BMCDB Editorial – The Hungry Biologist Finds Redemption in the Kitchen
The Hungry Biologist Finds Redemption in the Kitchen
By Nadia Ono
It is the case from time to time that I find myself dragging my feet in lab, especially when I am just about to breach the threshold of a big experiment or am trudging slowly through the initial flatlands of the learning curve. It is one of those days where it is hard to get beyond the protocol mostly because I keep reading the same paragraph repeatedly or because fear has gripped me by my pipetting hand.
There are also those days that I have climbed a hill to get to what I thought would be the peak, only to find that several equally high mountain ranges lay between me and my destination. Or much like the Greek myth of Sisyphus it seems for a grad school eternity I will struggle to roll an immense rock up a hill only to watch it tumble back down again. Right now, for example, I am experiencing a bout in recombinant protein purgatory. But for all the mountains I have scaled so far, I must say I am a much better climber for it.
For the average scientist there are different tiers of fatigue and each calls for a host of potential remedies. Exercise clears the mind; hobbies and spending time with family often allows one to relax and enjoy the simple things in life; volunteering removes the focus off of our lives to those of others. The more seasoned I become, the more I find that food (made from fresh ingredients and consumed in moderate quantities), in combination with exercise, family time, a hobby, or volunteer work, is almost always a part of the solution for me.
Our blessing is that we are not alone in our struggles. What a beautiful thing is the community that graduate school procures to shelter and foster our discussions and learning from one another. I am perpetually amazed by the knowledge that resides just in my small building, let alone on our entire campus. Undoubtedly with any meeting of people or a community comes a desire to sit, talk, drink, and eat. These gatherings in the scientific community pair delightfully well with cooking, because for almost any failure or defeat in science, I find that there can be equally satisfying success in the kitchen.
It has been incredibly valuable to have outlets thus far, whether I am in the valleys or on the mountain summits. I’m learning to know my limits, to pace myself, to find balance, despite the way our profession forces the scales towards imbalance, and to work with and for people who believe the same. My advice is to take time to understand what works best for you, and when in doubt, cook a meal and share it with friends.
Here is a recipe for Albacore Tuna Burgers from FoodNetwork.com. I recommend using Village bakery hamburger buns, Trader Joe’s frozen albacore steaks, mixed spring greens/spinach, sliced tomatoes, and my simple avocado spread below.
Albacore Tuna Burgers
Active Prep Time: 20 min, Cook Time: 15 min, Makes 6 servings
- 1 1/2 pounds albacore tuna fillets, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon sweet relish
- 1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Vegetable oil
Directions: Finely chop the tuna with a chef’s knife. Place tuna in a bowl and mix in lemon, onion, parsley, relish, bread crumbs and eggs until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Shape tuna mixture into 6 round patties. Brush both sides of tuna burgers with vegetable oil (I just add veg oil to pan and fry, but you can also grill these). Cook the tuna burgers in a non-stick skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes each side until they are cooked through. Serve on hamburger buns with whatever you fancy.
Simple Avocado Spread
Mash 2 avocados in a small bowl. Add ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon chili powder, ¼ teaspoon paprika, lemon juice/pepper/salt to taste. I like to also add ½ of a de-seeded jalapeno, finely chopped, ¼ red onion, finely chopped, or whatever else I have to add flavor.