Cooking and oncology

Professors and chefs join forces in a project that aims at giving value to taste in cancer patients

“Food and emotions, health and quality of life i

“Food and emotions, health and quality of life in a perfect balance” is the title of the meeting organised by the Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori (the National Institute for Tumours, Int) on Monday 13th July at the Expo’s Conference Center. Important chefs such as Cesare Battisti, Chicco Cerea (in the photo, in the middle) and Moreno Cedroni were asked to participate. Davide Scabin had already begun to research on this topic and spoke about it during his lesson at Identità Milano, in February 2014

The project titled “Food and emotions, health and quality of life in a perfect balance” was launched. The Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori (Int) asked for the help of some chefs to create a special menu for patients affected by dysgeusia, the altered perception of flavours. Everyone has a different perception of flavours but what if your taste was compromised? «Cooking and medicine are not that different: we need to adapt cures to patients in the same way as a dish needs to please a client» says Filippo de Braud, health director at Int and creator of this project which has the aim of giving back dignity to the food given to sick people and to their meals.

Doctor Silvia Colatruglio, dietician at Int, explains how for cancer patients it is difficult to swallow, stomatitis (large thrushes) cause burning, digestion and absorption are compromised. Most of all, chemotherapy leaves a taste of metal in the mouth, salty things become acid and this turns into a bitter taste.

It would be nice to stimulate appetite in those who can no longer enjoy food per se, nor food as a moment of conviviality. «Imagine a family sitting around a table at lunchtime, after five minutes the father gets agitated and nervous and then leaves and sits on the sofa; this man had a tumour, he cannot sense flavours and eating is painful, so he leaves in frustration, tries to isolate himself from the family»; this scene depicted by Cesare Battisti, chef at restaurant Ratanà in Milan, involved in the project, clearly underlines the importance of the social context.

Battisti has a pragmatic approach: «Dishes need to be simple and easy to replicate. Understanding what patients sense in the palate will be a good challenge, same goes for creating good recipes for different palates». This is no banal task and the chefs, who have embraced the project with an open heart, are aware of it. Among them, there’s also Moreno Cedroni (La Madonnina del Pescatore in Senigallia, Marche), Manuel Colombo (restaurant Inarca in Prosepio, Como) and Chicco Cerea, patron of restaurant da Vittorio in Brusaporto (Bergamo), who starts the culinary brainstorming by preparing a Carnaroli risotto and amaranth with pea cream and grated daikon root. Then there are the simpler recipes by Angela Angarano, chef at progetto Diana for the prevention and fight against female tumours, who recommends Meatballs with courgettes and almond flour, rice cream against heartburn and ginger tea as an antiemetic.

Other more general recommendations, in contrast with the metal taste, include preferring white meat and dairy products and seasoning with lemon juice. Of course, prevention is better than cure: so more sport, less food but of great quality and most of all a varied diet. «We’re going adrift because of the generic “why not…” that is to say all the things we allow ourselves when we feel good until it is too late. But we need to think in advance», says Cesare Battisti in the end.


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