August 12, 2010, Vol. 8 Issue 7
I really couldn’t tell you the last time I sat down and actually read a cookbook, but Rebecca Katz’s writing is so engaging, I was captivated. Both of her cookbooks, written for cancer patients and survivors, and their friends and caregivers, are as friendly as they are instructional. And her speeches and cooking demos are every bit as candid and engaging. This woman is on a mission, and anyone within range of her writing or speaking, will feel her passion for making a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families.
The Power of “YUM”
Everyone who has been or knows a cancer patient knows that eating, let alone eating well, is a difficult challenge — from loss of appetite, to loss of interest, to physical limitations. Nearly 80 percent of patients who undergo cancer treatments end up malnourished. Rebecca Katz, MS, is on a mission to change that with her recipe for success — the power of “yum.” She believes that food is medicine, and it’s important to make the medicine go down, tastefully. At a time when you may feel that nothing is under your control, something as simple as creating a nutritious, healing dish for yourself or a loved one can be a reaffirmation of your humanity and a tangible way to nurture someone you care about.
Rebecca believes that delicious, nourishing food is the single most important and most often overlooked element in treating the nation’s 1.5 million cancer patients.
Before she embarked on the culinary odyssey that led to her first book, her father was diagnosed with throat cancer. The radiation treatments made swallowing nearly impossible. “There’s only one thing you need to know about my Dad,” she said, “and that’s that he loves food. He lives food.” In fact, he made his living in the food business. He was devastated, wondering how he would ever enjoy another meal. Rebecca felt helpless — and she was a professionally trained chef running one of Northern California’s premiere organic restaurants. She did the best she could with cold fruit smoothies, but she found there was no one place to go for soups, salads, entrees, desserts, snacks and quick pick-me-ups that were, for lack for a better term, cancer-compatible. That’s why her recipes are unique. Each recipe is built around ingredients that taste fantastic (that’s the hook!), bolster the immune system, are easy to digest, and work well with numerous healthy substitutions.
As cancer treatments wreak havoc with the digestive system, patients lose their appetites or feel sick to their stomachs. Rebecca says that the goal when feeding a cancer patient is not to get them to eat, or to eat more, but to introduce them to little bites of “yum,” nutritionally, flavor-packed bites in which every element of the mouthful counts. Another problem is that food just doesn’t taste good to them — when patients undergo chemotherapy or radiation, their tastebuds misfire. “The challenge is to make something that stimulates those tastebuds. My solution is FASS: fat, acid, salt and sweet. It’s something I developed to help people fix food so it appeals to a patient. If it tastes too sweet, you add acid. If it’s too salty, you add lemon, adjusting until the food comes in line with the taste bud signals. I tell people the best thing they can ask a cancer patient is ‘How does this taste to you today? Let me fix it for you.’”
And instead of just asking them what sounds good to them, she advises you to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and make it visual for them. Ask if they’d like some lumpy, bumpy mashed potatoes or a smooth and creamy soup. Or ask them if their taste buds were going to travel around the world today, where would they want to go today?
Her newest book, “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery (Celestial Arts), took home double honors at the prestigious IACP – International Association of Culinary Professionals — awards. It won in the health category and took the coveted “People’s Choice” award — a huge honor. Her first book, “One Bite at a Time: Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends,” is now in its second edition (Celestial Arts). In addition to easy-to-follow recipes, both books include mouth-watering photos, plus Rebecca’s generous (and often humorous) comments — notes from the Inner Cook.
Her down to earth tone is that of a close friend: “I’m betting you could use a little joy in your life right about now. I know one such blissful bundle. It’s called the power of “yum,” that moment of convergence where smell, taste, and mind align to create an involuntary spasm of delight.”
Rebecca says that food as healing is ancient wisdom and calls her Magic Mineral Broth recipe the ancient art of alchemy — food as medicine. “This broth alone can keep people going,” she says, “especially when they don’t particularly want to eat. It’s not just a regular vegetable stock. This pot of yum is high in potassium and numerous trace minerals that are often depleted by cancer therapy. Sipping this nutrient-rich stock is like giving your body an internal spa treatment.” It’s also used in many of her recipes. To get the recipe, simply reply to this email and write Magic Broth in the Subject line, and we’ll email it to you.
Rebecca holds a Masters of Science degree in Health and Nutrition Education, and received her culinary training from the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. A nationally-recognized speaker, Rebecca presents at many top academic medical centers, including the University of California/San Francisco’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Stanford’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. Her talks cover all aspects of cooking and developing kitchen confidence, focusing on how to create delicious, nutritious meals for people dealing with illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, whether they are newly-diagnosed, currently in treatment, or survivors at risk for recurrence.
Rebecca is the Executive Chef and core faculty member of the Food as Medicine Training Program and Cancer Guides, sponsored by the Center for Mind Body Medicine, and is a visiting Chef and nutrition educator at Commonweal’s Cancer Help Program in Bolinas, California.
A myriad of food related experiences, including a sojourn to Italy, where she studied Mediterranean cuisine from chefs and signoras from Florence to Sicily, shaped Rebecca’s philosophy that health-supportive food must taste great in order to be nourishing and healing. Rebecca speaks, teaches and consults at cancer centers around the country, and is currently at work on her third book. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.
To see how lively and engaging she is as a speaker, visit our website, where you can view a video of Rebecca doing a talk and cooking demonstration. To bring her energy and enthusiasm to your community, give us a call at 503-699-5031.
Summertime Family Fun
I hope you’re having a fulfilling and playful summer. It’s not exactly been sizzling here in the Northwest this summer, but I’m back from a relaxing Family Vacation at the Oregon Coast — grateful for every shared moment over a game of Tripoley, Scrabble or Sequence, every sand castle built and washed away, every starfish spied in a tide pool, every walk on the beach with kids and dogs, and every meal shared at a big, long table, even if we didn’t all totally agree on the menu! I took a lot of hits for my reduced fat versions of various foods. Just wait till those skinny kids grow up and come looking to Grandma B for advice. Hah!
Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.
PLEASE NOTE: The information shared in this e-news is designed to help you make informed decisions about speakers and the programs they offer. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment prescribed by a doctor. If you suspect you have a medical problem, seek competent medical help.