Last week I finished teaching and supervising the first medical student clinical elective in culinary medicine…and credit was given! Awesome!
Each day had assigned reading (peer-reviewed papers, book chapters from my ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine) and viewing (culinary medicine FAQ from viewers and readers, Tulane University basic nutritional science review from their new Center for Culinary Medicine, and more).
As a parting present, I gave a become-an-olive-oil-expert taster, to the right: tiny quantities of differently infused oils (garlic, basil, fig) in tiny quantities: it’s also available online. Identifying flavors is something we’ll do more of next time, especially with herbs and spices. We did identify fava bean maturity, and note the way nutritional content, flavor and texture change as the bean matures (mature fava beans can be planted too).
The week was divided into one basic topic area per day:
1. Hospital and Clinic (seeing patients, meeting other med students);
2. Home, Garden and Kitchen (harvesting, cooking techniques and dish creation, presentation, clean up, with food safety and recipe reading and development);
3. Organizations and Community (participation in Foodbank teaching, food advocacy initatives, and food literacy classes);
4. Research and Writing (curriculum critique, study of questions which arose during the week, work on assigned projects);
5. Menu Analysis and Eating Out (read-between-the-lines assessment, how to order and taste, deconstructing flavors and texture, portion size, control and rate of eating);
6. Shopping (farmer’s market tour, farmer interviews, buying, seasonality, comparison with grocery store fare and products) and Conclusion (final turn in of projects and papers).
We also integrated personal exercise into this, and that’s something we’ll do more of next time too: so important for students to know what they are asking patients to do. Although Santa Barbara is a paradise for walking, running, climbing and more, many of my own patients prefer to get their exercise inside, so they can count their numbers, which I fully support. Many of you know that I love the Smooth Fitness CE-3.6 Elliptical Trainer; the Sole E35 I previously recommended is sold out.
I don’t have the final numbers yet, but the elective appears to have provided about 60 contact hours in two weeks with 17 faculty members from 6 different disciplines: Internal Medicine, Professional Cooking, Nutrition, Public Health, Community Leadership, Organizational Development. You can read about Week 1 here.
Although I believe that it is logically a part of medicine and medical practice, it may be that the people to undertake its refinement and day to day application are actually chefs and cooking instructors, more than physicians or nutritionists or dietitians.
Chefs meet people where they eat, and as more and more of our budget goes towards eating out, it is clear that cooks and chefs outside the home will continue to have an outsized effect on how people eat and choose food.
This, of course, is despite my own, Michael Pollan’s new excellent Cooked book, and Mark Hyman’s exhortations that the key to health is learning to cook. I think it is still the key: but it takes time and skills that the culinary medicine elective teaches.
But who should be its students, leaders and champions? And what should it do? Stay tuned.