Life Health

Teaching men to cook at Port Hope Northumberland Community Health Centre

By Adam Hudson

Getty Images.

Getty Images.

For anyone new to cooking, the kitchen can be an intimidating place. I've heard many different reasons as to why people avoid learning how to cook or experiment in the kitchen;

"What if that new recipe doesn't turn out?"

"Why would I go to all that trouble just for myself?"

"My spouse won't let me in the kitchen to even try!"

The thing is, we need to eat, and ideally, a few times a day. The way our food system is set up these days, cooking seems like a lot more effort to get to the end goal of filling your stomach. There are packaged convenience foods for almost every meal you can think of, so, why bother cooking?

Aside from the nutritional benefits in preparing your own meals (for which there are many!) there are many other positives that come with preparing a meal from scratch. Cooking can be a great way to express creativity, by altering recipes or dishes to suit your personal tastes. A sense of pride can be felt when you watch someone bite into one of your wonderful creations. Feelings of accomplishment come with turning some fresh ingredients into a nutritionally balanced and tasty meal.

During my time as a community dietitian, a large part of my work has been teaching community members how to become more confident in the kitchen. I've been so fortunate to have worked with all ages and the success stories continue to amaze me. The most compelling stories have come from our Men's Cooking Club series where mostly senior men, some recently widowed, meet each week to cook a variety of meals together. When the class first started about seven years ago, many of the participants were not comfortable holding a knife. Today, these same men are teaching other newcomers how to stuff pork tenderloin "¦ and pair it with apple cider gravy!

The success of the classes in terms of increasing culinary skill has exceeded expectations to say the least. However, it is the comradery of the group and the feeling of belonging that continues to be the most positive outcome. A focus group completed last winter, in which 25 past or present participants reflected on the program, revealed that a safe, welcoming, and non-judgmental environment was key for enjoyment and learning. Participants reported to appreciate the fact that they could ask questions, learn without someone looking over their shoulder, and not be afraid to make mistakes. As the facilitator, it has been incredible to watch these gentlemen come together, joke around, and produce some delicious food over the years. The enthusiasm to try new foods and even ones that have long been classified as 'yucky' continues to amaze me.

This fall, at the Port Hope Northumberland Community Health Centre, a new series called Men's Kitchen Mechanics will be offered for senior men new to cooking. The focus will be teaching basic culinary skills to help increase cooking confidence and frequency. For any males who are reading this, and have suddenly found themselves needing to cook, whether it is for a loved one, or for themselves, this class is for you. Class is every Wednesday, starting Oct. 11 at 10 a.m. and runs for six weeks.

For those who already feel confident in the kitchen, and are looking to improve their culinary skills, the Men's Cooking Club continues to run and will be held on Tuesday mornings at the centre.

Registration for both programs required. Please call 905-885-2626 ext 280.

Adam Hudson is a community dietitian at the Port Hope Northumberland Community Health Centre