Five Times a Feast Brings Generations Together

close up of shrimp and broccoli

The aroma of fresh garlic and the sound of the Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do” filled the classroom at Walter P. Carter Elementary / Middle School in Baltimore, where five families were gathered on a Tuesday evening in October. The adults grooved and sang along while helping their children and grandchildren chop and mix ingredients for a meal of lemon garlic shrimp and broccoli orzo (recipe below).

This evening of community cooking was part of Five Times a Feast, a program of the Institute for Integrative Health that’s aimed at breaking down barriers to healthy home-cooked meals, such as affordability and a lack of time, knowledge, and comfort in the kitchen.

The seven-week series, which was conducted at three downtown sites this year, covers cooking techniques, strategies for saving time and money, and nutritional aspects of meal planning. In addition to sessions in the kitchen/classroom, participants take excursions to a farmers’ market and a grocery store to discover how to get the best food at reasonable prices.

Over the course of the program, participants spend more than 20 hours engaged in hands-on learning which often results in culinary magic. Sessions conclude with a group meal and each family takes home four more servings of the evening’s dish.

Watching three generations cook together, bonding over colorful stir-fries and flavorful butternut chili, it’s clear that Five Times a Feast nourishes more than the body.

Lemon Garlic Shrimp and Broccoli Orzo Skillet

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

16 oz. orzo pasta

4 cups low sodium

chicken broth

6 cups broccoli florets, chopped

1 cup parsley, chopped

3 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1-1/2 Tbsp chives, minced

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Add 1⁄4 cup of olive oil, minced garlic, 1⁄2 tsp of salt, and shrimp to a small bowl. Toss to coat and set aside for 20-30 minutes.

After the shrimp have marinated for 20-30 minutes, heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the
shrimp and its marinade, and cook 1-2 minutes on each side, until pink. Wash the bowl.

Reduce heat to low. Add balsamic vinegar, and cook for a few minutes, stirring quickly until the liquid coats the shrimp and begins to thicken. Transfer into a clean bowl and set aside.

Heat 2 more Tbsp of olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook about 3 minutes.

Add orzo to the pot and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Stir in chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer.

Simmer until the orzo is slightly under al dente, about 4 minutes.

Stir in broccoli, cover, and simmer for 10-15 more minutes, until broccoli is tender.

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1⁄4 cup of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, basil, chives, black pepper, and remaining 1⁄2 tsp of salt if desired.

Top with shrimp and serve.

Developing safety, persistence, trust

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Acquiring Resources

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
    • “I think I kept trying to convince him I was crazy. And he kept saying, ‘No, you’re not crazy.’ […] You wouldn’t necessarily say a Vietnam Vet was crazy. You’d say they are responding like you’d expect to extraordinary circumstances.”
    • “I’m not the only one who have [sic] this problem. A lots, millions of people, you know. […] They don’t have nothing to do with that. I guess I have to live.”
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
    “You need a lot of energy and a lot of work … it takes a lot of work. It doesn’t just happen. It’s not like a magic wand.” This patient understood that they had to actively participate in the healing process.
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

Helping Relationships

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) “When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. Healing, in this sense, does not mean cured—none of the study participants were cured of their ailments—”but all developed a sense of integrity and wholeness despite ongoing pain or other symptoms.” In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” When we begin to heal, we find increased capacity for hope, renewed motivation to help others, and are more able to accept ourselves as we are.

Suffering

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. There is debate about whether or not one actually needs to experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. “The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”