Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Cookin' Education

Peanut Butter Cookies. Horrible tasting, baking soda overloaded, peanut butter cookies. That is the first food item I remember making on my own. What was yours? Pizza! Angel food cake! Lasagna! Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon? Oui! Whatever it was I am sure you felt proud of your accomplishment and that everyone said how tasty it was, regardless of how it actually tasted! But, no doubt, it was fabulous!  

Do you still enjoy cooking? Oh, I hope you do! It is such an important part of health and wellness!

In one of my previous jobs, I ran a health and wellness program for college students. We talked about good nutrition and exercise and I helped them create goals and lay out steps for achieving their goals. Through this process I became extremely frustrated because the students didn’t know how to cook.  Most of them didn’t know how to boil water. We changed our whole agenda that semester and instead I had everyone over to my house for basic cooking lessons. From that point on, that is where we started each semester.

We started with cooking lessons because one of the main barriers to consuming a healthy diet is a lack of cooking skills. According to a recent survey (Huffington Post, 2011), almost 30% of Americans say they don’t know how to cook. As we discussed earlier eating healthy doesn’t have to be less convenient or expensive but in order for it to be comparable in price the individual must know how to cook. Perhaps the lack of cooking skills is the result of no longer providing home economic classes in high school?

In your work in the health and wellness field you may find yourself counseling individuals who have no idea how to cook. Where would you start? What would you recommend? Of course, the exact approach will depend on the client, but it is always good to do a little research and preparation. Find some great cookbooks, online videos and even local cooking classes that you could recommend to clients!

Some of my favorite cookbooks involve education. Of course, the classic Julia Child’s: Mastering the Art of French Cooking is wonderful. Even though it is about French Cooking, her book really is about education. Want to know about sex organs of lobsters? She will tell you! In great detail! Anyone can learn something in these books. Another great author is Deborah Madison. She gained her initial cooking education at Chez Panisse. Chez Panisse was founded by Alice Waters and she is credited with starting the local, organic and fresh food movement. Deborah Madison has published many cookbooks and of course her focus is on using local, fresh foods. She is a great resource to learn how to use fresh fruits and vegetables in the best possible way. She teaches you how to let the produce shine!

What cookbooks and other resources can you recommend?

Emily Boldrin PhD, RD

Huffington Post. (2011). Cooking Survey Reveals 28% of Americans Can’t Cook. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/09/cooking-survey_n_955600.html.


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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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