Super Plans, Super Foods, and a Super Recipe

Mum often says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. Whether or not you believe in any form of a/many God/s, so often this is the case. Plans lead to expectations, and expectations can be at the top of the strong man strength tester that you see at American fairs in 1990’s movies. Sometimes you hit those expectations and make that bell at the top ring loud and proud, whilst other times you lack the muscle to even raise the mallet above your head.

This story started with step 1 in my Be An Adult Plan: get a job in Melbourne. God laughed at that. For those that don’t believe in a God, let’s say fate, or something similar intervened. And it so happened that the reason all the Melbourne job applications failed was so that my dream of working in indigenous health could become a reality.

Fast forward two years later, and the next part of this story takes place 300km down a dirt road that becomes undriveable after a small rainshower. The plan was simple: attempt to get a small “dietetic intervention” across to a town where hot chips and cans of Coke are the town’s local delicacy. Going here as a dietitian a handful of times a year in no way will change ingrained attitudes and habits, so expectations were set quite low. With the topic of “Superfoods”, I hoped to draw at least a couple of community members to an evening session. Introduce new foods (I’ll be honest, it was the first time I’d tried goji berries. At $47.93/kg and a funky taste, it’ll probably be the last), debunk a few myths, and let a dietitian’s real superfoods, (like rolled oats and tinned fish) shine. Of course, food will bring anyone anywhere, so a cooking component was needed and this pressed for time dietitian grabbed a few of the super foods featured throughout the night and guesstimated quantities of a couple of other ingredients to act as a binder. Kale, Quinoa and Salmon Patties were born.

Superfoods is the buzz word of 2014 so even in this little outback town with it’s one general store, a crowd of all ages came. We discussed topics that makes any dietitian all excited- topics like “it may have 200x the vitamin C of an orange, but an orange can give your body all the Vitamin C it needs, with the rest peed out”, and “many scientific studies quoted on labels promising extreme benefits were done on mice”, as well as the old “no amount of any so-called superfood can undo the effects of a reliance on fast food, grog and couch potatoing”. Then we chopped kale, boiled quinoa and drained salmon from a can. Fingers and toes were crossed as I hoped and prayed this would somehow end up as palatable patties, or at least patties that held their shape.

The bell was deafening. Expectations were exceeded beyond anything I, or the sceptic audience, could imagine. The combination of rich salmon matched with the nuttiness of quinoa and the freshness of the kale was magic. These patties were delicious, and it was not only this green veggie loving dietitian that thought so. 8 year old boys who’d never tried vegetables other than potato, peas and carrot fought over leftover kale, sautéed with lentils and garlic, whilst they hurried their mothers, women who themselves had never tried lentils, to make more patties faster. I’d planned to teach a bit of nutrition information. I’d planned to have a recipe that would work and taste ok. The enthusiasm of the community to learn and to try something new and the taste combination that was simply divine, well, that makes a dietitian love their job and forget about all those appointments where patients never arrived.

And, it made me know exactly why fate had brought me to this small pocket of Australia and why God would have been disappointed if my plan to stay in Melbourne had eventuated. And yes, mum was right.