Celebrity chef Nathan Lyon ('94)

Celebrity chef Nathan Lyon (’94)

Yesterday, Western Virginia and especially the Shenandoah Valley were treated to one long awaited (and for some, long hoped for) snow day. It was perfectly timed, arriving the week before the inauguration of JMU President Jon Alger, yet after most preparations were made.

Our snow day, at least according to my Facebook feed, meant big pots of savory soups and warm, comfort foods. I’m eager to find out what Cameron Young (’15) and Morgan Robinson (’13) cooked up. Cameron, by the way, recently learned that his new cooking club, Cooking at Madison, has been approved as an official JMU club.

Be the Change personality and celebrity chef Nathan Lyon (’94) would, no doubt, approve of Cameron and Morgan’s interest in food, as well as our snow day fare. The right food for the right season is Nathan’s message. He is an enthusiastic advocate for buying local, fresh foods and of sustainable cooking, which are healthier for the environment, better for health in general and very, very tasty.

After graduating from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science and a minor in Public Health, Nathan backpacked his way across Europe, learning about local customs, culture, and cuisine. Although every town and country along Nathan’s journey provided its own culinary lesson, the watershed moment occurred in an outdoor market just outside of Florence, Italy: an old woman, agog at the massive amount of produce Nathan was stockpiling, eagerly asked, “Why are you buying so much food? Why not just buy fresh every day?” Nathan immediately dumped out half his basket and began pondering those two simple questions. It was in that market, clutching a wheel of cheese, that Nathan discovered his truth: great food starts fresh. (from Nathan’s website)

Ever since, Nathan has been on a mission to promote healthy and sustainable foods.

We learned this week that Nathan, along with chefs Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) and Ted Allen (host of “Chopped’), is featured in the Spring 2013 edition of Celebrity Cooking magazine. Nathan has also published a book, “Great Food Starts Fresh,” which the Washington Post named one of the top cookbooks of 2012.

He’s also starring in a new series Good Food America with Nathan Lyon on Veria, a network about healthy living.

Check them all out. They are mmmmmmm…….good.

(Click the embedded link above to see a digital copy of Celebrity Cooking – page 80 – but be patient. It takes a little while to load.) You can also catch up with Nathan on Facebook,  his website and his WordPress blog.

You can learn more about Cooking at Madison from Tyler McAvoy’s (’13) story.

On the savory side

Dining at E-Hall

Dining at E-Hall

So much of what happens at James Madison University bubbles up from students whose enthusiasm is contagious and irrepressible. Other campuses may experience this, but I would bet that few institutions are as receptive to the ideas that students generate.

One of the many iterations of this highly valued student enthusiasm is the number and variety of clubs and organizations on campus. There are hundreds — literally hundreds — that students enjoy. On some campuses if you don’t belong to a fraternity or sorority, you don’t fit in anywhere. Not so at JMU. Clubs and organizations have formed around a dizzying variety of interests —  ultimate frisbee, fashion, climbing, golf, French, leadership, animal rights, astronomy, bellydancing, billiards, engineering, knitting, fly fishing, justice, peace, scuba. On the website (see embedded link above), the list goes on and on — 345 and counting. At JMU there is a place for everyone and everyone has a place. Even foodies.

Last week, Be the Change intern Tyler McAvoy (’13), caught up with a couple of Madison’s most enthusiastic foodies. One of those, Cameron Young, is trying to start a food club on campus. Here’s what Tyler learned about these two food enthusiasts.

A walk on the savory side

Tyler McAvoy (’13)

We live in a culture of convenience, and while this spawned the Keurig K-Cup coffee maker (by most accounts, the best use of electricity and hot water ever) it also means that most of us don’t eat as well as we probably should.  We live in a world filled with artificial preservatives, greasy fast-food, chemically dusted fruits and vegetables and meat filled with steroids and growth hormones.

The more we speed up, the more we use microwaves over ovens, the more we buy a weeks worth of frozen entrees instead of a week’s worth of fresh ingredients, the more we eat in the car, or at our work stations.  We’ve forgotten how to slow down, and we’ve forgotten how to cook.

JMU students Morgan Robinson (’13) and Cameron Young (’15) want to change that. (You may remember Morgan from earlier blog posts.)

For Morgan and Cameron there is more to food than just satisfying basic needs, to them food is about the experience.

“It’s sharing stories, laughter, and life with friends and family. Food bridges connections between people of all walks of life and of all corners of the earth — it’s the one thing we all have in common,” Morgan says.

Morgan plans to go to Slow Foods Institute, a culinary school in Ireland after she graduates in May with a degree in modern foreign languages. Then she hopes to travel across Europe studying with chefs in Italy and France to hone her skills. Food is a gateway to a globetrotting career; it’s a gateway to understanding the people of the world through experiencing their food culture.

Cooking is often considered a type of art, and Morgan believes that we’re quickly losing grasp of it.

“I think what our generation lacks is the foundational set of cooking skills; we resort to convenience over quality more often than not,” says Morgan. “I am all about real food.”

Cameron, a sophomore International Business major agrees. He’s working to create JMU’s first cooking club, Cooking at Madison. The club is meant to be more than just a place for hungry college students to indulge themselves; it’s meant to be a place for those who love food culture.

“I want to differentiate between people between people who want to eat and people who want to cook.  I want people who love food and love the culture,” Cameron says.

Cameron started cooking at a young age, and quickly took to it.  His grandfather is a chef and has been his biggest influence on his life and the way he looks at food.

“Cooking is my passion. It’s nourishment for the body. We have to eat three times a day, so we might as well enjoy it,” Cameron says.

Morgan and Cameron aren’t alone in their desire for better food either. We live in an area that is becoming increasingly diverse in its great food selection. Between Harrisonburg’s Friendly City Co-op, the Farmers’ Markets that are becoming increasingly popular, and the great local restaurants, we have all the right ingredients for fostering a vibrant food culture in the area, and slowing down to enjoy the experience.

You can learn more about Morgan and Cameron on their blogs, which you can access from the links embedded with their names.

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