Focus on family: Author shows family meals can build community
Cooking enthusiasts and book readers lined up inside Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe on the evening of Oct. 21 seeking Lisa Platero-Brown’s autograph on their copy of “Living Full Cookbook.”
One of the attendees, Sephanie Antonio, said, “I heard about Dr. Platero-Brown and her cookbook through Facebook. I came to show my support for another Native author.”
Prior to her book signing, Platero-Brown wrote her cookbook as the world came to a screeching halt when the pandemic erupted in 2020.
In the town of Little Elm, Texas, Platero-Brown was researching family meals in university libraries and found that there are movements and nonprofit organizations that base their work on family meals and that they are important for families.
Her research showed her that when a family regularly gathers to share a meal, science has shown that school-aged children have better performance in schools, better attitudes, are less-likely to suffer from depression and less-likely to have eating disorders.
“When I read that (the research), it was a game changer for me,” she said. “It really helped and ignited that passion in me, that this is something that we need – not just family in general, but the Indigenous community, the Indigenous people.”
Statistics show that alcohol abuse, substance abuse, domestic abuse, lower-graduation rates and drop-out rates are high in Indigenous communities.
Knowing these facts, Platero-Brown wanted to make a difference and bring value to the Indigenous people.
“If I write this book, and show the value and importance of family meals,” she said, “it has to change someone’s life, it has to impact somebody.”
As she wrote recipes for the cookbook, Platero-Brown included suggestions families can practice during meals, which she called the “living full toolbox.”
The toolbox encourages family members to help each other cook, have talks about culture, and activities include getting the family involved with creating the grocery list and having game nights, such as parents vs. kids and girls vs. boys.
“I needed to get this message out there and show that it’s more than just meals,” she said. “It is something that can really help families to come together and enjoy a meal.”
A quote that inspired Platero-Brown to work on and complete her book comes from the 40th U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, which is, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”
After typing away on her keyboard for one year, she self-published her cookbook, “Living Full Cookbook,” on Sept. 25.
The cookbook includes recipes for pizza, green chili enchiladas and Navajo recipes that reminded Platero-Brown of her grandmother, as well as alternative recipes and tips for eating healthy.
“Eating healthy foods, using healthy ingredients, families will be healthy,” said Platero-Brown.
As the book-signing came to end, Platero-Brown said, “This was more than I expected. I knew family would be coming but to see other people from different parts of the reservation was a blessing.
“I consider them all family,” she said. “They all came out to show their support and I definitely feel loved.”
Platero-Brown’s former University of New Mexico instructor, Ann Jarvis, division chair for the Center for Career & Technical Education, told Platero-Brown, “Lisa you are doing great. You did the work. We just pushed you.”
Moving forward, Platero-Brown wants her book to inspire families to become healthy and to build a strong community from the kitchen.
She aspires to have her book available at university libraries: UNM, Northern Arizona University and in Santa Fe.
For Native American Heritage Month, Platero-Brown will conduct a virtual cooking sessions with Nike as the host.
Platero-Brown wants to host more pop-ups for book signings in the future.
“If I can change one household, then I know I am successful,” Platero-Brown said.
Platero-Brown holds a doctorate in education.