Holiday Food for the Soul

The holiday season means many of you are taking out the pots and pans to prepare  a thanksgiving feast. 

Chefs, neuroscientists, and physicians agree: we are what we eat.  But did you know food can affect your sense of spiritual well-being?

                     We caught up with Chef Robert Brener, a culinary professor at Johnson & Wales University.  He explains what it is about good food that warms the soul. "What we find is celebration, a sense of well-being, success, a sense of family and happiness.  Food is very symbolic of us doing well, of us having lots to be thankful for."

The chef - who has traveled the world cooking at some of the top restaurants in the United States, Germany and Ireland-  whipped up a little cauliflower bisque soup on the open hearth.  The flavors - of cauliflower, rutabaga, broth, salt, garlic,  lemon and cream - created a powerful aroma and a taste that is totally delectable.

                     The dish - like many others made from whole foods - can trigger a dopamine effect in the brain.  It's a food - fond memory connection. Psychology today's Josh Gowin defines this brand of conditioning.  A childhood food is associated with a predictable reward. The brain triggers dopamine production and a feeling akin to spiritual bliss may follow.

That feeling may be triggered by the aroma alone, and the flavors are delectable. "Food in any culture plays a significant part of any holiday.  Most holidays are tied in some way towards food.  Food gives people a feeling of sense and who they are.  It's a very defining part of anybody's culture."

The chemistry of whole foods is part of the mind, body, spirit equation, too.   Whole foods - fruits & vegetables, lean meats and non-processed foods - can trigger a sense of well-being with rewards for the body and spirit.  Dr. Michelle Dillon, Naturopathic physician and the owner of Charlotte natural wellness says, "If you eat fruits and vegetables, all the energy from the sun goes into that food.  That food is going to become a part of you.  That's going to help affect your moods.

The soup is an appetizer, for your main course - think lean protein for it's calming effects. Dr. Dillon explains.  "Having the ability to think and concentrate and be in that moment, reducing anxiety and increasing your moods, focus on proteins.  I would recommend 20 grams of protein three times a day for women and 30 grams of protein three times a day for men."

This cauliflower bisque soup - it's rich with protein, too.  Smoked salmon to top it off.  Chef Brener created a delicious first course.   The soup is delicious, but the chef says, "The salmon makes it.  It really does."


Cauliflower Bisque


Chef Robert Brener, Johnson & Wales University

Serves 6


Cauliflower                          1 head, wash, cut into 1-inch pieces

Rutabaga                              ½, cut into 1-inch pieces

Green onion                         3, sliced thinly, white & green separated

Garlic                                   1 tablespoon, minced

Beer                                      1 cup, IPA is best

Vegetable stock     4 cups, warmed

Heavy cream                        1 cup

Kosher salt                           2 teaspoon

Black pepper                        1 teaspoon, freshly ground

Olive oil                1 tablespoon         


Heat 4-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add oil, white part of the green onion and garlic.  Cover and allow to cook until soft but not caramelized, about 2 minutes.  Add cauliflower and rutabaga and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes.  Add beer and simmer uncovered to reduce liquid by half, approximately 10 minutes.  Add warm stock and bring to simmer.  Season with salt and pepper. remove from heat and puree.  Temper in the heavy cream and season to taste.

Serve with thinly sliced lox.  Garnish with green onion and a twist of black pepper.

DR. MICHELLE DILLON, Charlotte Natural  Wellness

10722 Carmel Commons Blvd #450, Charlotte, NC 28226
(704) 543-5540

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