Fighting Cancer -- with Food!

Food has the capacity to bring joy.

Regardless of where anyone is on the continuum of cancer -- metastatic, going through treatment, doesn’t have cancer, has another disease state, or is “healthy,” quote, unquote -- food has the capacity to bring comfort and joy into our lives, sometimes in the middle of painful circumstances, in the smallest and most treasured ways. Food can have a powerful effect on our quality of life, right here and right now. It can be one bite that shifts your life. And we’re not talking about just surviving; we’re talking about thriving!

I’ve been an advocate for what I call the power of yum for 15 years, helping people revive a connection with food using flavor, to ignite a blast of color in what might have been reduced to a black and white food world. It’s like MAGIC to help people make nourishing, healing, JOYFUL connections with food.

I was powerfully reminded of this at a workshop for cancer survivors and professionals at Stanford several weeks ago. Nearly 70 people attended -- people from India, from China, from the Middle East; African American, white, people with purple hair, people with no hair. Young people and old people. Families. Caregivers. Some people who had driven 300 miles to be there. People with long-time chronic cancer and newly diagnosed. Doctors and nurses, and chefs from Stanford, standing there, watching.

I worked with six people from the audience, one at a time, to customize their experience with food. Each person had something different going on with their taste buds, and we were able to adjust each dish to accommodate their needs and perceptions. I might as well have been up there with tweezers, the adjustments were so minute, adding a pinch of salt, a few drops of fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil. But those tiny tweaks made a huge difference! People in the audience were mesmerized, picturing how to use this approach to adjust food for their own palate, on their own plate.

I call these flavor adjustments “FASS™.”

FASS™ is an acronym for fat, acid, salt and sweet. Learning this culinary alchemy to custom flavor your food is the mark of a good cook and a LIFE-SAVER for people struggling to eat,

Here’s a quick picture of how FASS™ works:

FASS™ - Rebecca Katz

FASS™ Fixes for Troubled Taste Buds

If your taste buds are saying ______ , use this FASS™ fix:

Things have a metallic taste. Add a little sweetener, like grade B maple syrup or agave nectar, and a squeeze of lemon. You could also try adding fat, such as a nut cream or butter.

Things taste too sweet. Start by adding 6 drops of lemon or lime juice. Keep adding it in small increments until the sweet taste becomes muted.

Things taste too salty. Add ¼ teaspoon of lemon juice. It erases the taste of salt.

Things taste too bitter. Add a little sweetener, like maple syrup or agave nectar.

Everything tastes like cardboard. Add more sea salt until the flavor of the dish moves toward the front of the mouth. A spritz of fresh lemon juice also helps.

If you’re having trouble swallowing or dealing with mouth sores, add fat, such as a nut cream, to your food. Eat blended or pureed foods, such as blended soups, smoothies, and granitas. Stay away from ginger, curry, red pepper flakes, and other strong spices.

Reprinted with permission from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery. Copyright © 2009 by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.

You might enjoy trying FASS™ with my Sweet Potato Coconut Soup (pictured at the top), nourishing, comforting, and creamy, one of what I call my “cashmere sweater” line of soups.

Learn more about food and cancer in my post, You are not being chased by a saber tooth tiger, about how to vanquish the fear and fall in love with food again.

And I’m THRILLED to invite you to my FIRST ever LIVE KITCHEN CHAT on February 17, called FIGHTING CANCER -- WITH FOOD!

I’ll share wisdom and practical tips from my 15 years of working with cancer thrivers, and you’ll have the chance to ask questions. It’s one-hour, FREE, and don’t worry, I’ll provide the recording if you register but can’t attend. I’m excited to see you there!