‘Creative Kitchen’ combines healthy, low-cost recipes with arts-based activities to bring families together during a time of crisis.
Finding recipes that are healthy and finding recipes that are affordable can often feel like a tradeoff. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has already burdened families in numerous ways, NYU Steinhardt’s Nutrition & Dietetics and Art Therapy programs thought about a meaningful way to address those disparate needs together. Students from both programs have compiled a new, free cookbook titled Creative Kitchen that aims to offer healthy, low-cost recipes with arts-based social and emotional activities for families.
“The inspiration for this project came from recognizing all the challenges families have been facing between remote schooling, assisting children with social activities, working from home, and managing the emotional toll of the pandemic,” says Lisa Sasson, Associate Dean of Global Affairs and Experiential Learning, and Clinical Professor of Nutrition. “This situation created a unique opportunity for NYU graduate nutrition and art therapy students to collaborate and create a cookbook that unites the culinary arts with creative exercises.”
Creative Kitchen includes recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, each of which is interspersed with arts-based activities that encourage mindfulness, restoration, and communication. Take “Family Scribble,” for example, which asks families to sit down around a large sheet of paper and draw what they’re feeling. When emotions feel too big, pictures—instead of words—can help clarify things. “The metaphors shared through these activities can offer opportunities for families to dialogue with greater psychological distance so the stressors of these difficult times are more approachable and tolerable,” says Marygrace Berberian, Clinical Assistant Professor of Art Therapy.
Beyond the activities, the act of cooking itself is meant to bring families together in the kitchen. With recipes like “Perfectly Purple Overnight Oats” and “Fruit Kabobs,” children can learn about the process of preparing healthy meals and snacks with their parents or guardians. “Cooking together offers valuable interactions with family to accomplish new goals and actively focus on life affirming activities,” says Berberian. “These recipes present opportunities to strengthen connectedness within the family. Often, engaging in activities that offer predictability gives us a greater sense of control.”
As a bonus, the cookbook also offers tips for using food scraps in creative ways, such as the “Egg shell Mosaic” activity, which prompts children to break up cleaned egg shells, make a mosaic picture, and think about a time when, like the art they’re creating from fragments, people and communities were “joined together.”
The cookbook will benefit the community at large, but it also fostered collaboration among NYU students, who collected recipes and activities. “For the graduate students involved with this project, the challenges of completing fieldwork during a pandemic created a unique opportunity for emerging professionals to learn from those with a healthcare focus quite unlike their own," says Vivienne Felix, Senior Associate Director of Experiential Learning. "Their intellectual curiosity and effective collaboration helped to create a cookbook of tremendous value to the community.”
Creative Kitchen will be distributed to students at all New York City public schools, and is also available to the public. To try out the recipes and dive into the activities, visit Steinhardt's website.