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Book Review: The Cancer Fighting Kitchen

By Jan Lafayette

Some of my early concerns as I prepared for chemotherapy were: How am I going to eat? Will I be nauseous? Will I feel like eating? Should I avoid certain foods? How can I make the best of the calories I consume? Finally, how do I take control over some part of this uncontrollable cancer adventure?

My best friend from high school must have had similar thoughts because she sent me the book, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery, by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson. This book was originally published in 2009 and received two awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, including a People’s Choice Award. It was updated and republished in 2017. My friend told me that a friend of hers used it when her husband was treated for cancer. This family and my friend tried some of the recipes and thought they were good.

The premise of the book is that nutrition plays an important part in our lives, and should continue to do so once a person is diagnosed with cancer. Through highly nutritious ingredients, and the use of spices that can adjust flavors and are good for you, the author includes 150 recipes that are simple to prepare.=

One of the first things I discovered about the book is the excellent first chapter, entitled Cancer-Fighting Tool Kit. I marked, and often referenced, a chart entitled Recipes for Specific Side Effects. Even if I did not make the specific recipes, I read ingredient lists to understand what might help me alleviate symptoms. I found that I felt better eating a little at a time more often than eating more food all at once, and the hospital dietician told me I should probably eat more protein. Consequently, I gravitated toward recipes like Spiced Toasted Almonds, Maple-Glazed Walnuts, and some of the Hummus recipes. I ate the hummus with fresh vegetable or cooked potatoes or sweet potatoes.
I love soups, and made the broth recipes, using them in soups or just drinking them on days when I felt like I needed more fluids. My son encouraged me to use ginger to help with nausea, and I still make the Cinnamon Ginger Tea because it tastes good and, again, gives me something to drink when I need more fluids. I have also experimented with other tonics and elixirs and recently made Anytime Bars from the book. I use the best ingredients I can find, but I do not always use the exact recipe ingredients. The recipes contain variations and cook notes, so I don’t think Ms. Katz minds changes. Doing anything is better than nothing, and the book helped me to think about the importance of the foods I consume.

On the downside, my family did not love the flavor of a chicken and rice dish I made. I should have known that the olives and pimento would not go over well with them. I also found that I personally preferred to make some teas and dishes a little less spicy.

So there you have it! Would I recommend this book to others? Yes! It helped me think about what I’m eating, make the best of the calories I consume, and feel as if I have some control over my health. As the author suggests, put this book in your tool kit too!

A little about myself:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, 2019. I had a lumpectomy and chemotherapy and have just completed radiation therapy. Along with my husband, I currently live in my daughter’s basement in Westerlo, NY (and that, friends, is a whole other story). A son in Northampton, MA and my son-in-law complete my immediate family. I embroidered my way through chemotherapy, and I love quilting and sewing. I also enjoy reading, walking, and hiking.

(Note: The Cancer Fighting Kitchen, along with a number of other cook books written for people with cancer—many specific to breast cancer—are available to borrow at To Life!)