New Orleans is a “foodie” city for sure. Fresh seafood, ripe ingredients, fragrant spices and cultural diversity add to the distinct properties of its culinary uniqueness. Having studied topics in culinary medicine and taken cooking classes at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, which is part of the Tulane School of Medicine, I understood the initiative for exploring the concept of food as medicine. The School is committed to sharing this nutritional and culinary knowledge with its medical students and community.
However, I learned more this past week about the priorities of this focus throughout the city and university. Our son will be a freshman at Tulane this fall, and recently we headed to New Orleans for freshman orientation. During our tour of the campus and parent orientation meetings, we experienced a most impressive concept in college student living. In their newest student dormitory, the Barbara Greenbaum House, the first floor lobby boasts an demonstration teaching kitchen which is available for students to use to cook freshly prepared meals. On the first night, the parents were invited to a reception hosted by the dean and other academic staff in that lobby to learn about their ground-breaking concept while enjoying some food cooked by a teaching chief. Arriving early, I was able to talk with Chef Christian Rossit and actually cook some shrimp and grits to serve to the group. While cooking and talking, I learned more about the students use of the space and enjoyment with the frequent cooking demonstrations. Here, students develop culinary skills which serve as life-long lessons just as important as mathematics, English and economics. Tulane feels that an investment in healthy eating and cooking skills help creates a valuable dormitory experience and fun retreat, especially for the over-scheduled college student, often without the resources to prepare a homemade meal.
Preparing home-made meals is important for preservation of health and optimization of wellness. One of my goals as a physician is to help patients realize the concept of “lifestyle intervention.” This process often involves incorporating a strategy for home cooking, shopping for fresh ingredients and including principles of the Mediterranean diet into one’s life. Cooking together as a group makes less work for everyone, creates opportunities for socialization and introduces life long lessons for innovative solutions for time management. Providing this opportunity for college students to cook and to prepare their own food seems like a win-win situation for all and hopefully begins a trend in the realization of these important concepts, thus breaking the cycle of the notoriously “bad college diet.”