April 25, 2014, Vol. 12, Issue 7
I love experiencing a master at work. That’s exactly how I felt a couple of weeks ago when Rebecca Katz presented her “Power of Yum” cooking demo program for Legacy Health’s “Meals that Heal” series here in Portland.
I consider Rebecca a master because she exhibited a blend of expertise, skill, and most importantly to me, enthusiasm and pleasure in the sheer joy of sharing her love for her topic — healthy, nutritious food that tastes yummy. It was also an exhibition of preparation-meets-skill; a cooking demo is not an easy thing to pull off unless you’re really, really organized. More on how she delivers the goods in today’s feature article.
Seeing is Believing, Tasting is Proof, and the Aromas…YES!
Rebecca Katz, MS, author of three fabulous cookbooks, is an evangelist for food that is healthy, and just as important, tasty. She doesn’t just preach about it, however, she demonstrates it with gusto, and her primary motivating tool is flavor. She shows people how great taste and great nutrition can joyfully coexist at our tables every time we prepare a meal. It all starts in our own kitchens, one step at a time.
Rebecca’s cooking isn’t about shortcuts; that would be too simple. But it is about ease of preparation while achieving complex, intriguing flavors, tastes so inviting that even a cancer patient would get an appetite. Often, in fact, she lightens the work by offering formulas you can easily learn to bring the flavors in a dish up a notch, or even tone them down if need be.
It’s all about alchemy. “Whenever you cook,” she said, “transformation happens. The bright colors of the vegetables and fruit indicate the life that is in them – and that they transfer to you.” And as her demonstration progressed, we smelled it clear out into the audience as the aroma of onions and garlic wafted through the meeting room in preparation for a kale dish.
“If you learn to saute onions and garlic, you’re a cook,” she said. “You can add some store-bought roasted chicken, and the house will smell like cooking is happening.” She focuses on the fundamentals. However, she shared not just uncomplicated advice about sauteing onions, but also powerful information about flavoring and herbs that are easy to implement in your kitchen.
One of the things I admired about her program: it was skillfully designed. She didn’t just demonstrate cooking one dish at a time. She started with a soup, and while that was in its first cooking stage, she moved to preparing a quinoa salad. And then to a kale dish, moving back to the soup, and salad, and culminating with a sardine appetizer. The audience was extremely attentive as Rebecca prepared four dishes in an hour and half including Q & A.
I have to note that she went out on a limb for the under-appreciated can of sardines: in fact she referred to it as “Prozac in a can” — because of the mood-boosting qualities of high Omega 3’s and Vitamin D. Cooked up — in a jiffy — with red onion, parsley, basil, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice, the results of her culinary magic were convincing.
From chopping herbs to blending carrots, Rebecca kept her audience mesmerized. She maintained an intricate balance among three distinct rhythms – the slow pace of preparing and cooking food, the medium delivery of recipe information, and a rapid-fire commentary on what she was doing, the choices she was making and why, and her observations on the whole process. Her pacing is as controlled and purposeful as a standup comic.
With her sense of humor and presence in the moment, Rebecca engaged her audience fully, bringing audience members on stage throughout the program for taste testing. Some might call them guinea pigs, others taste testers — I’d say they were demonstration that the proof is in the pudding. At the same time all of us in the audience felt that they were stand-ins for us, that somehow we were up on that stage with her, even though we stayed in our seats.
As each dish reached an apparent climax, she asked an audience member to taste and rate it on the well-known 1-to-10 scale. On their first taste most of the audience tasters rated a dish, (as prepared up to that point) anywhere from a a 5 to an 8 — spoonful by spoonful. Each time they did, Rebecca adjusted ingredients and inevitably the dish went from a 5 to a 10 and reached the ultimate, YUM!!! And we all learned along the way that the tasting and the last-minute adjustments are as important as the basic recipes.
If you’re thinking complicated, forget it. This is easy – or at least she made it seem easy. Her magic slogans helped her audience take away memorable nuggets. Here are some:
“Olive oil is like a magic carpet — carrying flavors, transversing taste buds.”
And this one,
“Lemon is like an animated Pixel character.”
And this one,
“Adding herbs to a dish is like adding oxygen.”
Now, I could expound on any one of those, but I’m going to let you use your imagination. You just have to know that Rebecca did expound on each one — showing as well as telling.
I first learned about Rebecca in relation to her cancer-related cookbooks, One Bite at a Time, and The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, and I have since become a fan of both of those, as well as her most recent book, The Longevity Kitchen. While her program for Legacy was sponsored by the Cancer Center there, it was marketed as a healthy lifestyle program, and attracted a very healthy crowd of the general public on a sunny Saturday morning in April.
I’m looking forward to her forthcoming book, The Healthy Mind Cookbook: Big-Flavor Recipes to Enhance Brain Function, Mood, Memory and Mental Clarity, (Ten Speed Press), available in February, 2015.
Rebecca says, “ I have faith in the allure of the kitchen, and I promise that if you’re inspired by the results, you’ll find yourself wanting to cook more and more. Creating meals that enhance your health and well-being while caressing your taste buds is irresistible. You’ll see.”
I’ve seen, heard, tasted, tested. I’m a believer. And I’m not alone. In fact, as I looked around that room, it seemed to me that everyone in the room was riveted to her for the whole program. She kept the audience awake and eager to see what she would do next.
You will be too, if you’re looking for a powerful, fun, educational wellness program that will draw audiences from many segments and excite them all from the first onion to the last #10 taste results – and in fact will draw them to the stage afterward for a personal taste of what they’ve seen cooked. Call me at 503-699-5031 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
In My Own Kitchen
I absolutely love cooking out of Rebecca’s cookbooks. They challenge me a bit – challenge me out of my lazy habits. I may dirty more dishes in the process, take a little longer, or spend a little extra on ingredients, but the results are always well worth the extra effort, time, and cost, because they are simply outstanding — Yummmmmmm….
Easter Sunday we served the Roasted Asparagus Salad with Arugula and Hazelnuts from The Longevity Kitchen. It was beautiful, a huge hit with our family from out of town. You can get the recipe here. My husband’s favorite go-to dish to take to any gathering is her Insanely Good Chocolate Brownies (which are gluten free and not insane, though they are outrageously delicious). Get that recipe here and surprise your family.
Until next time, challenge yourself in the kitchen to cook well for you and your family – to take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.
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