Key ingredients: First Lady, students .... appetites!
Take a public health expert, an author of a popular Mediterranean cookbook and a passion for spreading a healthy message, and it’s a recipe for success in the classroom and the kitchen.
First Lady Michelle Obama has her “Get Moving” campaign to fight obesity, and University of South Carolina First Lady Patricia Moore-Pastides is stirring up a message of healthy cooking and eating in her Mediterranean cooking class for USC undergraduates.
Using her very own cookbook, “Greek Revival: Cooking for Life,” Moore-Pastides is showing a class of students in USC’s School of Hotel, Retail and Tourism Management how to prepare mouth-watering recipes that are also nutritutious.
“I teach and write about the traditional Greek diet because for decades it’s been proven to protect against chronic diseases and increase quality longevity -- and the foods are delicious,” she said. “If I’ve learned one thing through my career in public health, it is that by making positive lifestyle choices, we can decrease our risks for chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, dementia, diabetes and certain cancers.”
HRTM student Tarah Cotton, who had never eaten Greek food until she enrolled in the class, said it has opened up her cooking world.
“I’m from south Mississippi, so we cook with butter, pork and fat, and in here we cook with olive oil and vegetables,” she said. “It’s really different, and she makes it fun to learn how to make foods healthy.”
Cotton and her classmates aren’t intimidated by the fact that their instructor is also USC’s first lady. The class atmosphere is casual, with student partners talking and laughing while keeping an eye on the timer and the time while chopping and dicing classic Greek seasonings such as garlic, rosemary and onion in McCutchen House’s newly renovated kitchen.
Moore-Pastides moves with ease and familiarity around the kitchen, clearly enjoying the opportunity to share her love of Greek food and healthy eating.
“I’ve been teaching cooking for the community-at-large in USC’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program for five years, and I still enjoy it,” she said. But, I love having a student class. I’ve also taught two one-time honors classes, so when I was asked to teach this class, I thought it was a great idea.”
The class begins with a short lecture on the food topic of the day. Moore-Pastides teaches a chapter a week from her book, “Greek Revival.” A recent class was all about meat. In Greek recipes, meat is served with vegetables and is more of a condiment.
The class of 15 students was divided into pairs who were assigned to prepare a particular meat entrée. Senior Nick Osterfoss, already a part-time kitchen veteran of a local restaurant, was cooking chicken kabobs.
“I love it,” he said. “Besides the fact that we get to learn about preparing food, we cook it and eat it—and it’s all healthy.”
Psychology major Melissa Laitner, who wants to be a nutritionist and dietitian, says this class is a good way to jumpstart her education about healthy diets. There’s also the bonus of having Moore-Pastides as her instructor.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “She’s very personable, and it’s one of my favorite classes.”
As Moore-Pastides went from station to station, she made gentle suggestions: adding a little more parsley to the remoulade, slicing the meat a little thinner for the lamb pockets, or focusing on technique when using the pastry brush.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying this class because with many other obligations, I have few opportunities to spend meaningful time with our students, and this way, I get 15 of my very own students for eight weeks, and they bring so much energy. I’m really inspired by their interest in healthy foods and sustainability.” Kali Orexi! (Bon Apetit!)