Spice up your life

Chef Michael Glesener and Mahaska Health Partnership Community Wellness Coordinator Ann Smith demonstrate the proper way to prepare and use different spices at a recent Book Vault event.

OSKALOOSA – Do you have a passion for reading? What about food or cooking? Head over to the Book Vault to learn new cooking techniques that also align with healthy lifestyle choices for a series called Book and Cook being held on certain dates May through July (listed at the bottom of this article).

Book and Cook is a three-part series where a book is picked to discuss, which could lead residents to live a healthier lifestyle, according to Ann Smith from Mahaska Health Partnership.

The last Book and Cook was held last Thursday and participants learned about the rules of food and eating by indulging in “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan.

The program originally started in Oskaloosa last summer when this area was a Blue Zones demonstration site, but now stands as a partnership between MHP and the Book Vault. While not an Oskaloosa Blue Zones Project sponsored event any longer, this second round of the series is similar the book activity spearheaded by Blue Zones in 2015.

“The Book Vault is gracious enough to let us use their wonderful kitchen,” explained Smith. “MHP's goal is to make an impact in the community for health.”

A topic for cooking is also picked and demonstrated during these sessions.

“This 'thyme' around is herbs,” said Smith. “I have made an herb checklist, which includes 12 different herbs and how you can use them. Chef Michael (Glesener) teaches us about cooking and baking with herbs, how to cut them, store them, dry them, etc.”

Glesener typically acts as the main chef for the series, but others are encouraged to reach out to Smith if they'd like to cook.

“Ann (Smith) has done a few and we've had some other guest chefs,” commented Chef Glesener.

Choosing a book for the cook is no easy task, as many books on different topics are considered in advance. Don't expect a dry, boring book, either, as each book in each series is generally aligned with current buzzwords already being discussed.

“When we are looking for books we look for topics that are trending or 'hot topics' issues that people are interested in at this time,” said Smith. “They might not always focus on eating or exercise. Health, by definition, encompasses all areas of your life; mind, body and spirit. The next book might be on social issues, or mindfulness!”

Whether you want to sit and observe or interact, there is something for everyone during this program.

“We encourage people to ask questions, whatever the Chef makes we hand out to sample,” said Smith. “We also do smelling samples, texture samples.”

After this three-part series simmers down in July, another will be right on its heels with comfort food and cool weather in September.

“This is a great way to have a night out with your friends or family,” said Smith. “You are never too old to stop learning! It is a very interactive session, I try really hard to get the people to respond to questions and give their own opinion on what they have read or what their cooking styles are. If you are new to the area, this is a great way to get connected and meet new people and see what the community has to offer.”

In addition to the Book Vault and Mahaska Health Partnership tackling this project together, Musco and Clow Valve have helped defray advertising and food supply costs to make this event possible.

The next Book and Cook will be held Thursday, June 16, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and the last installation will be Thursday, July 21. Participants will continue reading “Food Rules: An Eater's Manual” by Pollan. There is a $20 feee to attend this program and seating is limited. Email Smith at oskybz@mahaskahealth.org to learn more or contact the Book Vault at 641-676-1777 to reserve your seat.

– Herald Editor Hailey Brown can be reached by email at oskynews@oskyherald.com and followed on Twitter @OskyHailey.

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