July 12, 2004

Healthful Meals Aim to Restore Health

If you'd like to sample some of the east coast's best vegetarian fare you might try Angelica's Kitchen, the famous vegan restaurant in New York's Greenwich Village. The menu might include broccoli soup with roasted red pepper sauce, millet tempeh croquettes, coleslaw with horseradish dressing and maybe poached pears in raspberry sauce for dessert. Coincidentally you might find the same meal being prepared in the kitchen of the Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side by a group of gourmet chefs. The recipients of these culinary delicacies have something in commonócompromised immune systems threatened by illnesses like AIDS, Cancer and Heart Disease.

This monthly supper is sponsored by the Whole Foods Project, a non-profit organization that advocates a plant-based diet for people with a serious illness. Richard Pierce is the founder of the project and former chef at Angelica's. "I had been working at Angelica's for three years when I decided I wanted to do something more specifically healing with food," says Pierce. Struggling with his own HIV positive diagnosis, he became aware of the potentially beneficial impact a whole food, vegetarian diet can have on the immune system. "It didn't seem to me that meat is the best source of protein for compromised immune systems, particularly when it's loaded with hormones, as our meat supply is." Pierce launched the Whole Foods Project in 1990 by serving meals that taste delicious and nourish the body. "The vegetarian food here is nothing short of remarkable," says Gary Jacinto, a dinner patron with both AIDS and lymphoma.

Prior to dinner the plain-looking hall is transformed with linen tablecloths, cloth napkins, silver cutlery and fresh-cut zinnias. The after-dinner menu may even include entertainment. Pierce has recently created outreach programs to increase awareness of a whole foods diet among the city's minorities and is creating organic food pantries for people with low income. Cooking classes are periodically offered to both patients and their caretakers. If you have to struggle with an illness, Pierce offers a menu which combines nutrition and compassion.

Posted on July 12, 2004 6:54 PM
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