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Smerconish: To solve obesity crisis, start in our kitchens

By Michael SmerconishFollow @Smerconish Let me finish tonight with this.I have a home recipe to solve the obesity crisis.

By Michael SmerconishFollow @Smerconish 

Let me finish tonight with this.

I have a home recipe to solve the obesity crisis. You could say it's an ingredient that could help tip the scales back in the right direction.     

What's indisputable is that we're too heavy. The Centers for Disease Control calculates that 68 percent of American adults are obese or overweight, which explains the recent efforts to combat the epidemic in both the public and private sector.  First came Michael Bloomberg's proposal to ban the sale of super-sized, sugar-sweetened drinks. And now, Cambridge, Massachusetts - the home of Harvard University - is contemplating a similar move.

Bloomberg campaigned for his proposal in the Bronx, where more than two-thirds of residents are overweight and a variety of creative approaches to weight loss are already underway. As the New York Times noted this month, one Bronx hospital offers Zumba and cooking classes. Farmers markets are distributing coupons for fruits and veggies. Bodega owners are encouraged to stock low-fat milk. In one apartment building, the stairwells were decorated with artwork to encourage residents to bypass the elevator.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter twice attempted to tax sugary drinks, and the city has dedicated $900,000 in federal funds to an ambitious program aimed at boosting the availability of healthy foods and fresh produce in 632 urban corner stores.

And those are just the public sector initiatives. Disney took the lead with a private sector response by announcing that it will soon ban advertising of unhealthy foods on its television channels, radio stations and web sites geared towards children.   

The approaches sound thorough, but there's something missing: our kitchens. Time constraints have decimated the dinner hour.

We've become a society that loves to watch Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis cook on TV while we're eating fast food and General Tso's Chicken. None of the government and private sector initiatives will work unless there is a corresponding return to basics in our own homes. 

My mother is one of eleven - eight sisters and three brothers - the Grovich's of West Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The sisters are all great cooks.   

Not long ago, I collected from them their favorite family recipes - dishes developed before America was calorie conscious. In fact, there are plenty of dessert recipes that will satisfy any sweet tooth. My mother's famous peanut butter cookies are revealed. So too is her recipe for shoo fly pie. There is also Dick's mother's sunshine cake and Aunt Dorothy's cheese cake. 

But the dinners bring back many memories... Nanny's stuffed peppers, Melane's chicken, Dorothy's horseradish sauce, Vi's fettuccini, Uncle Tony's cannelloni beans, and Aunt Rose's meatballs... Chile con carne, oven roasted potatoes, hamburger stroganoff, city chicken, holupki, meatloaf, and Thanksgiving stuffing. 

But mostly, they are evidence of an era in which dinner was prepared and then served at a regular hour, helping to delineate between meal and snack time. To really address our obesity crisis, America needs to find the time to make dinner again, limit the snacking, and rely on basic, unprocessed ingredients like those that were found in the kitchens of the Grovich girls.