What I Want vs. What I HAVE

One of the things I love about gardening (and eating in season) is that it shifts your focus from what you WANT to what you HAVE.

potatoes, purple and yellow, dug just before dinner

Instead of saying, “Hmn, what do I feel like eating?”, you say, “What do we have? What’s ripe and ready?” and you build your meal around that. And that–as Barbara Kingsolver suggested in this interview–turns everyday eating into a practice of gratitude.

Rather than starting with what I want, I start with what’s actually here.

beautiful heirloom tomatoes: Riesentraubes, Gold Medals, and Amish Pastes

And that’s a pretty beautiful place to be.

(Though I’m sorta getting tired of fresh tomatoes. Which is fine, because they make good tomato sauce.)

Guest Post: Ellyn Satter on Emotional Eating

~it’s NORMAL, it DOESN’T CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN, and RESTRICTING makes it worse…but it can be abused~

{I’m delighted to welcome dietician Ellyn Satter to the blog today with a re-print of her article on emotional eating! Thanks, Ellyn!}

In my review of the January through June issues of the journal Appetite, I found that a high number of articles addressed emotional eating. As with earlier articles on the topic, the underlying assumption of authors was that emotional eating is to blame for overeating and weight gain and that getting rid of emotional eating is key to weight loss.

Emotional eating doesn’t cause weight gain. That assumption is oversimplified and physiologically naive. Let’s assume that emotional eating leads you to eat a lot at any one time. That eating-a-lot only makes you gain weight if your body ”forgets” those calories, which it doesn’t. In reality, your body remembers: You are less hungry the next meal, the next day or even the next week. The body corrects long term for short-term errors in food regulation. To overwhelm your body’s natural regulatory abilities, you would have to overeat day after day without stopping. Few do.1

Emotional eating is normal; abusing emotional eating is not. From the perspective of the Satter Eating Competence Model (ecSatter), it is natural to eat for emotional reasons. Eating can raise your spirits when you are low, soothe you when you are tense, and distract you when you are upset. We cook special meals to celebrate and we use food to help us connect with other people.
Emotional eating is a problem only when you abuse it: You have no idea what you feel, other than generally upset or stressed. You eat to feel better or to push down or to blot out your feelings. You eat fast and don’t pay attention and end up feeling guilty, unsatisfied, and out of control. Certainly, such eating makes you feel bad. However, the biggest problem is not weight gain, but rather having feelings go straight to eating. To make good choices in life, you have to know how you feel. Knowing how you feel helps you cope. Eating is one of several solutions, including talking about your feelings and dealing with the problem.

Restrained eating increases abuse of emotional eating.
In my clinical experience corroborated by the research, restrained eating exacerbates the tendency to abuse emotional eating.2 People who are not restrained eaters consume less, not more, under stressful conditions.3 Restrained eaters try to eat less and less-appealing food than they need and want and are chronically hungry. Trying not to eat in the face of hunger and food-preoccupation takes a lot of energy. Stress undermines the energy to sustain food deprivation, and the person overeats. Thus, rather than overeating in response to stress, the restrained eater disinhibits. The restrained eater still eats a lot, but the root cause is undereating rather than emotional arousal. The cycle continues: The remorseful fallen-away restrained eater redoubles her efforts to restrict and again falls prey to stress induced disinhibition.

Here is how to stop abusing emotional eating:

  • Feed yourself regularly and reliably. Have meals and snacks at predictable times, and include the food you like.
  • Set aside restrained eating. Trust yourself to go to the table hungry and eat until you feel satisfied. Then stop, knowing another meal or snack is coming soon and you can do it again.
  • Become more comfortable with your feelings. Know what you feel, including that knowing in choosing how to act. Learn to productively use food for emotional reasons.

Be clear about what eating can do for you. Eating in a focused fashion is likely to soothe or calm you and even raise your spirits a bit. It won’t resolve the problem-unless the problem is being hungry! When you feel like eating because you are bored, depressed, happy, or sociable, say to yourself, ”It is all right to eat. But first I will find out what I am feeling.”

Then eat positively, deliberately, soothingly, and cheeringly.

{I introduced some of Ellyn Satter’s books a few weeks ago on Weekend Eating Reading. Check them out here and in my bookshop!}


1. Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook. 2008 , Kelcy Press: Madison, WI. p. 243-246.

2. Van Strien, T. and M.A. Ouwens, Counterregulation in female obese emotional eaters: Schachter, Goldman, and Gordon’s (1968) test of psychosomatic theory revisited. Eat Behav, 2003. 3(4): p. 329-340.

3. Herman, C.P., J. Polivy, and V.M. Esses, The illusion of counter-regulation. Appetite, 1987. 9: p. 161-169.

Copyright © 2011 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com.

{All images added by me, Rachel Stone}

After the Storm

Can’t tell you how glad I am that the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene in our little corner of NY has been, for the most part, minimal! While I wasn’t particularly worried about the house (which has been standing here since before Ma & Pa Ingalls got married…figure that out), I was worried about an old maple tree in our yard that has certainly seen better days, and, of course, about the fruit trees we planted only last year, as well as the rest of our garden.

The green bean/cucumber arbor went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

And we had a number of windfalls, and one snapped eggplant bush, but most of it was salvageable:

On the whole? Everything weathered the storm pretty well! In fact, those little trees displayed an impressive combination of tenacity and flexibility, excellent qualities in trees as well as people:

The Riesentraube tomato plants, which I grew from seed, have grown so big and dense that, secured with twine, they formed a tomato-fortress and weren’t harmed at all!

Some of the others didn’t fare quite so well, but we’ll be able to prop them up again.

Inside, the storm mostly over, we enjoyed a celebratory meal of Chinese take-out (a twice-monthly ritual around here), once again proving that no matter WHAT is taking place in NY, you can always count on the Chinese take-out place to be open and cooking as briskly and efficiently as ever.

And at the end of the day?


Hoping you weathered your weekend OK too, folks!

My thoughts, prayers, and good wishes are with folks like my colleague Amy Julia Becker who had much more to contend with as a result of Irene. Peace and blessings to you.

Sunday Recipe: “Secret” Chocolate Cake

(Chocolate Beet Cake, which sounds awful but TASTES delicious; see here. Don’t tell anyone what’s in it until they’ve tasted it. Oh, also, beets are ridiculously easy to grow. So grow some!)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Generously butter a 9″x12″ baking dish.

Then, puree in food processor until very smooth:

2 cups cooked, peeled beets*

1/2 cup applesauce

In a large bowl, beat for 2 minutes with electric mixer (or a wooden spoon and lots o’ elbow grease):

1 and 1/4 c. sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup sour cream

3 eggs

pour in beet-apple mixture along with:

1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa

1 TB pure vanilla extract

In another bowl, sift together:

2 and 1/2 cups flour

1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

Stir dry ingredients into wet, stir ONLY until blended (the more you stir a non-yeasted batter, the tougher the resulting cake/muffin/whatever will be.) Pour immediately into prepared dish and bake about 50 minutes, or until top springs back and a knife inserted in the center comes clean.

Serve in bowls with freshly whipped, lightly sweetened cream laced with just a bit of vanilla.



Weekend Eating Reading: Robert Farrar Capon

…the Saturday post!

Weekend Eating Reading briefly discusses at least one good book that’s somehow related to ‘joyful eating.’

This week I’m delighted to introduce the books of Robert Farrar Capon, the Episcopalian priest, cook, and writer best known for his modern culinary classic, The Supper of the Lamb, published in 1969.

Father Capon’s writing is witty, wise, and very funny. He aims to get you cooking well, but also to get you thinking well about cooking, food, and God. He’s opinionated and quirky, but few writers can match his theologically deep reflections on food. While many reviewers are quick to extol his famous “encounter with an onion” chapter, my favorite bit from The Supper of the Lamb is the part where Capon writes of calories as “invisible little spooks” and “nothing but idols to be destroyed”:

“Every time [a person] diagrams something instead of looking at it, every time he regards not what a thing is but what it can be made to mean to him, reality slips away from him and he is left with nothing but the oldest monstrosity in the world—an idol.”

Here Father Capon is making a case for celebrating the creation in all its wonderful particularity–letting the onions be onions, the heavy cream be heavy cream, and so forth. And the foundation for this celebration, for Father Capon, is God’s own delight in God’s creation–which includes the mysterious and interesting alchemy that happens in the kitchen.

You can read a 2004 interview with Father Capon here (it actually says very little about cooking and food, but is nonetheless interesting).

I’d start with The Supper of the Lamb. It’s one of the few books I decided I needed to own (rather than simply borrow from the library, as I usually do) because I return to it again and again. If you enjoy that, you’ll enjoy Capon on Cooking and Food for Thoughtif you can find them (they’re out of print.) Always, always, his passion is to celebrate the grace of God–a wonderful thing, indeed!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite Capon quotes:

“Every real thing is a joy, if only you have eyes and ears to relish it, a nose and tongue to taste it.”

“The bread and the pastry, the cheeses and wine, and the sugar go into the Supper of the Lamb because we do. It is our love that brings the city home. It is I grant you, an incautious and extravagant hope. But only outlandish hopes can make themselves at home.”

“Man invented cooking before he thought of nutrition. To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessary only for a while; what we shall need forever is taste.”

Peace, readers! Enjoy the weekend!