Communal Catering

View of the kitchen of the clinic Arlesheim.
Picture: H. Heer

Workshop for Cooks

02. - 07. April 2017 at the Goetheanum, Dornach, CH

I really like this Soup

Report by Jasmin Peschke, translation by Johne Widen

 “Anthroposophical nutrition is not at all so boring as I had always thought”.  “I am motivated to do things more consciously and will make purer, more untainted and more meaningful decisions in my everyday life”.  The feedback of the eleven cooks from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, who came to a one weeks workshop of the Co-ordination Centre for Nutrition at the Goetheanum at the beginning of April, was altogether positive.

The participants were cooks and chefs from Waldorf kindergardens and schools, a curative centre and other social establishments, from a biodynamic farming community with 100 meals a day right through to a Demeter restaurant and a catering head of a university clinic with 70 cooks.

The clinic direction is convinced that healthy nutrition is essential for people’s health and wants to convert the kitchen to ‘organic’. The head chef is looking for information and practical tips, for he wants to kindle the enthusiasm of his cooking staff. That is the only way for a meal to succeed. 

A valuable side-effect of this range of backgrounds was the enriching exchange of experience by the participants, for in everyday work each cook will have to stand on their own two feet.

The programme was organised to include a variety of seminars and practical kitchen experience. In the kitchens of places like the Speisehaus (dedicated restaurant) at the Goetheanum, at the Sonnenhof (curative centre), the Arlesheim Clinic as well as the Demeter restaurant Landhof in the region the point was getting to know the overall idea, the course of actions, the selection of food and structuring the menu, less about cooking, which professionals do not need to learn.

For the participants the openness of the chefs involved as well as their respectful approach to the co-workers and apprentices, but also to the high quality food were impressive.  “I pass enthusiasm for cooking on to my apprentices. Showing regard for the food in the way you handle it is the essential thing for producing a delicious menu” is the creed of one of them.  Another one puts it in a nutshell: “it depends on my inner attitude how I am standing at the stove – this involves me getting to grips with anthroposophy”.

After a delicious, enjoyable meal Barbara Bäumler from the eurythmy stage ensemble took the group into the area of the four elements and the elemental beings and enabled them to have this experience in eurythmy. It was the first experience of eurythmy for a lot of the participants and they were deeply impressed by how the various qualities could be experienced.

Benno Otter from the Goetheanum gardens created an interesting and varied afternoon on the subject of terrestrial and cosmic influences in the plant and in the compost. Through observing leaf metamorphoses the qualities ‘watery-earthly’ as well as ‘cosmic-light-filled’ became clear: in the leaves the formation of mass shows itself, and ripeness appears in the fruits, which represents a polarity.

How does the cosmos work its way into vegetables?  Root and leaf vegetables need cow manure compost. The cow eats grass. The grass does not dissipate its forces through blossoming. Unlike flowers and herbs with their scents and colours, it holds back its soul expression. Thus the cosmic-light quality gets into the manure. Through composting it is possible to address cosmic or terrestrial qualities in a targeted way. A guided tour around the compost pits, including viewing and smelling some, demonstrated impressively that with the right ingredients compost will smell on the inside but not on the outside, something that Steiner has mentioned before.

Erdmut Schädel, a paediatrician, portrayed similarities between the human being and the inverted plant in the way things work and their morphology by means of numerous vivid examples. Thus we were encouraged to use observation to recognize the principle involved rather than to ‘hold on to’ something schematic. In the application of this principle of similarities we can see a compensatory, balancing effect of the plant on the human being.  This can be taken into account with the menu planning.  For example, we can work towards balance by supporting the process of incarnation through nutrition with root vegetables, the process of spiritualisation through nutrition with fruit and blossom. Once the principle is recognised, it can be taken into account in the everyday work in the kitchen.

Jasmin Peschke, the organiser, described in her talk how nutrition, besides involving the absorption of nutrients, serves to stimulate inner activity above all and, thereby, addresses a question of the will.  Breaking food down completely in the digestive process requires activity.  We do not want to become leek, when we eat leek. However, this activity is only sustained through will forces, in the way a muscle wants to be trained so that it does not waste away.  And meeting the need for something sweet with sugar does not satisfy the organism in the long run, for it needs more and more sugar – the sugar that the body needs is best to produce itself (e.g. from the higher molecular carbohydrates from grain).

One activity consisted in an encounter with food. An encounter only becomes stimulating and interesting, when what you encounter is interesting, if it has something characteristic about it and is authentic, e.g. if the aroma in the strawberry yoghurt comes from strawberries. Authentic grain is the kind that is not sprayed to shorten the straw and is not forced to be protein-rich with mineral fertilisers. The encounter with the authentic was illustrated by a tasting of various kinds of apple juice: in a direct comparison the juice from concentrate tastes insipid vis-à-vis the cloudy Demeter juice.

Of course, a guided tour of the Goetheanum could not be missed. This building is a good illustration of how the spirit is expressed in visible form, something that is also a question for the culinary art. And with the Representative of Man between Lucifer and Ahriman we can see nutrition as a question of pure enjoyment vis-a-vis the reduction of food to nutrients.

During the course various pearls were discovered, which encouraged the participants to reorganise their everyday work, such as, for instance, by introducing a morning circle or taking a more active approach to cooking grains. “I got a lot of delicious recipes for grains”.  “I would like to send my co-worker here next year” were parting notes from participants.