COLUMBIA, S.C. — The wife of the University of South Carolina’s president wants young people to eat better and learn to grow more of their food, so she has written a new cookbook based on a healthy Mediterranean diet with recipes inspired by friends, family and students.
Patricia Moore-Pastides uses her background as a public health professional to explain the benefits of eating vegetables people can grow in their own backyards, or in pots on their porches. And she hopes students and families have fun doing it.
“All you need is a sunny spot to plant a salad bowl or a pizza garden in a container,” Pastides said in an interview. “My motivation is to get young people, children or college students, to work with their parents or even grandparents, and spend time together.”
With her newest cookbook, she invites the reader into her garden behind the President’s House, which was first built in 1810, and where she and her husband, Harris, host about 200 events for the university community every year. All the recipes were tested in her kitchen and photographed there as well.
While she thanks her husband for his love and support in the book, she also reminds him, “Now eat more vegetables!”
Since the 59-year-old Pastides was elected university president in 2008, his 58-year-old spouse has lived what she preaches on a state-wide stage. She has helped put farmers’ markets on campus, taught dozens of healthy cooking classes across the state and even gotten a few eggplant dishes on the school’s tailgate tables.
The couple, who first came to the university in 1998, met at Yale, where Moore-Pastides got a master’s degree in public health while he worked on his doctorate in epidemiology. She is also a graduate of the University of North Carolina’s Management Academy for Public Health.
Her first cookbook, “Greek Revival: Cooking for Life,” published in 2010, drew on many family recipes and the couple’s travels to Greece and Cyprus. The second book, “Greek Revival: From the Garden,” is a how-to for learning what you need to grow a few vegetables in a container or a raised bed garden, and what tools a starting cook might need in the kitchen.
Both are published by the University of South Carolina Press. She is using the proceeds from her books to build gardens on all of the university’s 14 around the state.
Moore-Pastides said she was pleased by the reception of her first book, which is in its 5th printing and has sold 12,800 copies.
Suzanne Axland, marketing director for the South Carolina Press, says Moore-Pastides’ second book had an initial press run of 4,100 and has sold 3,138 copies since June.
“I like that it celebrates South Carolina, that we can eat what we grow here,” said Kim Jeffcoat, a mother of three and the executive director of the South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy. “I think it’s great for families because it shows what things we can do on our porch or balcony, and with just a pot or two. How much fun is that?”
Jeffcoat’s organization is a research center for students, teachers and librarians. It works with the university and the state’s schools to improve literacy in many of the poorer communities across the state. Moore-Pastides travels with the center on its literacy-outreach programs and teaches children about health and wellness through understanding cooking and gardening.
The second cookbook book includes recipes that can easily be handled by beginning cooks, such as dips for vegetables and simple takes on eggplant parmesan or vegetable pizzas, pastas and soups.
“She lives what she preaches, whether it is diet, exercise, or academics. She lives it and it shines through when people see her,” Jeffcoat said.
There is a lot of work to do.
According to the South Carolina Institute for Childhood Obesity and Related Disorders, an estimated 25 percent of children in the state are obese.
And earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report that found the results of its 2012 annual survey showed South Carolina was one of 13 states where at least 30 percent of the adults were obese.
Professor James Hebert, who is the director of USC’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program in Columbia, said Moore-Pastides’ work could help change lives.
“She can have a huge effect, particularly in a state where many of the chronic diseases are inflammatory-related and the diet she advocates is anti-inflammatory,” said Hebert. “She hits the sweet spot. She’s just got a really good alignment of her heart and her mind.”