Ballwin-based food writer Cheryl Hughey took a long journey to changing her health through her diet that included going vegetarian and finding ways to lower fat in her favorite recipes. She has chronicled her favorite low-fat recipes in her recently-released cookbook, Beyond Bacon Grease. The book will be available for sale nationally in a few months. Until then, Hughey's selling it online and hosting a book signing at Ballwin's 6 North Cafe (14438 Clayton Road, Ballwin; 636-527-0400) on September 28 from 4 to 7 p.m.
"I think St. Louis is a beautiful melting pot of Americana," Hughey told Gut Check via e-mail. "If you look hard enough, you can find nearly every type of cuisine available somewhere. However, just like most communities in our nation, the fast food culture can also be found in our neighborhoods. As a whole, I'd love to see Americans eat more wholesome meals and spend less time surrendering to the drive-through."
Hughey gave us an excerpt from Beyond Bacon Grease, which follows. On Monday Gut Check will taste test her lower-fat pasta con broccoli against the traditional, creamy St. Louis original.
Like a lot of Midwest or Southern families, we grew up believing bacon grease was a required ingredient for many of our foods. From frying are eggs in it to dipping a spoonful in simmering green beans, it was the answer to most any culinary dilemma. Although modern science has informed us that eating bacon grease is like swallowing a ticking time bomb, the tradition continues.-- From Beyond Bacon Grease by Cheryl Hughey
My journey to better health is probably not much different than the average patient gone rogue. After years of eating "high on the hog," my sinful ways caught up with me in my mid-thirties and I blew out my gallbladder. Grossly overweight at nearly 230 pounds on my barely 5'3" frame, I slept with a CPAP machine and had horrible exercise-induced asthma. Thus, I was mostly sedentary and a certified couch potato.
My turning point didn't come until I met an incredibly powerful and successful man that had been stopped dead in his tracks by heart disease. A man that had it all...almost lost it all.
As we continued to meet each other at our regular business meetings, I began to see an inspiring transformation. The diet and lifestyle changes he made worked. He looked and felt great.
I can't tell you when I made the decision to give up my bacon-consuming ways but I do know it didn't happen all at once. I began studying and reading about food. One of the books was dedicated to vegetarian eating and gave a step-by-step approach to slowly giving up meat. Strangely enough, I found that once I gave up meat, I also gave up fried food. Incredibly, I lost about 100 pounds in six months. The change was tremendous. I still remember how glorifying it was to be able to ride a bike without gasping for air. (It's amazing how enjoying exercise can be when eminent death is no longer a fear.) A butterfly had emerged from its cocoon.
My dear reader, you are probably wondering if I kept all the weight off. While I know you want a fairy tale, those types of literary readings are merely works of fiction. Just like you, my story is a work in progress and is far from perfect. It is a daily struggle. I exercise regularly and am currently gearing up to test for my black belt. Losing the weight has given the confidence to achieve many goals.