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Erlander Belkin
Wendy Erlanger/Lisa Belkin

By MYRON LOVE
Most of us like to eat. It is no wonder, therefore, that cookbooks always sell well - and potential themes are limitless.
Recently added to the genre are new cookbooks for former Winnipegger Lisa Belkin and Wendy Erlanger (who is the daughter of Earl Barish).

 

Erlanger’s cookbook is titled “More Than Soup with Heart”- a compendium of heart healthy recipes, and a sequel to her first effort, “More Than Soup”, which she published six years ago.
An educator by profession, Erlanger was inspired to create her second cookbook by her family’s experiences dealing with heart health issues. Early this year, Earl Barish was airlifted back from the south for emergency heart surgery. He needed six bypasses.
Two months later, his son-in-law - and Wendy’s husband, Michael, had to undergo the same procedure (three bypasses).
“While we were at the hospital nervously waiting out my father’s surgery, we were introduced to a program called Heart Art,” she explains. “Heart Art encourages families of patients undergoing heart procedures to pass the time creatively. The activity we found to be really therapeutic during both surgeries.”
Shortly after Michael’s surgery, Erlanger decided to compile the new cookbook – with all funding raised from the sale of the books to be donated to the Heart Art program at the St. Boniface Hospital through the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation. She dedicated her first cookbook to the memory of her close friend, Alison Filmon (daughter of our Lieutenant-Governor Janice and former Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon) who was taken by cancer.
“I had other friends and family members who had battled cancer,” she says. “I donated all the money from sales of my first book to cancer research.”
For recipes, Erlanger reached out to friends and relatives worldwide. The recipes cover breakfasts and snacks, starters, salads, a lot of soups, main courses and desserts. The 124-page book also includes a de-stressor exercise, a list of heart healthy foods, general cooking hints, tips on reducing pollutants in your home and a testimonial from Henrik Norrild, a Danish heart disease survivor and a leader in Elsinore, his hometown, of Cycling without Age, a program that encourages older people to take up cycling.
Erlanger was invited by Janis Filmon to launch “More Than Soup with Heart” at Government House on Thursday, November 1.
“I sold 1,250 copies of my first book,” she reports. “I have printed 1,000 copies of “More Than Soup with Heart”. We will see where it goes from here.”
The book will soon be available at McNally Robinson. Interested readers can obtain more information at  at morethansoupwithheart.com.

Lisa Belkin’s cookbook, “Comfort Cooking for bariatric Post-Ops and Everyone Else”, is – as the name title implies – written especially to help people recovering from that weight reduction surgery who are still having a difficult time controlling their eating. The cookbook will also be of benefit, she says, for anyone who wants to be able to cook healthy sugar-free and carb-reduced dishes that are still tasty.
As Belkin details in the introduction to her book – and in an interview with this writer, the daughter of Emil and Clara Belkin has had a weight problem ever since she was a kid. At the point – in 2011 - when she chose bariatric surgery, she was weighing close to 400 pounds – a condition that she calls “Morbid obesity”.
What bariatric surgery does is achieve weight loss by reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band or through removal of a portion of the stomach (sleeve gastrectomy or biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch) or by resecting and re-routing the small intestines to a small stomach pouch (gastric bypass surgery).
As Belkin points out, bariatric surgery in itself is not a “magic bullet” that ensures that the patient both loses a lot of weight and keeps it off. About 750,000 people worldwide every year undergo the procedure and, Belkin notes, in the first two years post-surgery, for most people everything goes well.
“Your body is healing,” she says, “and you stick to your diet plan. That’s the honeymoon phase. But, after five years, almost 50% of those who have had bariatric surgery have regained a significant amount of weight. The further you get from surgery, the more old habits creep back in.”
She compares addiction to food – a condition plaguing most people who are morbidly obese – to addictions to drugs and alcohol. There is no permanent “cure”. She outlines her own daily struggle in the introduction to her cookbook.
For Belkin, year three is when she started slipping. She began grazing and noshing more and putting on weight again.
“You feel ashamed and embarrassed,” she says of the setback. “You become afraid to step on the scale. When I did, I found that I had regained 35-40 pounds.”
Desperate and afraid, she went online in search of a support group and found that there are tens of thousands of people worldwide facing the same demons.
Not being entirely sure what to do, she started by getting rid of all foods in the house with an excess of carbs or sugar. “When you eat sugar,” she points out, “you create a condition where your body craves more sugar.”
Her next step was to write a list of all her favourite foods and figure out ways to tweak them to remove ingredients that are high in sugar, fat and carbs and replace them with healthier alternatives.
“I always enjoyed cooking, but lost that zest for it after my surgery,” she says. “I was able to create new recipes that look like the comfort foods that I had always enjoyed, with new ingredients that kept the flavor and texture. I found that the new recipes left me satisfied with my portions and without craving more.”
Those recipes form the basis of “Comfort Cooking for bariatric Post-Ops and Everyone Else”.
The book contains 95 recipes, each illustrated with a full-page photo taken by Belkin herself. The first ten pages include her own story, a guide to healthy eating, a master grocery list of healthy options and some protein snack ideas and tips.
Belkin launched the cookbook in September at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon – where she has been living for the past five years and where she is actively involved in the Jewish community – with a second launch here at McNally last month.
Thus far, the book has been very well received. She reports that she has been interviewed here on the CTV morning show – where she did a live demo – and on Hal Anderson’s radio  on CJOB. She has also been featured on several American podcasts and radio programs.
“My publishers have been pitching the book to people such as Dr. Oz and Oprah,” she reports.
The book is available at McNally, Chapters/Indigo book stores, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
“I feel good about this book,” she says. “I have had good feedback and reviews. For anyone who is struggling with their sugar or carb intake, this book is terrific.”

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