Ethnic cooking classes have kicked off at Amicus Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

The classes focus on regional cuisines with an emphasis on healthy, plant-based nutrition. The first of the six classes was held last month and focused on a collection of Asian recipes. The classes will continue through the summer with South American, European, Caribbean and Japanese/American cooking. The classes are different than the usual community outreach projects seen at churches, but they are filling a need.

Armando Lopez, pastor of Amicus Seventh-Day Adventist Church, said that when members of the community are asked about what services are needed or desired, cooking classes are always high up the list.

“When we ask members of the community about the services that are most needed, cooking classes are often on the list,” said Lopez. “So many people in Madison and Greene Counties suffer from diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. These conditions are all helped by eating a healthy plant-based diet. We were looking for a community outreach program and thought this could teach people skills that improve their health.”

The participants gave a variety of reasons for attending the classes, some looking to improve their health by trying vegetarian cooking, some interested in ethnic recipes and others for the social aspect.

The first class started with a presentation about the benefits of the acronym “New Start”: N is for nutrition, E is for exercise, W is for water, S is for sunshine, T stands for temperance, A for air, R for rest and T for trust in a higher power.

Moderator Diane Crawford explained that the human body is 75 percent water and emphasized the importance of consuming an ample amount per day. Students were asked to come up with a target amount based on their weight in pounds. The goal was set by dividing their weight in pounds by two and drinking that number of ounces of water daily. She also pointed out that drinking water before a meal acts to suppress appetite, helpful for those watching their weight.

“Setting a goal is important,” said Crawford. “It takes 18 days to establish a new habit. Most New Year’s resolutions are broken by January 17. Get a family member to help remind and encourage you until you’ve made it a new habit.”

The students watched Gwen Cabrales and her assistant Christine Dizon demonstrate her method of preparing spring rolls and a seaweed salad before being able to sample the creations.

The next class is scheduled for May 26. Classes are also scheduled for June 30, July 28, August 25 and September 29. Classes are free and open to all although an RSVP is requested. To sign up for the next scheduled class call (540) 661-0166.

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