s Training Program students, who spend at least five months together learning, cooking, and eating.

This Memorial Day Weekend, I invite you all to remember those who have served our country, to enjoy your family and friends and to eat delicious food together as your nourish your bodies and your entire selves.

Here’s a delicious recipe for Grilled Seitan Kebabs

Ingredients

For the Kebabs

  • 1 pound fresh seitan, cut in 2-inch chunks
  • 6 ounces red onion, large dice
  • 1 pound Crimini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and halved
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, rinsed

For the Marinade

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (3 large cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (2 ounces)
  • ½ cup brown rice syrup
  • ¼ cup shoyu
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons kuzu
  • 2 tablespoons water

Cooking Instructions

  1. Soak 25 skewers in cold water for 30 minutes.
  2. Combine extra virgin olive oil, garlic, thyme, parsley, brown rice syrup, shoyu, and lemon juice to make marinade. Combine kuzu with water to make a slurry and set aside.
  3. In large bowl, combine seitan, onions, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes with marinade ingredients for 30 minutes. Strain seitan and vegetables from marinade, but reserve marinade to make sauce (step 6).
  4. Heat griddle grill. Make skewers with 2 pieces seitan, 2 pieces mushrooms, 2 pieces tomato, and red onion, alternating seitan and vegetables.
  5. Grill kebabs 3-5 minuteson each side or until grill marks appear. Set aside.
  6. Bring marinade to simmer. Whisk in kuzu slurry, stirring constantly, until marinade thickens to sauce consistency (approximately 5 minutes).
  7. Pour marinade sauce over kebabs or serve alongside.