December 2, 2020

Food is Healing for Clients Of The Simple Stove

KEEPING IT HEALTHY: Terri Block, left, and Lee Yonish keep foods nutritious and tasty when preparing meals for clients of The Simple Stove. The company has been operating out of the kitchen at the former Blawenburg Café, but is looking for a new location.

By Anne Levin

During a recital streamed from the Nottingham, UK, living room of cellist/pianist sibling duo Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason last Sunday, some 60 local patrons of the Princeton University Concerts event indulged in a proper British afternoon tea. It had all the right components — scones, cream, cakes, and little triangular sandwiches.

But this mini-feast was provided by The Simple Stove, which meant there was no gluten, dairy, or sugar involved. Keeping food clean, healthy, nutrient-dense, and delicious is the idea behind the two-person company that has been operating since last spring out of the kitchen at the former Blawenburg Café. Founders Lee Yonish and Terri Block now count some 250 subscribers and 125 regulars among their customer base.

Both women are involved in the Suppers program, which was founded by the late Dorothy Mullen to encourage healthy cooking and eating. They started The Simple Stove after COVID-19 took hold.

“Suppers had been leasing the Blawenburg Café since last fall,” said Yonish. “In March, after everything shut down and there were no in-person meetings, Terri and I approached the executive committee and said this might be an opportunity to sell Suppers’ food. They were in the middle of some strategic visioning processes, and it would have been too much at that time. But they said, ‘Why don’t you use the kitchen and rent from us?’ ”

The business got going in May. Customers can choose from a simple a la carte menu of soups, salads, crudites, breads, crackers, and a “treat.” The menu changes weekly. Health tags reveal which foods are good, or not good, for various medical conditions. The order window is open from Thursday to Saturday, and customers pick up orders on Wednesday afternoons.

Both Yonish and Block are enthusiastic cooks. Yonish was on the board of Suppers since its early days. She hired Block in 2015 to be an administrative coordinator and work with Mullen on day-to-day operations as Suppers grew. Later, when Suppers moved into the Blawenburg Café, Block managed the kitchen.

Yonish is certified in holistic nutrition. “Working closely with Dor Mullen really inspired me to learn everything I could,” she said. “That’s why I got pretty involved with Suppers. About five years ago, I ended up preparing food from my own kitchen, offering food cleanses for four clients a week. I would cook all of their meals for an entire week, and it really changed their lives a lot. It made them pay attention to the foods they were eating – foods that tasted really good but were not processed. It had a positive outcome, and I loved it. But I did it alone, and it was really tiring.”

With The Simple Stove, Yonish and Block are able to serve a larger base. “I love the fact that we’re not just helping people get some good food into their houses, but we’re helping people who have health conditions,” said Yonish. “We have a woman whose husband has a severely compromised immune system, and she told us that we’ve really filled a void for her. We have a woman with insulin dependent diabetes, and she says she finds her blood sugar regulation easier. That’s what gives me chills — helping people with health problems that are not their fault.”

“So many of these problems can be managed with food,” said Block. “It’s not just about making cheesecakes and having fun with it. It’s really about helping people. And I love that. I have a friend with MS [multiple sclerosis] who has posted that this food is a resource for her that allows her to manage her health without having to cook much herself.”

Princeton is a place where many people are health-conscious, said Yonish. “I feel like I live in a bubble, in a way,” she said. “I find that in this area, people really pay attention to the issue. And it’s not just older people. No matter the age, people who have issues know that they just can’t eat everything.”

Doctors are speaking out more frequently about the impact of food on health. “There are not enough of them yet, but they’re all waking up,” said Block. “And it’s very hard to get takeout that is clean. “

Everything on the menu is individually priced. Soups range from $9-$13 for a pint and $15-$20 for a quart. Salads go from $12 to $15. The “treat” is usually $3, and crackers are $8.50 a bag.

Asked which items are customer favorites, Yonish said, “We have rotated our menus so much that it’s hard to say. But we’ve been getting feedback along the way, and veggie-loaded turkey chili is popular. It was, and still is, a Suppers staple. Soups are really popular, especially the shitake mushroom bisque. People like our apple crisp. And chia puddings are favorites, because they are so creamy.”

“We’ll do more of those,” said Block. “I want to do a pina colada pudding.”

The company is looking for a new kitchen. The current building has a new owner who is taking over in early February, so they need to be out by the end of January. “We’ve been putting feelers out,” said Block. “We might end up only doing delivery and no pickup, depending on our location. But we’ll adapt to whatever happens.”

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