Culinary medicine to me is a coming together of the soothing comforts of home cooking and the healing touch of The Great Physician. The culinary medicine courses I have taught in the past have had other names, but they are all focused on the role of foods and nutrition in health.
My first foray into culinary medicine was when I was gardening and cooking on the farm as a child. I took a demonstration to the Iowa State Fair when I was 14 on how to cook the vegetables from my garden so they retain the most nutrition possible. I was about 8 years old when I gave my first nutrition presentation to our little 4-H club that met in a neighbor’s home. Probably my all-time favorite award I ever won was for my yeast bread baking skills when I was about 10 years old. The yeast bread I took to the fair that year was a beautiful monkey bread decorated with a glaze and candied cherries. At the time I was a little disappointed that I did not win the Iowa State Fair bid,;another girl did because the judge said the box I covered with contact paper to hold the bread took away from the overall appearance of my 4-H project. I was only a tiny bit set back because I knew that bread was a great work of art and I learned a lot about presenting food that day. Months later at the end-of-the-year awards banquet, I was given this little 1-inch metal lapel pin that simply said “bread” on it. I was so thrilled and every time I come across that tiny pin, I remember the joy baking bread gave me even as a child.
I was making bread for as long as I can remember. I have wonderful memories of helping my mom deliver fresh, hot breads in exchange for money to buy groceries and pay the bills. Everyone loved our bread and I still deliver fresh yeast breads to neighbors and friends especially at Christmas and Easter.
I co-authored a textbook for college level students using the title of “Nutrition and Diet Therapy” but today, that text would be more appropriately called “Culinary Medicine”. It is divided by diseases and describes the most appropriate nutrition for each. This is also the approach we take in our Culinary Medicine class at the University of Central Florida. The students spend time in the classroom and in the kitchen honing their ability to translate science into application to share with patients.