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Culinary Boot Camp

(by Natalie Poff)

When Dad is the “snacky sweet tooth” and Mom is the “no snacks before dinner” type, it’s cause for a disrupted household. In our family, it led to a bicycle lock on the refrigerator. But my mother knew that her family needed a change because where we were headed wasn’t good.

(with Mom and sister; I'm in the middle)

From the moment she put that lock on our refrigerator, it was culinary boot camp. She had a healthy dish on the table for every meal, even in our brown bag lunches for school. No more snacks. She had a 365-day meal planner from Weight Watchers, and it was her healthy living bible. It offered substitutes for the types of sweets and snacks we were all used to eating—in other words, “cheat day.” We lived in a small town called Willow Valley, Arizona, with a giant grapefruit tree that was my mom's pride and joy, so on cheat days, we got broiled grapefruit.

My mother passed away on the morning of my freshman orientation in high school. That is when the grieving and eating began. I weighed almost 270 pounds; doctors said that I was morbidly obese. Finally, as an adult, I began my own form of culinary boot camp. It can be hard to stay on track, but I am grateful for the lessons of healthy eating that my mom instilled in our family. I feel that she guided my path, even when I wasn’t aware, even when she wasn’t there.

I don’t need to be a size 4, but I am confident and healthy. I still have Mom’s healthy living bible. It’s old and discolored, but I often make many of the recipes. What I wouldn’t give to share one more special moment in the kitchen with my mother. I would hold that memory tight and lock it up. You never know when a shared memory is going to be the last.


Natalie Poff is an aspiring actor who can be found on Facebook and Instagram.

Broiled Grapefruit

1 t. vanilla or sherry extract

1 medium grapefruit, cut in half

Pour 1/2 t. extract over each grapefruit half.

Broil 6 - 8 inches from source of heat for 10 minutes.

Serves 2.


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