Note Vs. Symphony

Would you listen to music with only one note?

Why do we similarly do this with our consumption of nutrients when so much of our lives are spent eating?

A standard piano has eighty-eight keys, which is actually a repetitive pattern of seven, A through G. One note can stop someone in their tracks. That same note being simultaneously struck on opposite ends of the piano creates an echoing harmony. Add two more correct notes to any key and a chord is created. The soul of a melody. Add that chord to a proper progression and you have music. A trained student can simply read work from hundreds of years ago and recreate that composer's piece. Although striking one note can be satisfying, the piano has the capacity for symphonies and masterpieces.

The average cook has about three to five notes in their arsenal, they don't always pair well so many of us lean on one skill to begin our journey. Great with this ingredient or proficient in that particular cuisine. Then you have your seasoned Chefs the chord players striking three notes at once (taste, presentation and connection) virtuosos and soloists. Every once in a while, if we are blessed enough an opportunity to work with a master like this arises. Like any discipline or art, martial and creative alike, this is IT. The opportunity to absorb information that may enable us to one day (with due diligence) provide us with the capacity to create a symphony of our own.

Although we were a big food family the seasoning palate for our home growing up was fairly limited but cost efficient. Relying mostly on a few ingredients and cooked to perfection. I honestly don't remember very many spices in our pantry. Adobo and Sazon of course, salt, (always salt on the table growing up), black pepper, garlic powder or garlic salt and some bay leaf that I'm not sure we ever used.

My pops, (Dad) was an accountant at the time and thrifty as he needed to be with five boys in the house. To the extent of a second freezer in the basement to store the half cow he would order at a time to keep his growing starting five fed.

l remember heading to the west side of Chicago at least every other weekend to get us restocked. Bonnie Miss warehouse for soda and mixers, El Milagro tortilla factory for those perfect tortillas and nachos. Then off to Wonder Bread / Hostess factory on the North Side of Chicago (my father's first job apart from his band) for snacks and bread. In hindsight we were spoiled.

My personal favorite were our trips to the iconic Maxwell Street (and Halsted) market, usually back to school shopping. Local shopkeepers haggling from makeshift stands on either side of you. Old gentleman, dressed in Sunday best, sitting on empty milk crates and playing blues guitar. One man on rhythm playing a progression in E, the gentleman with him was improvising a playful lead while the third gentleman sang his heart out, inspiring and captivating (I have been playing blues guitar ever since). The air heavy with the scent of caramelizing onions and Maxwell Street Polish sausage being seared on the flat top from the food vendors and diners. A few simple ingredients smoked sausage, onions, clarified butter and Turano French bread rolls cooked to perfection, Chicago style!

A Chicago city boy born in Puerto Rico and raised solely by my grandmother, my father appreciated everything fresh or high quality. My mother was raised in Chicago but from Texas. Like my grandmother from Mexico, she had a green thumb and had a garden with vegetables nearly every year. Tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, cucumbers, melon, pumpkin and sunflowers. They would both tell us about fresh fruit from "wild" trees and how different it was, how much better it was because it grew "naturally". From early on we were taught to appreciate everything we were blessed to have. Even if it took some time for the lesson to stick.

When I was around the age of twenty my paternal grandmother Matilde began suffering from Alzheimer's and paranoid dementia. Unfortunately, there were few clinical studies of the mind and the effects of spices and herbs at the time. Or their ability to reduce memory loss due to aging. We watched helplessly, as many families do while the matriarch of our family slowly deteriorated and forgot us all. As I reached the age of twenty-nine my maternal grandmother Elvira began to really suffer with arthritis, swelling and aches. She passed from a heart attack in 2003 a few months before my college graduation plan to visit her and spoil her. Over the years I have wondered many times if we could have changed things. If we could have made small changes to minimize our own discomfort and the discomfort of our loved ones, wouldn't we?

In 2015 I took a job with the best kitchen crew I have ever had the pleasure of working with. A Wyndham property, the Q Center in St. Charles Illinois. Lead Chef Mark Rodgers, a beast and a stickler who did a Johnny Carson-esque stand-up meeting/ monologue before every shift and challenged you constantly. This is where I got a new favorite phrase, "Let's have a great serve!" We crushed the hell out of it. All team members took our work seriously and shared knowledge. We ALL took notes. We all researched every day, attempted to improve in some way every day and our leader was in the trenches with us always. Like a king. One of my favorite steps of this process was spice formulation. We served a great deal of international clients with various diets and cultures. We formulated for our guests directly and customized to their exact standards. Until finally I had notebooks and sketch pads full of formulations. This became my thing. Every experience, every note until then was reprocessed, then also tested and added to my journals.

In 2019 my wife Melissa and I took a Caribbean cruise. We took food tours, excursions, climbed multiple ancient ruins and sampled food from the trees in Altun Ha. Our guide was replaced last minute by a man who is now family, Pastor Carlos Perez. An actual member of the Mopan (Mayan) people. Teaching us some of the healing properties of the trees surrounding the temples and courtyard. The yield and export of cashews and the cashew fruit needed to bear it, Imodium, Novocain and more than I could remember.

Upon returning we reopened Follow Your Bliss Catering in Florida as a full-scale caterer and pop-up restaurant. 2020 CV-19 hit and cancellations started to come in, then a worldwide shut down. We went back to the data, herbology and clinical studies. I reexamined every recipe ingredient by ingredient. Anti-inflammatory properties, lowering LDL's, fight against memory loss, detoxifying properties, anti-cancer agents all in the unprocessed spices. Some benefits amplified in conjunction with others, others increasing digestive health. We decided then and there, Follow Your Bliss needs to share these blends with everyone. Every ingredient or note striking a chord with one another. In 2021 a private chef client of mine (rather his assistant) shared with me the results of his blood work after 3 months using my spices and cooking the Foods with Benefits Menu for him and his team. Dropping his cholesterol by hundreds of points.

I encourage you to experience these notes, create your own music and connect with these ingredients. Every version tells a story and as with any art we would love your interpretation. Try a non-sodium blend of spice (like BBQ), add a natural or infused salt (like Smoke on the Water Pecan), an ultra-premium oil (like Mandarin) and a sweet balsamic (like Black Cherry). Experience the adventures I have had along the way, note after delicious note. Then recreate them your way with your favorite people and create some new beautiful memories.

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