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Seasoned Moments’ Michal Levison: Food, Community and Chicken Soup

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 9
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June 15, 2023

Food is a bridge to connection.

“No matter what culture we come from [or] where we are in the world, we all eat,” Michal Levison, speaker, cookbook author and founder of Seasoned Moments, told the Journal.

Through Seasoned Moments, culture expert Levison uses food as a gateway to help companies, communities and families create relationships.

“I started out with families, helping them build bonds while cooking, shopping for food, setting the table and having a meal [together],” she said.

A few years ago, Levison transitioned into the corporate space. She discovered that all of the things that human resource directors were seeking – productivity, wellness and employee retention – could be dealt with during the lunch hour.

“In this very productivity-driven culture that we live in, we have taken all of the things that we used to really have built into the day as natural [break] points, and we’ve erased them,” she said.

Since it’s part of the work day, lunch is the perfect opportunity for coworkers to connect, bond and also have a break.

“It’s a great time for people to step away from a desk, sit at a table, have a nice meal and … rest,” she said. “Then they can go back to work and feel refreshed and ready to go.”

Born in Israel, Levison comes from a culture that is very much centered around food. Her passion for food, cooking and connection comes from her parents.

“When each one of my siblings and I turned 5, my mom handed us a cookbook and a stepstool, and let us have at it for 2 hours in the kitchen,” said Levison, who started teaching her daughters, Bella and Anya, even younger. Bella began cooking at 10 months.

She added, “My parents were always taking us to different types of restaurants, exposing us to different cultures.”

That love of food has followed Levison throughout her life.

“When I was a teen I would have my friends over,” she said. “We would have dinner together in college. I would cook for friends who were sick. When I moved in with my husband, we always hosted dinner parties and holidays, and we continue to do that.”

Most people say the kitchen is the heart of their home. Levison feels that the experience of breaking bread and sharing food is the heart of relationships.

“Relationships are pretty much the number one key to wellbeing,” she said “I find that the meal is a really great way to build and strengthen relationships.”

People worry about getting the right nutrients. Fueling our bodies includes savoring and enjoying meals.

“It is not just a time to put the stuff that you need in your body so it can continue to run,” Levison said. “It’s also a time to become more mindful and create opportunities for connection.”

What’s the starting point for two strangers sharing a meal?

“Sometimes it’s awkward,” she said. “But if you see something on their plate that looks recognizable. boom, you have an opening line.”

For instance: ‘My mom used to make those cookies for me after school when I was a kid.’

Food is a trigger. And, Levison explains, because you are using your nose, eyes and taste buds, there are so many ways that you can connect to deeper memories and stories about what you are eating.

“It’s very rare that you bite into something, and you’re like, ‘Hmm. I got nothing,’” Levison said. “Even if it tastes like cardboard, and it has no flavor, it evokes something in you.”

One of Levison’s favorite easy meals, and one that many attach to memories, is chicken soup. Recipe is below.

“You literally are just compiling ingredients for a grand total of, I think, five minutes, and the pot does the work for an hour [or so],” she said. “Then you’ve got this magical elixir that is delicious.”

Learn more about Seasoned Moments.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:

Photo by Michal Levison

Michal’s Chicken Soup

1 parsnip

1 turnip

1 celery root

3 large carrots, peeled

2 onions

4 cloves garlic

1 whole chicken

5 whole legs

Water

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 celery stalks

1 bunch parsley

1 bunch dill

Peel and cut vegetables into quarters. Cut onions in half and leave the peels on.

In a 12 quart pot, place all the ingredients except celery, parsley and dill. Cover with water, leaving an inch from the top. Gently place celery, parsley and dill and close the lid.

Cook the soup for at least an hour and up to four hours (start tasting it after an hour until you reach your desired flavor). Strain the soup and pull the chicken.


Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

 

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