Seniors discover tastes of bok choy, tofu dishes

State requirement leads to a delicious course

June 03, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

In the most American-pie corner of Carroll County, who would expect senior citizens to be experimenting with bok choy, fennel gratin and tofu chocolate pudding?

Dietitian Eleanor Pella is pleasantly surprised to find more than a dozen elders every month waiting for her to put some razzle dazzle alongside the chicken rice casserole and bran muffins that are standard fare at Taneytown Senior Center.

In May, Pella introduced them to "Uncommonly Good Fruits and Vegetables" -- a guide to some of the unusual offerings in the produce department. In April, it was "Arugula to Watercress," a class on greens. Disguised as a cooking course, these lessons are a creative way of fulfilling the state requirement for nutrition classes at centers.

Now if Mary DeBerry sees bok choy in the grocery store, she'll know the vitamin- and fiber-packed green can go into a salad.

DeBerry lives alone and doesn't cook much. She might give one of Pella's recipes a try, she said.

Pella is a dietitian for Gettysburg Hospital, which provides free public education. Taneytown Senior Center Director Brenda Lerner received a flier on the nutrition class, then called to ask Pella to bring it to the seniors once a month. The state Department of Aging requires senior centers to offer nutrition education at least twice a year.

A few people recognized the chayote, which Pella used to make a crunchy slaw. Most people knew kohlrabi, but they never had it blanched and marinated with a wake-up dose of hot pepper flakes.

This month, she'll teach them how to cook with soy products, which have been proven to lower blood cholesterol and are thought to offer protection from breast cancer and prostate cancer.

But she'll have to break down soy's image problems first.

Ruth Strzelczyk rather liked the gratineed fennel. Everyone did. But the mention of tofu, chocolate-flavored or not, causes her eyes to narrow.

"I tried it in the Chinese place," she said. "They put it in place of chicken, but believe me, it didn't taste like chicken."

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