Yilu Ma, MS, MA, CMI, director, Interpreter Services Department
First, let me talk about the ingredients,” said Peter Lamb, a chef with more than 40 years of experience, as he started his demonstration of the evening’s main course, Cilantro Lime Haddock. Fifteen people, including BWH staff and patients, were gathered in the Garden Cafe for week five of a six-week “Let’s Get Cooking” program.
“Cilantro is the germinated seed of the coriander plant. Who uses it in your cooking?” asked Lamb, the director of Food Services at the Brigham, as he prepared the marinade. A few raised their hands.
“Great! Both the leaves and the stems are wonderful and serve well. I make a cilantro puree with vinegar, fresh garlic, a little bit of olive oil, sometimes I add scallions, and puree it up, to give it body and texture,” Lamb added.
As Lamb was cooking and garnishing the dish, Kathy McManus, MS, RD, director of the Department of Nutrition, explained the health benefits of fish and provided the latest literature on managing a healthy weight, the topic for the evening’s class.
Later, holding the pan with both his hands, Lamb did his “aromatic walk,” letting everyone take in the sight and fragrance of the prepared dish. “Cooking is about using our senses – our eyes, ears, nose and touch,” Lamb noted. To complement the haddock, Lamb then presented a black bean, edamame and wheat berry salad.
The content of each week’s session is varied and practical. A recent session covered topics ranging from tips on cooking wheat berries al dente to soaking beans overnight in order to save cooking time to the correct way to read a food label.
This six-week program was conceived out of McManus’ experience with the Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Kitchen Lives, a culinary program where physicians and clinicians work with top chefs to learn healthy cooking. Over the years, BWH physicians, nurses and patients had expressed interest in cooking classes.
“By partnering with Food Services, we can more effectively communicate the message of making great food choices through kitchen experiences, raising awareness of a healthy diet, particularly among those on the cusp of developing diabetes,” noted McManus. “However, if the food doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t matter how healthy it is. People won’t eat it. In this regard, chefs are crucial.”
To Lamb, food is as much about social interactions and mindfulness as it is about substance.
“Whether you’re sitting down having a quiet meal, fully chewing your food, contemplating your day, thinking about where you are in your life, or sitting down for a lively meal with your friends and families – food is a beautiful thing.”
Lamb believes that food plays a vital role in a patient and family’s hospital experience.
“Patients and families experience different stages of fear, and their choices are temporarily taken away, so food and hospitality can help contribute to a positive patient experience and a feeling of being cared for,” said Lamb.
Throughout the month of March, the Department of Nutrition will be celebrating National Nutrition Month with an array of activities to promote healthy eating. Visit BWHPikeNotes.org to learn more.