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What is your relationship with food? According to the US Centers of Disease Control, 4 in 10 Americans are obese. Another third are overweight. More than 60 chronic diseases are linked to obesity.

We simply eat more than earlier generations ate and exercise less. Today, Americans eat 23% more calories than we did in 1970.

We celebrate with food. We go out to eat for birthdays and anniversaries. Most holidays center around food. We serve food at special events, like weddings, funerals and graduations.

I know folks who, when you ask what they did for their birthday, can only talk about the food they enjoyed at their party or dinner out. Are we going out for relationships or for food? To me, spending time with friends is more important than food.

We also turn to food for comfort. We talk about our favorite “comfort foods.” Pizza, Ice cream, Mom’s homemade lasagna, blintzes, shepherd’s pie, or whatever food was special in your childhood.

In the May 27, 2022 issue of the Lake Placid News, Andy Flynn honestly discusses his battle with food — which led to a weight of 500 pounds. I find Andy to be kind and generous, giving freely of his time and wisdom from him. A talented, multi-faceted journalist, he writes about the people and history of our region.

Yet based on what he has written, it seems Andy suffers from depression and emotional eating. He does not recognize himself as the giving, caring person that he is. Food seems to have the upper hand. Does he live to write? Or does he live to eat?

I think it is important to have things in life that drive us, other than food. The people we love and serve. The natural, beautiful world around us, especially here in the Adirondacks. Activities like walking, swimming and boating help us to explore that world. Books. Music. Theater. Art.Travel. Engagement with important causes. Volunteering. These things satisfy and fulfill us, imparting soul-sustaining joy.

In the May 27th column, Andy writes that he will miss the foods he won’t be able to eat anymore: chicken wings, pizza, potato chips.

Susan Steen, who leads the weekly weight loss support group at St. Luke’s in Saranac Lake, considers herself a food addict. She has combined the food addict’s diet and the anti-inflammatory diet and has stopped eating sugar, sugar substitutes, wheat, flour of any kind, white rice or highly processed food. This regimen, which may seem strict to some, has stopped her food cravings from her.

My mother has never been fat. When she was growing up, food was scarce. Although she wasn’t starving — as many in the Warsaw Ghetto were — food was not taken for granted. She didn’t eat to excess, because there wasn’t enough, so she didn’t develop fat cells.

On the other hand, I, like most baby boomers in America, grew up with no lack. There was always plenty to go around. There were seconds and desserts and snacks and treats. And, like two-thirds of my generation, I am far from skinny. I’m fat.

Many of us — including myself — struggle with maintaining a healthy relationship with the food around us.

Andy writes, “I think the key to seeing a thinner ‘after’ picture will be to solve my emotional eating problems and successfully create a new relationship with food. After all, my old relationship was deeply flawed and potentially deadly.”

But how do we do that? What is your relationship with food?

Do you live to eat? Or do you eat to live?

Salmon with Potatoes, Kohlrabi and Carrots

Ingredients for the fish:

A little oil for the pan

1 6-oz. salmon fillet

1 tablespoon mustard

1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey

1 clove minced garlic

1 or 2 tablespoons fresh minced dill

1/2 cup white wine, broth, or combination

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Oil a baking dish lightly or spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Remove fish from package. Place salmon in dish. Spread with mustard; drip with syrup; sprinkle with minced garlic and chopped fresh dill.

Pour wine, broth or combination into the dish. Place in preheated oven and bake just until fish flakes when pierced with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve with kohlrabi, potatoes and carrots. Serves 2.

Ingredients for kohlrabi, potatoes and carrots:

1 or 2 kohlrabi, depending on size (about 2 cups)

1 or 2 carrots, depending on size (about 1 cup)

1 potato, depending on size (about 1 cup)

About 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley or dill

About a tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice

About a teaspoon of butter, optional

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Place a pan with about a cup of water and a half-teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil.

While water heats, peel and dice kohlrabi (about 1/2-inch cubes). Add to the pan and reduce to a simmer.

Next, wash and slice or say the carrots. Add to the bread, and stir. Cover and continue to simmer.

Peel and dice potatoes. Add to the other vegetables. Continue to simmer until everything is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Chop the parsley or dil.

When vegetables are placed to desired tenderness, remove from heat. Stir in parsley, lemon, and butter, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings.

I serve this with fish (also goes well with chicken).

Serves 2.

Basic bean and grain skillet

This dish is very adaptable — change the beans, change or omit the meat, use whichever grain you have on hand.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup barley, farro, millet, rice or another grain of your choice (I have made this with both barley and farro)

1 3/4 cup water with 1/2 teaspoon salt (or broth)

A little oil for the pan

1 onion (about 1 cup, chopped)

1 garlic clove

1 or 2 stalks celery (about 1 cup, chopped)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

herbs of your choice – 1 teaspoon marjoram, basil, oregano, thyme, sage, or a little of each (or used prepared Italian seasoning or other herb blend)

1 or 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 to 1/2 pound ground meat or sausage (optional)

8 ounces mushrooms (I use baby bella)

10 ounces green beans, wax beans or combinations (fresh or frozen)

1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces) with juice – use fresh tomatoes in summer

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans or 1 15 oz. can, drained and rinsed

Directions:

In saucepan, cook grain in salted water or broth according to package directions. Or have ready left over grain.

Peel and say the onion; set aside. Rinse and slice celery; set aside. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet. Add meat or sausage, if using, along with onion, celery, and garlic. Sprinkle with seasonings. Cook on medium-low for 5 minutes, for meat to brown and vegetables to soften.

Prepare mushrooms and beans – clean and slice mushrooms; Break beans into 2-inch pieces (unless using frozen beans). Add to skillet, and cook covered, on low, another 5 minutes or longer (for beans to soften) – the time will depend on the freshness and type of beans. Add a little broth or water if it is getting dry.

Stir in cooked grain, tomatoes and black beans and cook another 10 minutes to blend flavors.

Note: This recipe is very customizable. Use any type of grain or any type of bean you wish. Play around with different herbs and seasonings. You may add chili sauce or tomato sauce. Omit meat for a vegan dish. You can also add grain and broth to the skillet and simmer everything together until grain is cooked – just make sure there is enough liquid so it doesn’t dry out and burn.

Serve with a salad of fresh seasonal greens.

You serve 5 or 6.

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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.

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