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Christopher Errante, MS, RD

What does a day in the life of Christopher look like?

I start most mornings with a flavorful cup of locally roasted coffee. Grinding the beans each day is a sweet ritual which never seems to grow old. I consider my morning time, however big or small, to be a luxury. Sipping my coffee over breakfast is a time to reflect on whatever is going on in my life or what I have planned for that day. As I am an intermittent dietitian for the Portland VA Hospital, my “tour of duty” (government terminology) varies considerably. Often I find myself working with The Portland Kitchen’s food service software called “Computrition.” It’s exhilarating touching so many well thought out recipes and the nutrient analyses available are truly amazing. In addition to this I cover for inpatient or outpatient dietitians, perform nutrition inspections for VA transitional housing for the homeless, and see patients weekly at the Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program (RRTP) building. Sometimes I even help out in the kitchen doing food prep and acting as a food service supervisor.

What would you consider to be the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is definitely the classes I teach at the RRTP. When I started there last November, I was told that the residents are required to attend classes during their 6 week stay. I ended up designing what I call the “RRTP Nutrition Series,” a six week program including classes such as “Eating Healthy on a Budget,” and the “Principles of Weight Gain and Weight Loss.” The idea is that Veterans can take home dietary skills that are important in managing self-care and keeping themselves healthy. My teaching style is inspired from a variety of sources, including my favorite college professors, my Hungarian violin teacher, and even Alton Brown’s show “Good Eats.” I teach the class with an atmosphere of mutual respect and always engage the Veterans, encouraging their participation.

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If you could change one thing about the nutrition/dietetics world, what would it be?

As always, I would increase the prominence of dietitians as critical aspects of the medical team. I am already trying to do that through my work in the OAND Public Policy Team. I always try to spread the word about the nutrition care process and how thorough it is to physicians, nurses, dentists and other health care professionals. My dream of dreams is to see a dietitian in every dental office. I enjoy representing myself as coming from the field of nutrition. This is very important that we are considered as our own group of specialized experts.

What books have shaped you and your practice the most?

The Bible: I prefer the New American Bible.

Food Politics, by Marion Nestle: An ever inspiring book. When I was an undergrad, I told everyone I wanted to work in Food Politics. I had no idea that one day I would hold the position of State Policy Representative for the Oregon Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I also met Marion at a small gathering and she autographed my copy, a wonderful woman!

The Critique of Judgement, by Immanuel Kant. As a lover of philosophy I have always loved this book. Kant opened up my world to aesthetics. I intend one day to take his writings and apply them to the aesthetics of food and nutrition.

The Courage to Create, by Rollo May – An amazing work about the artistic process, and creative spirit in man. May (1909-1994), who was an existential psychologist, is one of my favorite authors.

Swanson on Swanson, by Gloria Swanson. Gloria is one of my all-time heroes. A silent film actress, lover of health food books, and true individual! A woman who would bring a bagged lunch to a fancy dinner. She married William Dufty, after she inspired his work “Sugar Blues,” telling him to lay off the processed sweetener at their epic first-meeting. She had incredible self-respect.

Oishinbo, created by Tetsu Kariya. Oishinbo is a long running graphic novel in Japan, covering nearly all aspects of Japanese cuisine. A stunning example of how the Japanese can take something as complicated as food and turn it into something simple and beautiful. The subtlety of the series is incredible!

The Book of Soba by James Udesky. Nothing excites me more than a detailed book about a humble ingredient. The care and research James took to write this book makes it one of my all time favorites.

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Where can we find you on the web?

During my dietetic internship I decided to create a blog called “Nutritional Musings.” I originally considered it an experiment, to write on a variety of topics related to food and nutrition in a variety of styles. I have partly been inspired by a book called “Essays in Idleness,” written by Yoshido Kenko a 13th century Japanese monk. The book has truly random musings on anything from love to economics. I have written several nutrition Haikus and Limericks, commented on Portland’s fluoride campaign (of which I was a part), and even the magnesium content of espresso. While the number of posts has been limited, I recently purchased the domain name, www.nutritionalmusings.com and plan on expanding on it in the near future. Hopefully using the material for future books. Otherwise, I am on LinkedIn.

What do you do to de-stress or find balance in your life?

For everything I add onto my life I subtract something else. Sleep is also very important to me.

Tell us about an accomplishment you are proud of, personally or professionally.

I am most proud of the volunteer work I did for Healthy Kids Healthy Portland, the campaign to promote water fluoridation in Portland. It was my first ever political campaign and the fact that it was based on a single nutrient was quite incredible! I read a lot of research articles on fluoride and tried to disseminate the information to Portlanders, helping them make an informed vote. I also learned so much about Portland, it’s citizenry, and public speaking. As a result of my work, I was nominated to fill the State Policy Representative position for OAND, which I will hold for the next 2.5 years.

How did you end up in Portland?

I am originally from Johnson City, NY. After working as a WIC Nutritionist for a year and a half I applied to dietetic internships on the West Coast. My first choice was actually Bastyr University in Seattle. I added OHSU’s internship on at the last minute as I had briefly heard that Portland’s residents were fond of riding their bikes, even in the pouring rain. I had also heard the city was bike friendly, and this appealed to me. When I heard I was accepted to OHSU I was incredibly surprised. It would now be my first choice, for sure.

What is your favorite local Portland business and why?

My favorite Portland business is by far Zilla Sake House. It is the only sushi place I have ever been to with the “Omekase” option (meaning “leave it to the chef.”) When you tell them this, the sushi chef creatively improvises using the best ingredients from that day.

What are your lifelong dreams?

I have always been fascinated with Japan and hope someday to visit and tour a lot of homemade noodle shops and tea houses. I love the tradition of Japanese Graphic novels called Manga which are often specialized and frequently include technical information. My favorite is “Oishinbo” which talks about the Japanese food culture through fictional characters. My dream someday is to work with an artist to create a graphic novel related to nutrition and some of the “paradoxes” that come about when learning how to eat healthy. A lot of my dreams also relate to “do-it-yourself” kinds of things. I want to restore a Nissan 240z (70s sports car), learn how to make soba noodles, make brown rice pickles (NukaZuke) and learn the Beethoven Violin Concerto.

 

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