Saturday, April 28, 2001

Fighting cancer with cuisine

Sisters create low-fat, high-protein dishes for goodness sake

By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It seemed to Suzy DeYoung and her sister Michelle Vollman that too many people were getting cancer.

        Friends they'd known all their lives, Suzy's former roommate and best friend, acquaintances and customers of their cafe were engaged in long and agonizing battles with the disease. Their father, chef Pierre Adrian, had died of cancer.

        It seemed natural for the sisters, who own La Petite Pierre Cafe and catering company in Madeira, to respond by taking food to their friends.

[photo] Michelle Vollman and her sister Suzy DeYoung
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        Now they're making their food available to more people fighting disease with a fledgling project called For Goodness Sake. The women offer low-fat, high-protein, mostly vegetarian dishes for takeout. The food is designed to appeal to patients who are weak from their disease or treatment. Any profits are donated to Cancer Family Care and the Kathy Duffey Fogarty Memorial Fund.

        One friend whose cancer especially touched them is the Rev. Jim Willig, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Reading. A cousin of Michelle's husband and a longtime friend, Father Willig had married the Vollmans and baptized their children.

        When two of the sisters' friends, Kathy Duffey Fogarty and Ron Speed, who lived across the street from each other, both died of cancer and both left three children, Father Willig became part of the women's lives and made their friends' deaths meaningful.

        “It was a life-changing experience for me,” says Ms. Vollmann.

        Then Father Willig got sick. His two-year battle with cancer has inspired many people in his parish and all over the city, including the sisters.

        “He really pushes you to try to help other people,” Ms. DeYoung says. “I've been given a blessing in this life for making food taste good. I just want to turn it around and help people with it. Seeing someone who's been sick gain weight and look healthier, with more strength, is so rewarding.”

        Every Wednesday she makes a meal that can be picked up at La Petite Pierre, 7800 Camargo Road. All other times, she has soup and protein shakes available. Her recipes were devised according to advice from the National Cancer Institute to make food that is strengthening and palatable. Some soups are as simple as chicken broth with quinoa (a high-protein grain) for those who aren't up to eating a lot. Other soups are heartier purees.

        Protein is what many ill people are missing, Ms. DeYoung says.

        “"I try to slip tofu into things, pureed in soups. I'll use beans, whey protein. I use curry, garlic, the spices that the Cancer Institute says are best.”

        Meals include dishes such as broccoli-pesto manicotti or whole wheat spaetzle with wilted greens, shiitake mushrooms and walnuts.

        They use organic produce, including the fruit for the protein drinks that the cafe always has on hand.

        The food is not just for people with cancer, but for “anybody who's in the hospital who needs something more enticing than hospital food,” Ms. DeYoung says.

       For information about For Goodness Sake, call Michelle Vollman at La Petite Pierre, 527-4909. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. For Goodness Sake soups $1.50-$2.95; protein shakes $3.95; entree $8.


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