Food 8/26

Joanie Kraker takes one of many first place awards at the 2007 Daily Iberian Cookbook contest. Over the years, the times have changed, so has the food that was featured in it.

Five years ago in June I wrote a food article for this newspaper called “Why Do We Cook?” At the time, Swanson’s Foods was running a media campaign through a series of video and printed advertisements asking individuals this very question.

The answers were varied, but were, for the most part, to reconnect with family and beloved memories. I was reminded of this article upon reading last Wednesday’s Daily Iberian food story describing how a son finds favorite recipes in old editions of The Daily Iberian and Cajun Sugar Co-op Cookbooks.

Those recipes enable him to reconnect with his mom, now deceased, as he recalls fond memories of times spent in the kitchen with her, learning life lessons and cooking skills while preparing delicious foods for family gatherings.

Having been a participant in past Cajun-Creole Cookbook contests over the years, I experienced first-hand the camaraderie of participants who described how their own skills and recipes were handed down from grandparents and parents.

If the old adage holds true, that “imitation is the highest form of flattery,” I was flattered to have our oldest son, Michael, competing with me at one of the contests; even if the title of his dish was “Not My Mother’s Meat Loaf.”

There were also other friendly competitions among families as wives competed to match their husbands’ honors, and sisters competed against each other for bragging rights. Over the years, first place winners taking home the coveted embossed black iron skillets and colorful kitchen trivets included contestants from various walks of life.

Among the winners were teachers, nurses, soccer moms, real estate agents, company presidents and oil rig superintendents. For those fortunate enough to possess them, a search of any back issues of the cookbooks will still reveal recipes for delicious and satisfying dishes, sure to conjure up memories of past family meals

In more recent times, individuals are having to rethink the emphasis they put on their food and eating habits. A new term oft-repeated in our conversations these days is “pandemic eating.” Along with this term, we may also hear of the “pandemic 15, ” a term used to describe the weight gained during the quarantine lockdown. Unfortunately, these new terms refer to the phenomena caused by a person’s reaction to the anxiety and stress caused by the COVID-19 virus pandemic, and the resulting quarantine. We have learned that the hormone cortisol, the fight or flight hormone which is released by the body when we feel threatened, also triggers appetite.

Certain foods, such as sugar and carbohydrates can make people feel better by causing the release of another chemical in the brain, dopamine, known as the “feel-good hormone.”

All these factors, coupled with the boredom of being isolated in our homes with limited activity, contributes to those unwanted pounds that seem to creep up on the scales.

There may be, however, a positive side to this present situation. For some, these extended days at home have provided the extra time needed to reevaluate their overall health and wellness, and in doing so, make positive changes to their diets and activity levels. Other benefits to the increased time at home have been the ability of parents and children to enjoy preparing meals and eating together, resulting in better eating habits and increased self-esteem in children.

For those desiring to make positive changes in their nutrition and overall health, the LSU AgCenter is offering virtual Nutrition classes for adults and youth. The classes will be 30 minutes in length and participants can view it from their computer, or smart device such as a phone or tablet.

The series, “Let’s Eat for the Health of It,” is eight classes covering topics such as My Plate, food budgeting, food safety, how to make healthy balanced meals, and physical activity.

Classes start on Sept. 8, and will be offered at three different times to accommodate schedules, but more classes will be held in the future if one is not able to view these.

For more information, or to register for these free nutrition classes, you may contact Rae Hebert at 369-4441 or rhebert@agcenter.lsu.edu, or Mandy Armentor at 898-4335, or marmentor@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Though this pandemic has curtailed our activities for a while, it has not diminished our love for good food. You are encouraged to share with our readers your favorite, time-honored recipes, and even some of the prize-winners from past cookbooks, by submitting them to The Daily Iberian.

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