When Dr. Preston Maring created a market, he created a movement. In 2003, the longtime physician and surgeon at Kaiser Permanente started an onsite organic farmers market at Oakland Medical Center. The market was and remains many things: a sign of recognition that nutritious, fresh food is key to keeping people healthy; proof that the farmers market model can thrive, to the benefit of surrounding neighborhoods, farmers, and patients; and a seed that’s grown into over 52 farmers markets in Kaiser’s network and influenced the creation of 50 more healthcare markets across the country.
But fresh food is only good if you actually eat it, which is why Dr. Maring is also an advocate for getting out of the drive-through line and back in the kitchen. He’s quite the chef, with a blog chock full of recipes (check out a few of his favorites here) and a YouTube channel, From Dr. Preston Maring’s Kitchen, that offers video tutorials on simple kitchen techniques for everything from macerating garlic to pan roasting a chicken breast. As a 2010 New York Times profile noted, Dr. Maring’s “reputation and perpetual motion revolve around his conviction that in the health professions, the kitchen must become as crucial as the clinic.”
We chatted with Dr. Maring about why knife skills needs to make a comeback, why keeping young women healthy could change the health care industry for the better, and why he’s still bummed he didn’t get to take home ec.
Farmers Market + Mid-size to Large Hospitals= #winningallaround
Obviously things change — supply and demand of your farmers is the main issue — but if you’ve got a hospital with 5,000 or 10,000 employees, all of whom get a biweekly paycheck, and you put a market down, the farmers do well. Then the neighborhoods around the market win, the employees win, and the farmers win. The ideal thing is that you get people with the paychecks to support the farmers, and it’s also there for people with food stamps. That’s the ideal way to create a market. The farmers go gangbusters.
Food You Cook Yourself is Better Than Stuff in a Box
Eat fresh food, organically grown if at all possible, and learn to cook it. Packaged and processed foods are loaded with sugar, salt, and fat. The more things you eat with bar codes on it, the more likely you are to be overweight and have hypertension. If what you eat is critical to your health, the more real food you eat, the more likely you are to have a healthy diet. People have to learn to shop the periphery and not all the boxes. That’s where all the veggies are, right at the periphery, right?
Simple Kitchen Tools Can Make a Huge Impact…
When I learned how to do surgery 40 years ago, there’d be some surgeons who’d use three different types of scalpel blades, they’d make everything real complicated. Then there was always the surgeon who’d use one type of scalpel, and that doctor’s patients did as well as the other doctors’ patients. If there was one thing to pass out to people that would change their lives, it’s a $6-$7 knife sharpener. If you want to whip up a simple meal that’s got lots of vegetables, and you want to sauté some garlic and onions and put in some bell peppers — all these things can make food prep easy, fun, and it takes the mystery out of it. There’s this culture of food television and celebrity chefs that makes everybody feel like they have to be perfect, and perfect gets in the way of good enough.
…But You Need to Know How to Use Those Simple Kitchen Tools!
One of the basic problems is the lack of confidence and skill, and just negotiating a kitchen. Simple things. It’s the lack of basic prep skills and maybe a lack of basic knowledge about food label. i’ve watched lots of people cook with me, and of the hundreds of people who have cooked with me in front of all those audiences, I’d say fewer than 10 percent are comfortable with a cooking knife. For those of us who do it all the time, it’s a real shocker to see how far behind many of us are in terms of the skills that used to be taught in home economics. I was kind of mad as a kid. I had to go to shop class, and I really wanted to be with all the girls in home ec!
Young Women’s Health Should be a National Priority
If we could, as a medical community, target young minority women and help them become healthy as they possibly can before they get older, you could change the cost of the health care trajectory. She has the potential to change a future not just for herself, but for her offspring. If you have to focus energy someplace, make sure every girl in your neighborhood learns how to cook and eat right.