My 450-pound dad had been in every diet known to man — Akins, Weight Watcher’s, The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Tapeworm Diet. When nothing worked his bosses at McCann Erickson ad agency sent him on a six-month paid medical leave to the “Fat Farm” at Duke University, where he would be expected to lose a significant amount of weight on the popular Rice Diet. He lost 175 pounds eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The morning bowl had a miniscule piece of canned peach, the lunch serving had a small portion of dry chicken and the evening bowl included a serving of broiled salmon. When he came home he vowed never to eat rice again but was looking for flavorful staples that would keep his newly trimmed body svelte. This parchment paper salmon became his favorite — even my mom, who hated domestic chores, found this manageable — placing all the ingredients in a foil pack and baking. Voilà, an instant meal, with no clean up.
My dad credits this soup with helping him survive lung cancer and finally conquering his life-long battle with obesity. This healing soup, made with shitake, portabella and maitake mushrooms, revived his spirit when he was diagnosed. He remembered how his mother, my Bubbe Mary, cooked for him when he was in a coma after being beaten up by a bunch of bullies in the sixth grade taunting him about his weight. Bubbe said it was the smells from her kitchen that brought him back to life. Bubbe was gone, but when he was sick he remembered Bubbe’s words… “soup is good food,” eventually turning her beliefs into a famous advertising tag line for Campbell’s Home-Style brand soup.
Philip Gelb learned to cook at the elbow of his Aunt Rose. The Oakland, California-based chef just came out with his first cookbook, “Notes From an Underground Restaurant: Improvisations Through Food and Music.”
Tabouli from Zayde’s Kosher Kitchen in Orlando’s Rosen Plaza Hotel.
Chaplain Valley Creamery’s award-winning Organic Champlain Triple cheese.