Since my pre-teen years, I have been cooking and preparing meals from scratch without formal recipes. My mother was a hematologist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in NY throughout my childhood and teenage years. Every day she would call me from work to tell me what to prepare for dinner. She would periodically call to make sure each step was followed on time. Our meals by today’s standards were and still are considered gourmet and definitely not fast food. Some of the dishes were: bouillabaisse, fricassee chicken, paella, lasagna with homemade sauce and pepper steak with rice.
A staple dish was fish every Friday that was fresh from the fish market. Have you ever prepared fresh, real fresh fish, not grocery store “fresh?” If you have, then you know this was no easy task. First, you had better know how to make sure the fish market sold you a real fresh fish: eyes clear, scales intact, no fishy smell and firm skin and meat. Next, you request “heads off and split.” This means cut the heads off and remove the guts. Now, you are ready to go home.
However, when you got home, you had to remove the remaining scales that fly all over the kitchen when scraped. This means a bigger cleanup job. My dad was a stickler for FRESH food; so much so that no other family member could prepare his meals other than my mother or me. He was in the military and said he knew all about what really goes on in kitchens when nobody is looking. Between the two of them, they shaped who I am today; start with fresh ingredients even if you cook them, get it straight from the source or as close as possible, and clean, clean, clean everything before during and after.
No exceptions and definitely no excuses. Little did I know my mother and father were foreshadowing my future. My aspirations were to go to medical school and become a pediatrician. Well, it started out like I thought; a premed major, but I switched to special education.
My mother has passed on to me the information of many family generations of holistic clinical nutritional healers, of which she joined the ranks of over 30 years ago. After leaving her job as a hematologist, she became a certified herbalist following in the footsteps of her mother, a Navajo fire talker healer who needed no certification and healed better and quicker than many doctors.
At the age of 17, I began college as a pre-med major at Boston University, initially focused on pediatrics taking all the sciences and health related classes. During my senior year of college, I transferred to the University of Iowa after changing majors to special education because my husband wanted to go to medical school and I felt if we were to have children they would be neglected if we were both in medical school. Additionally, I quickly learned that blood, cutting into flesh and no sleep was not for me.
Again, this was another nugget foreshadowing my future business that has helped tremendously in my licensing as a Medical Nutrition Therapist (MNT) and clinical nutrition forming the strong foundation for my businesses.
My instincts and intuition, along with the traditions and knowledge of using herbs for healing and preventative illness handed down to me, is incorporated into my culinary skills. I combined these four fundamental skills with my applied experiences and results gained as a Learning Specialist for over 30 years into the personalized programs I have created for clients in Choices N*Nutrition.
What is a Culitritionist™?
A Culitritionist™ is Mama Vega, a woman who combines the healing properties of foods, herbs and spices taking into account their nutritional and nutrient dense properties when creating recipes and dishes, while simultaneously taking into account individual dietary needs and restrictions.
— Charmène M. Vega
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