Who needs a colonic when you can eat at The Source?
Scott Drewno, executive chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Asian restaurant in the Newseum, happens to be reigning champion of the Eat4Life cook-off, a culinary contest featuring “colon-friendly” foods to raise awareness about colon health.
Despite colon cancer’s gravity — it’s the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among Americans, according to the American Cancer Society — the disease carries a stigma, says Michael Sapienza, founder and president of Chris4Life. His solution? Unabashedly bringing up the rear.
To squash squeamishness about potty talk, the group frames the topic with frankness and humor; hence, events like its Scope It Out 5K this Sunday at Freedom Plaza and “Love Your Butt” public education campaign. Chris4Life’s ad agency initially suggested the slogan: “What if your butt could talk?” Sapienza thought that was pushing it.
Chris4Life is named for Sapienza’s mom, who died of colon cancer in 2009 at the age of 59, three years after being diagnosed.
“If she had the colonoscopy when she was 50, she would be alive today,” he says.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force generally recommends colon cancer screenings (colonoscopies are one method) starting at age 50, and earlier for those at an increased risk.
Protecting against colorectal cancer also involves regular exercise and a healthy diet, Sapienza notes. That’s where Eat4Life comes in. The contest charges local chefs with crafting a dish using ingredients that keep things moving through the gut. Fiber-rich foods like fruit, veggies and legumes are on the table; red meat, which has been linked to colon cancer, is not.
Last year, Drewno’s dish incorporated lobster, whole-grain toast, toasted almonds, garlic and a sprig of tatsoi, an Asian green. In 2013, he took the title with tea-cured salmon seasoned with an airy mixture of wasabi and olive oil he calls “snow” and chili pepper-garlic sauce.
Drewno’s advice for colon-healthy cooking draws on the sensibility of Chinese fare, which he calls “super vegetable forward,” and uses salt and fat in moderation.
“You can’t just steam green beans or kale,” he says. “You’re not going to be satisfied.”
As for this year’s dish, Drewno may craft a variation on the traditional veggie-laden Chinese soup known as a hot pot.
After all, the evening is about making it hot to talk about the pot.
Eat4Life, Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW; March 31, 6-9 p.m., $30-$100.
What’s a colon-friendly diet?
Go for foods high in fiber and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and avoid red meat and processed foods, according to the Colon Cancer Alliance. “The goal is to assure that the food is properly and efficiently moving through the digestive system,” spokeswoman Colleen Pyra Schwab says. “When our digestive system gets sluggish, it can cause inflammation and leave toxic waste in the tract longer than it needs to be.”
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