November 30, 2007

Cookbooks and Modern Medicine

It's virtually impossible these days to flip through the pages of a magazine without being inundated with endless advertisements touting the latest and greatest miracle drugs. Big Pharma spends a huge amount of money on advertising.

And while the number of advertising or promotional cookbooks published by modern pharmaceudical companies are nowhere near the quantities published by the food companies, they do exist.

There are pamphlets published by not only the drug companies but also medical supply companies and others who manufacture health-realted products.

These types of recipe booklets are often published with the diabetic in mind.

The two examples below were published by Becton Dickinson, a leading supplier of syringes and needles used in the treatment of diabetes.

Gourmet Recipes for You and Your Family (1988, 12 pages) has twelve recipes from Craig Claiborne that were "specially formulated for the insulin user."

Another one is Irrisistible Desserts for You and Your Family (1990, 12 pages). Both of these little pamphlets also contained manufacturer coupons for B-D products.

A World of Taste: The Type 2 Diabetes Ethnic Cookbook (1999, 32 pages) is promoting the drug Glucophage and contains "healthy recipes that can help you control your blood sugar and add variety to your meal plan". The twenty recipes are divided into Asian, Caribbean, Mexican and Southern categories. The recipes all include a calorie count and nutritional information. The inevitable tiny print Patient Information insert related to the drug is attached inside the rear cover.

Easy Appealing Recipes with Sustacal and Isocal (1986, 22 pages) was published by Mead Johnson, the division of Bristol-Myers Squibb which makes nutritional supplements for infants, children and adults. This cookbook is spiral bound with a stiff index cover and is like a traditional cookbook with it's bright color photos of the food.

The person who had this particular copy used it. You can tell by the notations she's made inside. She modified the Isocal Cream of Chicken Soup recipe by using Marucchau Instant Lunch Noodles instead of Cup-A-Soup. She also adapted the Sustacal Coffee Cake recipe to use a Duncan Hines Cake Mix instead of the called-for Aunt Jemima Easy-Mix Coffee Cake mix.

(From the Inquiring Minds Dept., I found it interesting that if one Googles "Sustacal recipes," many of the highest returned results are for a recipe called Duck Soup--something pet owners feed to their sick ferrets.)

A bilingual publication, Health Recipes From the Latino Kitchen (or Recetas Sanas De la Cocina Latina) (undated, 17+ pages) was published as educational material by Latino Health Access, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving access to health services for low income communities. The booklet states that their emphasis has been with the Latino community. Looking closer one sees that this recipe booklet was funded by Hoechst Marion Roussel, Inc., the makers of Amaryl, an oral diabetes medication.

Many of the recipes call for aspartame or saccharin as the artifical sweetener ingredient.

Here's a recipe from this cookbook:


1 corn tortilla
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 packet artificial sweetener (aspartame or saccharin)
2 tablespoons raisins

Crisp the corn tortilla by placing in a non-stick pan over medium heat until it hardens.

In a small bowl mix together the plain nonfat yogurt, artificial sweetener and cottage cheese. Spread this yogurt mixture over the crisp tortilla. Top with raisins.

Another way to crisp the tortilla is in the microwave. Place the tortilla in the microwave for 2 minutes without a plate. Remove and allow to cool.


In this recipe, my attention was caught by the preparation method used to make the tostada. One of the objectives of this cookbook (besides promoting Amaryl) is to help people learn ways to cut down on their fat intake. Which means frying food is a big no-no.

To make a tostada, I would normally fry the tortilla in oil with the result being a round, flat, fried corn tortilla on which I would heap various yummy toppings. I don't care for warmed corn tortillas as a rule; I want them to be crispy and crunchy, no matter how I'm using them.

I've never tried to toast the corn tortilla in a skillet to crisp it up, nor have I ever thought about using the microwave.

So I interrupted the writing of this post to go and experiment. I used a cast iron skillet to heat the tortilla until it was past the merely warmed stage, right up until it became fairly rigid. I found the result to be rather tough and chewy.

I put another tortilla in the microwave for the specified 2 minutes. I was busy with the other pan, so wasn't watching closely. The result after 2 minutes was a blackened round disc, whose smell permeated the entire house, necessitating my turning on a fan and opening the windows.

I tried again and kept a closer eye on it this time. I took it out after 1 minute 20 seconds. I quickly slathered some butter (in moderation, of course) on the tortilla and gave it a taste test. I was pleasantly surprised. While it didn't taste exactly the same as a tortilla fried in vegetable oil or lard, I thought it was quite a bit better than those that are baked (either commercially or at home). The other person around here said he thought they were a little tough, but that might be cured by heating for a shorter length of time.

I'm not sure how well the microwaved version will hold up after they sit for a bit after cooking; whether or not they'll retain their crispness. But maybe I'll put them to the true test later by making some more; breaking them up into chips and trying them out with some salsa.


At 4:48 AM CST, Blogger Rochelle R. said...

I haven't tried to microwave a corn tortilla but I micro-crisp a flour one quite often. Sometimes I put a little shredded cheese on for the last 30 seconds. Yum. I'll have to try a corn one.

At 3:09 AM CST, Blogger T.W. Barritt said...

Sounds like this was a set of mixed results concerning flavors and ingredients. I wonder who consulted on the culinary aspects of these books for the sponsoring companies? There have been some interesting stories lately about chefs at hospitals who cook with health in mind, but use fresh, restaurant style ingredients.

At 7:40 AM CST, Blogger Kathy said...

Rochelle - We use the pacakges of raw flour tortillas that you have to cook--have you tried those? They crisp up nicely in the cast iron skillet if you leave them in a bit longer than normal.

T.W. - Yes, I have seen this from spending too much time in the hospital waiting rooms and cafeterias down at the Medical Center this last year. The Stir Fry I had at the Methodist Hospital was as good as those I've had at top restaurants--their cafeteria (although not one in the traditional sense) served many different things using a lot of fresh ingredients. Much of it was prepared on the spot. Worth going back just for lunch. Memorial Hermann was lagging way behind with fried hamburgers and a lot of pre-packaged stuff. But, they're adding a new building that's supposed to have better food-we'll see. At St. Luke's (who proclaim themselves to be the Heart Institute) it's quite ironic that the air around the lobby of the hospital is permeated with the smell of McDonalds, also located in the main lobby. Likewise, the food served to the patients was reported as great at Methodist all the way down to "traditional hospital food" at St. Lukes.


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