Linda Brinegar. Photo credit: Edible Michiana
Long afternoons picking fresh vegetables and fruit from the garden, picnics on hot summer days, fresh yellow watermelons—passion for food runs through the generations of Chef Linda Brinegar’s family.
“I learned a lot about cooking at the apron strings of my mother and two fantastic grandmothers,” recalls Brinegar. “Alongside family, I learned to work the garden and take what God provided—that beautiful bounty—and turn it into food for the table and medicine for the body. I fell in love with the concept.” Since then, she’s gained experience working at summer camps, women’s retreats, churches, conference events and weddings alike, serving vegan and plant-based foods that feed both soul and body.
As the head chef at Andrews University, Brinegar focuses on having a positive impact on the community of young people she serves. “This is a crucial age,” explains Brinegar. “I want to empower the students to make food choices that improve them spiritually, physically and mentally.” In fact, several years ago Brinegar started From Our House to Yours, a program to bring familiar, home-cooked meals to students living far away from the comfort of their homes. Families send in a favorite recipe, then Brinegar and her team recreate it for that student.
For Brinegar, food not only connects you to family, but serves as medicine for a sick, suffering and dying world.
“God has a tremendous ministry for anyone that wants to reach people through food. If we care about a person’s illness and help them heal with the foods we make, we open a door to share the gospel. I’ve had the opportunity and blessing to counsel people on how to use food to heal. I thank God for guiding me in those moments.” In a former role, Brinegar worked at a wellness center and recalls watching the transformation people experienced after eating food made from scratch with high-quality, natural ingredients.
“I met guests who could hardly walk at first. Then, within three weeks, they were ruddy and mobile. It is so wonderful to watch! I believe so strongly that God has enabled us to harness the healing power of food to reach people and alleviate their suffering. There’s something spiritual there. It’s both a commission and a blessing.”
Now as a grandmother herself, one of Brinegar’s greatest joys is cooking alongside her 15-year-old grandson, Paul, and passing on the love of food. Together, they enjoy making breakfast spreads with fresh orange juice, homemade potatoes with fresh herbs, hot drinks and teas, muffins, pastries, and even biscotti. Always from scratch.
It’s amazing because he’s so engaged that the phone goes away,” says Brinegar. “Food has become our point of connection as it was for me and my grandmothers. Through food, we’ve built a bond. That’s the power of food.”
“Thanksgiving dinner at the Brinegar home happens at night, under candlelight—and there’s always a set menu.
“There’d be a rebellion if we switched things up,” laughs Brinegar.
On the family menu, you’ll find a plant-based spread with grandma’s stuffing, mashed potatoes, grandma’s gravy, brussels sprouts (long-stem, of course!), and a mandatory pumpkin pie. For her daughter, Angela, who works as the manager of the Gazebo at Andrews, she’ll also prepare a homemade apple or lemon meringue pie.
Service is another key holiday tradition. “We always take time to serve the community,” she adds. “We often go to the local high school and pack stockings for soldiers. We include personalized notes, snacks and fun trinkets. It’s part of our tradition.”
2 Tbsp. oil (olive or your choice)
¾ lb. tofu (firm or soft)
½ c. walnuts/pecans, chopped fine
12 c. Rice Krispies cereal
2 Tbsp. chicken-style seasoning
5 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. aluminum-free baking powder
¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
5 Tbsp. Vegenaise
3 Tbsp. yeast flakes
3 Tbsp. unsweetened soymilk
3 tsp. ground flaxseed
1 Tbsp. salt
1 c. packed brown sugar
¾ c. canola oil
¼ c. molasses
3 Tbsp. Ener-G egg replacer
2¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. butter, softened
½ c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2¼ c. sifted flour
¼ tsp. salt
¾ c. chopped walnuts or pecans
Powdered sugar (for rolling baked cookies in)
Note: Forming dough into 1” balls will increase yield to 48 cookies.
Danni Thaw, freelance writer