Healthy and nurturing cooking for cancer patients, with the Sara Lee trust a little diary of events.
"Healthy and nurturing Cooking" for cancer patients and their carers ran at the Freedom church in Sidley with the Sara Lee trust in September & October.
The workshop has been running since 2018, now, and throughout the course, I realised that it was not only about healthy food and nutrition, but about nurturing in a wider sense: being supported and listened to, self-care and independence, discovering or re-discovering the joy of being creative in the kitchen and feeling better for it.
When going through a cancer treatment you are often left with the sense of losing control, even to a medical team that mostly wants our best. Sharing a moment simply doing something with company, and having a practical goal is also enabling and can help regaining some power.
The emphasis of the sessions is on individual taste, and recipes that are shown, work as a template for everyone to explore their own favourite flavours. Participants are encouraged to explore combinations that work for them, alternatives to ingredients that they do not like, are intolerant or allergic to, or have been advised to avoid by their medical team. This approach creates a space of freedom of choice, giving back control even at such a humble level. What appears on one’s plate is ultimately their decision, and it can help them feel good. However if something tastes not so good , then it doesn’t matter, know not to try this next time, but keep an open mind and learn from it is one way forward.
The sessions happen once a week and last for a couple of hours for the participants who want to eat together, or to take the food back home if they wish. Whichever they chose there is always a little tasty something to experience.
Below are the dishes we made last time around.
Nothing is set in stone and the recipes are here to help, not to dictate.
Everyone is shown the recipe, but then any ingredient that is not pleasing or tolerated can be omitted and replaced by something else, or not.
So here is a quick little diary of the latest course that ran in September October-in time for using lovely autumn ingredients…
For our first cooking session we were getting to know each other and understand every one individual needs.
We used gorgeous fresh vegetables and fruits.
The theme of the cook off was 'no cook'... Salads and cocktails.
Well ....cocktail dressings...
We travelled with taste from France to South East Asia and the Mediterranean...
Mustard, peanut butter, tahini, lemon, garlic, ginger and more ingredients came into the various combinations with some delicious resulting experiments!
We also used different cuts styles for the vegetables to vary the tasty textures.
Sorry no pictures of the end result...we were too busy tasting and creating.
Our second session was full of beautiful energy and creativity.
I managed to take a picture or two before the food disappeared
With one recipe people created their own version of it, using many spices and herbs ...sage, bay leaf, thyme, ginger turmeric to name a few
In 2 hours, we made...:
A wholesome minestrone style soup. Topped with salsa and toasted seeds..
Some interesting soda breads with lots of flavours...nori seaweed one of them
And finally an oaty crumble with windfall apples and plums. As I forgot the cinnamon we used nutmeg, cloves and sage (Saw Ottolenghi use sage with apple pancakes so why not?)
Week 3 During this session, we had a really good time- the kitchen was buzzing.
We made: wholemeal or chickpea flour based pizzas (savoury and sweet- try bananas and strawberries without adding sugar... you'd be surprised...). It was all about exploring alternatives and cooking something that we always think is better from the takeway or the shop and discovering we can make a tastier/healthier version at home and enjoying the process of creating our own flavours.
Week 4 We made a fragrant and vibrant curry with a dhal, raitas, chickpea flour pancakes and salad with mango coriander tomatoes and red onions. ..all packed with lots of veggies
Here participants felt confident they could create a delicious "mockeway" using a lot more fresh ingredients, packed with flavours and easy to make. Without breaking the bank and knowing the exact composition of the dishes and the goodness in them.
The participants took over!!! And this was one of the most intense and creative cooking session one could have imagined!
After we had a little breakfast to start, with a buckwheat, almonds and raspberries oven pancake accompanied by a side of Greek yoghurt and honey topped with cinnamon to give us energy and mint, ginger and lemon tea.
What did we make?
Filled marrow with couscous tomato sauce topped with feta, toasted seeds and pomegranate seeds
Bean sausages and roasted vegetables-exploring different flavours, herbs and spices
Mock creme caramels( you would not guess!).
Another delicious vegetarian feast...lots of ideas to take home.
Week 6 : Last but not least for our last cooking session.
It was a real celebration. As I expected there were as many different quiches and tartes as there were participants.
The smells coming from the ovens (4 ovens to bake around 16 tartes and quiches!!!) were delicious.
By then, everyone was feeling super confident and excited to explore. A little sad the course was coming to an end, feeling they had also met new friends and for some people discovering or reconnecting with the joy of cooking again.
In the end, I was delighted to hear that people loved meeting, talking and listening to each other whilst also cooking and laughing in the kitchen as well as making changes in the way they cook now at home.
Enjoying the mindful and creative process rather than seeing it as a chore, was a positive shift that happened throughout the sessions too as well as looking forward to a delicious, affordable meal and knowing/deciding what is in its composition which is so important too.
Cooking together was not just about cooking, but also...in no specific order:
Preparing, chosing ingredients,
Tasting with your eyes nose and mouth tasting as you go along or not
Mixing colours, textures, flavours...
Doing the washing up, using spoons, teaspoons, forks, hands, pans, whisks.
Chatting, laughing discussing likes and dislikes.
Creating new flavours from starting with one recipe...imagining....
And feeling happy to share a very special moment with others.
So now I am looking forward to the next time.
Volunteers have joined me, helping and taking part, who were participants to previous workshops; I am so to thankful to them their contribution which was second to none.
And the wonderful news is that a few of the new participants are hoping to come back and become volunteers too.