Cooking to beat Cancer: Delicious pilot project launches in Rossland this weekend

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
April 28th, 2011

 Ben Franklin once said, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. Another wise person also opined that ‘you are what you eat’. Together, these two principles frame the thinking behind Prevent Cancer Now’s new pilot event to be held in Rossland this weekend.


The Kiss-Off Cancer Cook-Off is spreading the good word that changing our diets is perhaps the easiest and most accessible way for folks to reduce their risk of cancer (and other illnesses).   “Many people still seem to think that cancer is a matter of chance,” explained Diana Daghofer, local representative for Prevent Cancer Now. “What we are trying to do is let people know that up to 80 percent of cancers are preventable and that there are things they can do to protect themselves. We want people to understand that–like heart disease or diabetes–they can actually play an important role in protecting themselves from cancer.”   A breast cancer survivor of five years herself, the topic is near and dear to Daghofer’s heart.   “It definitely made me take a much harder look at what was out there, what I was doing, what I was eating and where this might have come from. As a result I am now vegetarian and try to eat as many organic fruits and vegetables as possible. I have no commercial cleansers in my house. I just use vinegar and baking soda and I have a pretty clean house, so it’s working well. I’m the type of person that if I know there is an issue somewhere I have a real need to do something about it. I can’t just say, ‘oh well that’s the way it is’.”   ‘Doing something about it’ is exactly what Daghofer has been all about over the past four years as the representative for Prevent Cancer Now (PCN) in Rossland.   The next big initiative PCN has got cooked up for this weekend will put the delicious realities of a cancer prevention diet right in front of folks eyes–as well as on their tongues and into their bellies.   Building from a list of cancer prevention ingredients provided by PCN, chefs from local restaurants and at-home amateur chefs alike will compete to see who can concoct the best, most attractive, most delectable cancer preventing dish. Chefs from The Gypsy at Red, Gabriella’s, Drift Izakaya and the Flying Steamshovel will put themselves to the test for a panel of judges, and then ultimately for event attendees to taste and let their own taste buds judge whether the dish will find its way onto their personal menus.   The judging will break down their meals and score 40% of their points based on using the anti-cancer ingredients, 40% on taste and 20% on overall appearance.   Adapted from the book Anti-Cancer – A New Way of Life, the list of cancer preventing ingredients is hardly exotic and easily found at our local farmers markets and grocery stores. In the vegetable world it’s all about dark colours, oranges and reds. Things such as cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, squash, pumpkins and a Rosslander favorite, huckleberries, populate the lengthy list. Proteins such as salmon, mackerel and sardines along with whole grain rice and nuts of various varieties provide quite the quiver for health-minded chefs to work from. Spicing up your favourite foods with a dash of turmeric, curry, mint, thyme or marjoram also brings added cancer prevention value to your meal.   The simplicity of the effort for the potential gain is one message PCN hopes to spread far and wide.   “I think this type of event is a good introduction for people to realize there are many things they can do to prevent cancer,” added Daghofer. “We eat every day several times a day so that’s a critical piece of the puzzle.”   With cancer rates in Canada continuing to rise to the point where nearly half of all Canadian males and close to 40% of females will now develop cancer in their lifetimes, the need for a change in mindset is crucial, says PCN.   One common misconception around cancer is that it is a disease of the elderly. Stats on the Prevent Cancer Now website show that 30% of all new cancer cases and 18% of cancer-related deaths occur in adults between 20 and 59 years old. The encouraging statistic is that 80% of all cancers are environmental and therefore preventable. On top of that, of the half billion dollars spent in Canada on cancer research annually, less than 2% is devoted to finding the causes of and preventing cancer.   These stats point to an ever-growing need for folks to take matters into their own hands and think further about what they are eating and surrounding themselves with. Along with the fundraising side to this weekend’s event, a parallel goal is to raise awareness around altering our behaviors and consuming practices to put pressure on the food industry that people will no longer accept cancer causing agents in their food or other products.   “We need to get support from people to not accept that carcinogens are in our products. It’s not necessary,” said Daghofer. “There are lots of countries, particularly in Europe that have far stricter regulations on what can go in products. Just making people aware of those sorts of things will really help us in our efforts to get this stuff out of our food chain once and for all.”   Some of the money raised from this the Kiss-Off Cancer Cook-Off will go towards putting on an event later in May around one of PCN’s other main battles. As one of the leading proponents behind trying to establish a pesticide banning bylaw in Rossland the group is organizing an informational event to educate the public on the need for such a bylaw. A portion of the money raised this weekend will help to bring in some speakers for that event.   The group is also using a portion of the proceeds towards a bigger longer term mission called Organic Nation. They’ll be pulling together all of the research on organic foods and how they support good health and put it into layman’s terms in what they hope will be a valuable online resource that will be rolled out across Canada.   Should the Cook-Off go off this weekend as they expect it will, it too may soon sprouting up in communities across Canada. The Rossland-born event is being run as a pilot for potential national adoption.   “I’ve been doing a lot of cooking this week with Easter and everything. I made this one really nice roasted vegetable strudel which is one of my favorites. I also do a lentil loaf. It’s like a meatloaf only you use lentils and mushrooms and different vegetables and lots of different spices. Those are two of my faves.   If you’ve got a few old family recipes up your sleeve or fancy a free styling food frenzy, you’re in luck as the competition is open to anyone and everyone from the community to register and enter their own dish in the competition.   If you’re more of quality control type of person rather than a chef you’re also invited to stop by RSS this Sunday afternoon and, for a $20 donation, sample the various treats available, bid in the silent auction and pick up a few new tips to add to your recipe repertoire.   The Kiss-Off Cancer Cook-Off takes place at RSS this Sunday at 5:00 PM. To compete you must register online before hand at PCN’s website. 

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