Cancer Survival Cookbook
By Donna L. Weihofen, RD
John Wiley & Sons, New York 1997
ISBN: 0471346683 $16.95
Reviewed by Julie Edell
The Cancer Survival Cookbook is much more than a set of delicious recipes. It is a kitchen companion for anyone preparing meals for someone who is battling cancer. The Cancer Survival Cookbook was written in 1998 by Donna L. Weihofen, RD, MS, a nutritionist at University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center, with Christina Marino, MD, MPH, a cancer survivor and physician who was professionally trained in the culinary arts.
What really makes The Cancer Survival Cookbook unique are its Special Features sections. The first of these is the 30-page Eating Hints section, which tackles problems that those in treatment for cancer often experience — such as lack of appetite or ability to eat sufficient calories, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, sore and dry mouth, and changed taste. For example, in the section on how to add calories and nutrients, they suggest adding heavy cream to mashed potatoes and fortying whole milk with powdered milk before adding it to soups, puddings, and casseroles. Among the "eating hints" is a recipe for a homemade electrolyte replacement solution made with common ingredients that replenishes fluids lost through persistent diarrhea.
The author provides a review of the scientific evidence on cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables. Herbal "remedies" are discussed. The authors do a nice job of reviewing what is known and not known about various herbs. They present a list of herbs that are known to be harmful and "herbs with promising benefits and reasonably strong evidence of safety."
A neutropenic precautions diet is presented. Many chemotherapies cause the bacteria fighting blood cells, neutrophils, to drop to very low levels, making patients susceptible to bacterial infections that their bodies cannot fight. The book offers special precautions that can be taken during these times. In addition to helpful guidelines for difficult times, there is a section on practical cooking hints.
The recipe section of The Cancer Survival Cookbook contains over 200 recipes that are straightforward and easy to prepare, contain nutritional information, as well as many suggestions on how to modify them to add calories. There are recipes for soups and stews (lentil, tomato, and spinach soup), salads (Mediterranean tuna, bean and pasta salad), easy lunches (crab-swiss melt), main course meats (roasted pork tenderloin with maple mustard sauce), poultry and fish (chicken with orange sauce), meatless meals (Italian frittata), vegetables (maple, pecan sweet potato casserole), snacks (cinnamon sugar crunch), desserts (crème brulée), soft, chopped or pureed diet (crab bisque), and beverages (strawberry banana pectin smoothie).
The recipes focus on making food appetizing and nourishing, while meeting the special eating challenges that cancer and its treatment often present. The Cancer Survival Cookbook is a resource that will make meal preparation and mealtime more rewarding and satisfying for all who share the table.
Julie Edell is a member of CCA's Board of Directors.