Last night my passion for food and culture had an exciting milestone. Just in time to celebrate the year of the Dog, I had a chance to lead an interactive session titled Food & Culture with fellow Nutritional Therapists (NTs), Nutrition & Health Coaches (NHCs), and current students of these disciplines at my alma mater IINH. This 90 minute program gave us the opportunity to explore the concept of food and culture as it relates to Nutritional Therapy (NT) and Nutrition & Health Coaching (NHC), specifically application in relating to and fulfilling the needs of clients. Click here, or the photo above to view the seminar.
Twelve people participated with backgrounds as vast as one would hope for at such an event, Hungarian, Russian, Dutch, Italian, and English living in Ireland, Polish living in Basel, Switzerland, Irish living in Germany and an American living in Lugano, Switzerland. We explored the what and how to ask, along with the what and how to offer recommendations that both consider the culture of any given client as well inject, with respect and lightheartedness, some new ideas into the life of a person from our same culture. All another take on bio-individuality, one of the cornerstones of IINH's programs.
The idea to offer a session on Food & Culture was born during my studies at IINH. I was so overwhelmed by how much I enjoyed the course, so much so that my commitment to do only the first year Nutrition & Health Coaching certification went out the window, and I went on to do the full four year Nutritional Therapy Diploma in Nutritional Science and Therapeutics. Even with my high level of satisfaction, there was, from my point of view, something missing. Living in Lugano, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, just 20 minutes in 3 direction from the Italian border, the potential that I will work with Italians/Italian cultured people is high. If I ask an Italian to have porridge for breakfast (the standard suggestion in our course then), I not only risks them not taking my advice, it also (in part) indicates that I missed something in my analysis of their needs. Specifically, that I am unaware of their cultural paradigm. The same is true of the historical aspects of a culture. I recall wincing while I watched one of my 30 observations, when the NT asked a man from the former Yugoslavia, what happened in the 1990’s that made you leave your country? Maybe this was meant to be a provocative question, and it somehow did not seem so. While NT's cannot possibly know the details of every country and culture, we can phrase our questions, and open our perspectives in relation to what we recommend, to include a client's cultural background/paradigm. Along the way we can learn and grow a lot ourselves.
For me, having grown up in a home where food was a language; what was made, how it was made, how it was presented, all of this had a meaning, even if it was unconscious. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my mother’s family is Italian and Spanish and for us food is the reason to be, reason to gather, it is the way to celebrate, to relax, and to express oneself. In fact, I practiced this presentation onTuesday using Zoom with my mother and my Aunt who are both in Florida. The whole time they were together in my mother's kitchen making my grandmothers Christmas cookies, a Sicilian recipe, cookies stuffed with chocolate and chick peas, yes out of season.
Beyond this genetic predisposition, having worked and lived in 5 countries, the kitchen has always been my way to enter a culture. In 1996 during my first month living abroad, in Ussurisk, Russia, the main form of communication between myself and my host family was to cook together. You could say I learned Russian in the kitchen. Some say to learn a language, pillow talk is the best way, for me it is pan talk. Even when I am travelling, I am hyper aware of what is happening from a culinary perspective. You could say my travels revolve around food (and wine). SA, Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc., evidenced by the adventures of Bunny & Bearli, happily Claudio (my husband) and I share this passion.
Together these factors converged to create this workshop on Food & Culture where we shared our ideas about how food and culture come together in our work with clients, and how we can heighten the value and effectiveness of our work at.
Several recipes were born of this evening, some are already here on the site, and others are to come, and below you will find a complete list of our output, all titles are linked to a pdf version of the recipe. Thank you to everyone who contributed recipes, during this session and in the past to create the list below. If you would like more information about this evening and the possibility to do something similar for yourself or a group, contact me here.