Tag Archives: eating

La Famiglia di Firma

August 8, 2017 by
Photography by Contributed

Like a good book title, the names of the Firmature brothers’ bars and restaurants could almost paint a picture of what awaited customers.

At The Gas Lamp, you could savor a prime rib and listen to a live ragtime band from your marble-top table (provided you wore a suit or a nice dress during its early years of operation). A Sidewalk Cafe offered diners a chance to people-watch at Regency while they ate a crab salad. The Ticker Tape Lounge gave downtowners a brief respite from work and prominently featured an antique stock market ticker tape. And if you really had a rough day, you could always drop by Brothers Lounge, get a cocktail, and flop down on a couch or a rocking chair.

With the exception of Brothers Lounge at 38th and Farnam streets, none of these places exist anymore. When Robert Firmature turned Brothers Lounge over to current owners Trey and Lallaya Lalley in 1998, it ended nearly 70 years where the Firmature family had a major presence in the Omaha restaurant community.

In the early 1930s, Helen and Sam Firmature opened Trentino’s, an Italian restaurant, at 10th and Pacific streets (which would later become Angie’s Restaurant). The restaurateur family also consisted of Sam’s brother, Joseph, and his wife, Barbara, along with their three sons: Robert “Bob,” Jay, and Ernest “Ernie.”

Ernie cut his teeth bartending at Trentino’s and at a motor inn (The Prom Town House, which was destroyed in the 1975 tornado) before he opened The Gas Lamp in 1961. He also briefly managed a club called the 64 Club in Council Bluffs.

Located in the predominantly middle-class neighborhood of 30th and Leavenworth streets, The Gas Lamp was a destination spot for anniversaries, promotions, and proposals. Flocked wallpaper, antique lamps, and Victorian velvet furniture was the décor. Live ragtime was the music. Prime rib and duck à l’orange were the specialties. In an era where female roles in restaurants were still primarily as waitresses and hostesses, The Gas Lamp had two women with head chef-style status. Katie Gamble oversaw the kitchen. And Ernie and Betty’s son, Steve Firmature, and daughter, Jaye, were routinely corralled to help with clean-up—the cost of living in a restaurant family.

The Italian family name was originally “Firmaturi.” A popular account of the spelling change involves a bygone relative trying to make their name more “Americanized.” After researching family history, Steve suspects the name changed as a result of a documentation error—a mistaken “e” in place of the final vowel. Steve says those style of errors were common back then (due to errors in ship manifests or as depicted in a scene from the movie The Godfather: Part II).

Before she was even a teenager, Jaye Firmature McCoy was tasked with cleaning the chandeliers and booths. While cleaning, she would occasionally dig inside booths for any money that may have accidentally been left by a customer. At 10, she was promoted to hat check girl. At 14, she was the hostess. Steve did everything from bus tables to help in the kitchen.

“Back in those days, we didn’t have titles for people that cooked. Today, I think we’d call them a sous chef and a chef. We had two cooks,” Steve says with a laugh.

In the early ’60s, Ernie enforced a dress code for customers.

“When we first started, a gentleman couldn’t come in without a coat and tie. A woman couldn’t come in wearing pants [dresses only],” Jaye says.

The dress code (which eased in the late ’60s) may have been formal, but the restaurant retained a friendly atmosphere where some patrons returned weekly.

William and Martha Ellis were regulars. Speaking with Omaha Magazine over the phone from their home in Scottsdale, Arizona, they recalled going to The Gas Lamp almost every weekend. They became good friends with Ernie, to the point where all three of their children eventually worked for the Firmature brothers (mainly at A Sidewalk Cafe).

“Ernie wanted you to think he was this sort of tough Italian mobster, but he was really sort of amusing,” Martha says.

The Gas Lamp came to an abrupt end in 1980 when a fire destroyed the restaurant. It was ruled as arson, but a suspect was never caught. Instead of rebuilding, the family decided to “transfer” some of the signature dishes of The Gas Lamp to A Sidewalk Cafe. The Firmature brothers had purchased the restaurant from Willy Theisen in 1977.

Along with the three brothers, another Firmature, Jim (Helen and Sam’s son), was also a partner in owning A Sidewalk Cafe. Bob spent much of his time managing Brothers Lounge. Ernie managed A Sidewalk Cafe until he retired. Jim and Jay also helped manage the place. Jay (who is the only surviving member of the three) primarily worked in the business area. He was brought in by Ernie from Mutual of Omaha.

“He always said, ‘I should have stayed at Mutual,’” Steve says with a laugh.

Though not as formal as The Gas Lamp, A Sidewalk Cafe was still a destination spot. Located in the heart of the Regency neighborhood, the cafe aimed to pull in people who may have assumed Regency was out of their price range. Still, the cafe maintained an upper-end dining experience. DJ Dave Wingert, who now hosts a morning show on Boomer Radio, would routinely take radio guests to the Sidewalk Cafe in the ’80s. One guest was comedian and co-host of the NBC pre-reality show hit Real People—the late Skip Stephenson.

“I remember the booth we were sitting in, and telling him about being shot at Club 89,” Wingert says.

Since A Sidewalk Cafe closed its doors in the late ’90s, Omaha’s food scene has only grown in regard to available dining options and national recognition. Wingert says A Sidewalk Cafe would fit with today’s culinary landscape. Jaye agrees.

“It was probably the one [restaurant] that was the most survivable, I think,” she says.

Jaye has left the restaurant business. She is now owner and president of FirstLight Home Care, an in-home health care business. Though the industries are vastly different, Jaye says much of her experience with the restaurants has carried over to health care.

“Restaurants and bars are something that get into your blood,” she says. “It’s about the people and taking care of people.”

Find the last remnant of the Firmature family bar and restaurant empire at @brothersloungeomaha on Facebook.

From left: Ernie, Robert “Bobby”, and Jay Firmature

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of 60Plus.

On Bread

April 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

It was the story I didn’t want to write—that one about what I call “my malady,” my three episodes of severely restricted eating. The first bout struck when I was 15, when, in response to difficult family circumstances, I limited myself to fewer than 600 calories per day. I calculated and tallied the calories for everything I ate; I chewed and spit out forbidden foods; I stripped down and weighed myself many times a day; I exercised too vigorously and for too long; I awakened in a panic from vivid dreams in which I was devouring doughnuts or pizza; I isolated myself from my friends and no longer ate meals with my family because of the all-consuming nature of my regimen. I lost weight so quickly and recklessly that I stopped menstruating and could barely get out of bed in the morning because of the anemia. But I felt safe and empowered because, through my self-restriction, I’d taken control of my frustrating life and unruly flesh.

Over a decade before Karen Carpenter’s death from anorexia nervosa, the event that awakened many Americans to the dangers of eating disorders, I had never heard of the condition. Apparently, neither had the pediatrician who examined me when I was my thinnest and most unhealthy. He simply told my mother that I needed to eat more, which eventually, I did. When I was 25 and left my family, friends, and hometown for a demanding job in a big faraway city where I knew no one, my malady returned in a less dangerous though more tenacious form. In spite of intensive psychotherapy, this bout of my malady didn’t start abating until three years after it started with the birth of my son.

Most perplexing to me was that when I was deep into middle age, a professor at a state university, the author of five award-winning books, the mother of an adult son and daughter, a homeowner, a church member, and a supporter of various worthy causes, my malady returned. Then, my weight dropped to a number on the scale that I hadn’t seen since middle school, as I whittled down my list of permissible foods until it fit on my thumbnail. Because of age-related changes in my bodymind, the departure of my grown children, and the loss of other significant people in my life, I was heartbroken and anxious. Just as when I was 15 and 25, I tightly restricted what and how much I ate as a way of keeping myself safe from what threatened me. But I couldn’t see what I was doing, much less link it to the two other times when eating too little had been so easy and gratifying. In fact, I didn’t know that I was sick again until my 20-year-old daughter told me that if I didn’t eat more, I was going to die. My blindness to my situation still astonishes and baffles me.

I didn’t want to write the story of an illness that many judge to be a character flaw, a moral failing, nothing but a silly, overzealous diet, or a childish attempt to get attention. I didn’t want to write a story in which I had to admit that I had a condition that usually strikes teenagers and young women. I didn’t want to write a story that would require me to re-enter, through memory and imagination, the dark periods of my life when eating less than my body needed seemed like a logical, fitting response to adversity. I didn’t want to write a story that was an illness narrative and, so, presents a version of the self that isn’t sound or fully functioning.

And yet, I felt compelled to write this story. In “On Keeping a Notebook,” Joan Didion advises us “to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” If we don’t, they might “turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.” What I had forgotten was the woman in me who sometimes found self-starvation and the taking up of as little space as possible so alluring.

To write the story of my malady, I had to educate myself about eating disorders and disordered eating. Eating disorders—anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder—are clinically defined and diagnosed, according to criteria set forth by the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Less well-known to most people is “disordered eating,” which Lauren Reba-Harrelson and the co-authors of a 2009 study define as “unhealthy or maladaptive eating behaviors, such as restricting, binging, purging, or use of other compensatory behaviors, without meeting criteria for an eating disorder.” “Other compensatory behaviors” include the use of laxatives, diuretics, stimulants, or excessive exercise to counteract the calories one has consumed.

I went into my research believing that eating disorders and disordered eating are caused primarily by unhealthy family dynamics and the message from the fashion, entertainment, beauty, and diet industries that nothing you are and nothing you’ve achieved matter as much as being thin. Now I know that those are but the easiest explanations and that they trivialize a complex problem. Aimee Liu, the author of Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders, compares an eating disorder to a gun: “Genes shape the gun, environment loads it, and stress pulls the trigger.” This felt true to me, so I went to work researching the genetic, environmental, and psychological aspects of eating disorders. From the studies I read by geneticists and neuroscientists, I learned that those with eating disorders and disordered eating can’t trust their brains to tell them the truth about when and when not to eat.

Several studies, for instance, have investigated variations on the gene for serotonin among the eating-disordered, since when people with anorexia severely restrict their caloric intake, their abnormally high levels of serotonin drop, and they report feeling calmer and less anxious; when those with bulimia increase their caloric intake, their low serotonin levels rise, and they report feeling happier. Another study found that those with bulimia and anorexia have an altered response in the insula, a part of the brain involved in appetite regulation, when given tastes of sugar, which means that they don’t accurately perceive signals about their hunger or satiety. Yet another study suggests that increased activity in the dorsal striatum leads to “maladaptive food choices” among restrictors, meaning that they actually prefer the plain rice cake over the Asian pear and smoked gouda panini.

From my reading in psychology, I learned that certain family structures and personality types were more likely to “load the gun” than others. Hilde Bruch, a psychoanalyst and pioneering researcher on eating disorders, studied the connection between disturbed interactions between a child and a domineering or detached mother and the development of anorexia, while psychiatrist Salvador Minuchin studied how “psychosomatic families,” especially those that are “enmeshed,” contribute to the genesis of eating disorders. For a 2004 study, Walter H. Kaye, the director of the Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research at the University of California-San Diego, administered standardized tests for anxiety, perfectionism, obsessionality, and eating disorders among individuals with anorexia, bulimia, and both disorders, as well as a control group. He found that 66 percent of the members of the three eating-disordered groups had “one or more lifetime anxiety disorders,” 41 percent had obsessive-compulsive disorder, and 20 percent had a social phobia. The majority of the eating-disordered study participants reported that the onset of their anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or social phobia had occurred during childhood, before the symptoms of their eating disorder manifested. Even those who had recovered from an eating disorder and were symptom-free “still tended to be anxious, perfectionistic and harm-avoidant.”

I explored various cultural factors that “load the gun.” Feminist theorists, such as Susie Orbach, Naomi Wolfe, and Susan Bordo, see anorexia as rebellion against or an over-conformity with Western notions of feminine beauty and power. Historians and medievalists weighed the similarities and differences between contemporary anorexia and the prolonged fasting of religious women in Europe in the late Middle Ages who sought worldly power and a deeper union with God through their austerities. Accounts by and about hunger strikers, whether the imprisoned members of the Irish Republican Army, the American suffragette movement, or those being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, present their fasts as the ultimate political statement and protest.

Clearly, eating disorders and disordered eating are due to a messy tangle of genetic and biochemical factors, family dynamics, individual psychology, and a wide range of cultural influences. Also clear to me is that my story isn’t unique. Experts say that about 10 percent of those with eating disorders are older women. But, says Dr. Cynthia Bulik, the director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina, the percentage is surely higher since most older women with eating disorders disguise or misread their symptoms as being due to a health condition or changes associated with aging, and so they aren’t included in the number of reported cases. In a 2012 study, Danielle Gagne and her research team found that women over 50 are engaged in unhealthy eating behaviors and thinking to the same extent that adolescents are. Most experts that I’ve read see a link between loss, grief, and depression as triggering the onset or return of an eating disorder in women who are middle-aged or older.

The loss and grief triggered by an empty nest, the death or relocation of several others who mattered to me, and an awareness of my own aging caused me to start restricting my diet again in 2011. But of all the factors that loaded the gun, two presented the most daunting challenges to my recovery. The values of hyper-consumerism was one. In “Hunger,” the Canadian writer and human rights activist Maggie Helwig says that it’s no accident that the widespread appearance of eating disorders in the 1960s and the epidemic of the 1970s coincided with the unprecedented growth of the consumer society, which places supreme value on one’s ability to buy goods and services. Helwig, who almost died from anorexia when she was young, observes that by the end of the 1960s, our material consumption had become “very nearly uncontrollable,” resulting in “what is possibly the most emotionally depleted society in history, where the only ‘satisfactions’ seem to be the imaginary ones, the material buy-offs.” Anorexia, then, is the “nightmare of consumerism” played out in the female body. “It is these women,” writes Helwig, “who live through every implication of our consumption and our hunger and our guilt and ambiguity and our awful need for something real to fill us … We have too much; and it is poison.” By not eating, the anorexic tells us that she’d rather be skeletally thin than ingest something that isn’t real or substantial. By not eating, the anorexic causes a cessation in ovulation and menstruation, rendering herself literally unproductive. By not eating, the anorexic refuses to be consumed by the act of consumption. Such self-denial in a culture of plenty is an audacious, radically countercultural act and statement. I extend Helwig’s metaphor to include binge-eating disorder (rapid, uncontrolled consumption with no “compensatory behaviors”) and bulimia (a refusal to complete the act of consumption by hurling out what one has just taken in) as responses to unrestrained consumerism.

The things, services, and diversions that money can buy can’t fill a hungry heart or lessen the pain one feels from a lack of meaning or purpose. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, what we’re truly hungry for can’t be bought. And what I was craving when my malady returned for the third time were a renewed sense of purpose and deep nourishing relationships to “replace” those that I’d lost.

This was easier said than done. The rise of consumerist culture has been accompanied by a decline in the number of close relationships among Americans of all ages. Instead of visiting and confiding in each other, we spend more and more of our time working and, in our leisure time, gazing at screens. Consequently, finding others with the time and desire for new friendships was challenging and at times, disheartening. But with prayer and persistence, I eventually found people who share my values and who enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs.

The other factor that made recovery during the third bout of my malady so challenging was that in my early 50s, I had become acutely aware of the effects of ageism. Because the master narrative our culture imparts about aging is that late midlife and beyond is a time of inexorable decline, marked by deterioration, powerlessness, dependency, irrelevance, and obsolescence, it is the fear of aging and even more, of ageism, that is the inciting force that triggers disordered eating in some women. I didn’t want to think about aging—my aging—and I certainly didn’t want to write about it. Yet, address it I must. In a 2011 study, a team of Australian researchers found that a group of women ages 30 to 60 with disordered eating who participated in just eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy focused on “midlife themes” were still doing better in terms of “body image, disordered eating, and risk factors” at the follow-up six months later than a control group that had not had the opportunity to explore these themes in a therapeutic setting. To counter the effects of ageism in my life, I now collect resistance narratives from women, role models, really, who live their later years with passion and purpose and on their own terms—Jane Goodall, Maria Lassnig, Gloria Steinem, Helen Mirren, Isabel Allende, and others, both famous and not.

Although I was reluctant to write this story, I did find pleasure in crafting Bread. And the act of writing was filled with many moments of self-revelation and one grand epiphany: that there are aspects of my malady that are within my control (how I respond to ageist, hyper-consumerist, and patriarchal values) and some that are not (genetics and brain chemistry: my hard-wiring). Now, I know what I can fight and what I must gracefully accept.

When people asked me what I was working on as I was writing Bread, I reluctantly told them about the story that I didn’t want to write. I found that most were not only interested, but they wanted to tell me their stories about being in the grip of something beyond their control that lead them to eat too much or too little, about feeling shamed or misunderstood because of this, about the familial tensions or social costs or the ill physical effects that resulted from their unhealthy relationship with food and self. Some told triumphant stories about the residential treatment, the counseling, the spiritual practice, the religious conversion, or the supportive loved ones that saved them. But some were in the thick of it. Many were grateful to be given a name—disordered eating—for what they were experiencing and to know that this could afflict anyone of any age and circumstance.

Many were grateful to learn that the reasons they were stuffing or starving were more complex and nuanced than their having played with Barbie dolls as children or having conflicted relationships with their mothers.

The deep story I’ve heard in each of these testimonies concerns the tellers’ hunger for wholeness and fullness. Now, I encourage those who tell me their stories to ask themselves a difficult question—What am I truly hungry for? —and then answer it with courage and honesty. I’m hungry for companionship. I’m hungry for solitude. I’m hungry for reconciliation. I’m hungry for meaningful work. I’m hungry for less busyness or the opportunity to paint or dance or fight for social justice. Then, I urge them to bring that source of nourishment and sustenance into their lives. Some women thanked me for writing Bread before they’d even read it.

When I consider how frankly confessional my story is and how controversial some will find my interpretations of the research, I squirm and second-guess myself. But then I remember that I am safer from relapse because I understand what I can and can’t control and because I’m far less likely to forget, as Didion says, “the things [I] thought [I] could never forget.” And, too, I feel full knowing that people are finding self-knowledge, nourishment, hope, and strength in the story that I didn’t want to tell.

Lisa Knopp, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s English Department. Her recent book, Bread: A Memoir of Hunger, was published by the University of Missouri Press in 2016. Visit lisaknopp.com for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of 60 Plus.

Molly Schuyler

August 26, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Molly Schuyler’s family often dined at the buffet where her dad strongly advised her and her three brothers they had better get his money’s worth.

By now, the professional competitive eater has most certainly made papa proud.

Schuyler realized her talent for competitive eating as a child, between the buffet mandate and casual soda-chugging races in grade school.

“No guy could come close to me,” Schuyler says, “but I didn’t think anything of it.”

Schuyler, her four adorable kids, and one Air Force husband, have lived in Bellevue for the past three-and-a-half years. She’s competed for less than two years.

“It was all just for fun at first, no money involved,” she says. Her first paid competition was July 2013.

She began dabbling with challenges like the infamous Stellanator, a food challenge at popular Bellevue burger joint, Stella’s, that includes six 6.5-oz burger patties, six fried eggs, 12 bacon strips, six pieces of cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, and peanut butter, plus a bun. Oh, and a basket of fries.

In August 2012, Schuyler became the first woman to finish The Stellanator, belying her petite 5’7”, 120 lb. frame.

“I still can’t believe this tiny little lady finished the Stellanator in 15 mins!” Stella’s posted online.

But Schuyler was hungry for more. In October 2012, she returned, setting a new Stellanator record time of six minutes, 28 seconds. In April 2014, she tangoed again with the monster, finishing in an unbelievable three minutes, 40 seconds.

And guess what she did afterwards? She ate an additional four cheeseburgers, three grilled cheeses, and a huge basket of fries and onion rings—like most of us might nibble on a bowl of popcorn.

She is “just never full.” She’s felt sick after competing—like when she ate 15 pounds of pumpkin pie, then boarded a plane—but in general she doesn’t suffer for her art.

Despite her ability to crush massive menus, her favorite foods are healthy.

“I like salads and vegetables the best. If I go out to eat, that’s what I order.”

And working out?

“Yep, my four kids (5, 6, 7, and 10) take care of that,” she says.

“Girls typically don’t want to shove food into their face. It’s not seen as ladylike,” she says. “But it’s all about time. I’m not trying to be prim and proper.”

Schuyler met her best friend on the circuit—they are the top two female competitive eaters in the U.S. Through her career, she’s met many amazing people.

“It’s not for the money,” she says. “I do it for the people. I’ve met some of my best friends doing this.”

Contracts prevent her from identifying the event, but one of Schuyler’s next challenges is an international competition. She also plans one more dance with The Stellanator.

“I’m gonna do it again,” she winks. “I think I can hit three minutes.”

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Rice Krispies Treats (with a Twist!)

January 20, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Did you know that you can make Rice Krispies treats without marshmallows? No empty calories here! Creamy peanut butter, maple syrup, and honey give this kid-friendly snack a high-energy boost.

Ingredients (Yield: 16 bars)

  • 6½ cups Rice Krispies® cereal
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp trans-fat free margarine

Preparation

  1. Lightly coat a 9×9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine Rice Krispies and raisins. Set aside.
  3. In a microwave-safe container, combine peanut butter, maple syrup, honey, and margarine and microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir.
  4. Pour peanut butter mixture over Rice Krispies mixture. Stir to coat the cereal and raisins.
  5. Using your hands, press mixture into pan. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, covered.
  6. Cut into16 bars. Keep bars refrigerated.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 bar
Calories: 190
Fat: 9g
Saturated Fat: 2g

Cholesterol: 0
Sodium: 158mg
Carbohydrates: 24g
Fiber: 2g
Protein: 5g

* Nutritional information is based on ingredients listed and serving size; any additions or substitutions to ingredients may alter the recipe’s nutritional content

For more healthy recipes, visit HealthyKohlsKids.com. The Healthy Kohl’s Kids program is a partnership between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and Kohl’s Department Stores to educate children and parents about healthy nutrition and fitness.

J’s on Jackson

October 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ask Jay Siers what the best thing is on his menu.

“Our filets.” This is said with finality.

The owner of J’s on Jackson will have his medium rare, thank you. Carrots and asparagus on the side, please, with a little seasoning and butter. Possibly accompanied by a glass from one of the Old Market steakhouse’s 300 bottles of wine.

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General manager John Thompson is well-versed in the type of restaurant Jay Siers wants J’s on Jackson to be. Thompson began working with Siers in a consulting capacity last fall for his Norfolk steakhouse.

 

Siers’ confidence in his steaks stems from the fact that J’s on Jackson sources and cuts all of its meat through its own steak-cutting operation, Platte Valley Meats, in Fremont. “It gives us much better quality control than if we just tried to source meat on the open market,” Siers says, “and it’s almost 100 percent Nebraska beef.”

Platte Valley Meats seems a natural addition to Siers’ empire. J’s on Jackson is, after all, his third restaurant. Dedicated patrons can find a J’s Steakhouse and Winebar in both Norfolk and Fremont. “Our core menu’s pretty much the same,” Siers says, “but I wanted this one to be a little different.”

J’s on Jackson manages to have a traditional steakhouse feel (you know the type: dark wood, white tablecloths, heavy bar) without completely closing off diners from the bustle of the Old Market. The dining room overlooks 11th Street, and a small patio affords fantastic people watching on Jackson.

While you’re out there, consider the chef’s patio special of the evening. “It’s usually a unique appetizer, like Chesapeake Bay oysters,” says John Thompson, the restaurant’s general manager. For dinner, try the nightly feature. J’s on Jackson differs from traditional steakhouses in that it serves a composed plate rather than a la carte, so your pork filet might come with a cherry remoulade sauce and a side of pureed sweet potato.

 

Of course, with Zeb Rogers in the kitchen, who knows what will be featured on any given night. “He’s dying to do a stuffed squid,” Thompson comments, “but the market’s a bit high right now.” The restaurant’s executive chef was a sous chef at several restaurants in Minneapolis before moving to Omaha, where he became executive chef at 801 Chophouse and then Mark’s Bistro. He finally joined forces with Siers and Thompson at J’s in 2012.

“He’s been here since we opened,” Siers says. “He’s an amazing guy, and he has full latitude over the menu. He can do whatever he wants.”

That’s another twist at J’s: Even if you’re not in the mood for a steak, chances are you’ll find something to tempt the palate. The restaurant offers seafood fresh from Omaha’s own Jacobson Fish Co. and makes its gnocchi and pasta sauces in house. “It’s not that we have so much,” Siers says, dismissing the idea that the menu’s variety would indicate a lack of focus. “We don’t have 16 chicken dishes. We just tried to cover everything.”

And if it’s still not quite what a diner needs?

“They’ve never said no to a special request,” says Kim Kanellis, a regular at J’s. As a sales and marketing rep for an insurance company, she frequently entertains clients at the steakhouse. “If they have it, they’ll do it.” During one particular business lunch, a fellow diner wasn’t finding a vegetarian option on the menu that appealed to her. “So they asked her some questions and made a Portobello sandwich up for her,” Kanellis recalls. “Fabulous service. That’s what it’s all about there.”

It doesn’t sound like Siers is willing to rest on his laurels though. When asked if he has plans for a fourth restaurant, his quick response is, “Always.” The details are still being hashed out, but look for something in the way of a raw bar in southwest Omaha sometime this spring.

Body Image

June 20, 2013 by

Q: My teenage daughter is trying to diet because all of her friends are on diets. I’m worried she’s developing an unhealthy attitude about her body, as well as food, and I don’t want her to starve herself. How can I discuss my worry with her and get her to think more positively about her body?

A: Your relationship with your daughter will affect your approach. When you have a good opportunity, try mentioning to your daughter that you’ve noticed several of her friends are dieting. Ask her what she thinks or how she feels about it and give her time to answer. If she mentions feeling bad about her body, try asking how long she’s been feeling that way or if she can tell you about when it started. Pay attention, be interested in her responses, and stay neutral. If your daughter feels like you’re judging her or her friends, her defensiveness could lead to an argument, or she’ll simply be done talking.

Depending on the situation, some of the following ideas may be applicable:

  • If your family meals or eating habits really could use a makeover, approach it as an entire family without singling out your daughter.
  • Work on body image together with your daughter, keeping each other accountable regarding negative body image statements.
  • Write a note for your daughter sharing what you’re feeling. Be positive in the words you choose and let her read it on her own time.
  • Affirm your daughter’s strengths and her beauty. Be specific so she knows you’re sincere.
  • Avoid putting value on food. It isn’t good or bad; it’s just food. And she’s not good or bad based on what she eats.
  • Finally, what is YOUR attitude toward food and your body? Don’t underestimate the influence you have on your daughter. Think about how your answers to the following questions affect your daughter’s self-image, as well as your own:
  • Do you think and speak positively about your body?
  • Are you critical of other women’s appearance or of what/how much they eat?
  • When you receive a compliment regarding something appearance-related, do you disagree, and then start pointing out other things you don’t like about yourself?
  • Do you make negative comments about a body feature you share with your daughter? You may realize that this is a great time to work on your self-image as well.

Deb Fuller is a mental health therapist with Real Life Counseling in Omaha.

Say “Yes” 
to More Veggies

June 1, 2013 by

When it’s time to eat vegetables, does your child do the Brussels sprout pout? Don’t give up. It can take eight to 10 tries before children accept a new food.

Children are born with a natural preference for sweet foods and develop a liking for salty foods at around four months. That’s combined with an innate suspicion of foods unknown to them. But if a child rejects a food at first, it doesn’t mean they’ll always dislike it.

Healthy Kohl’s Kids, a partnership between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and Kohl’s Department Stores, offers these tips to encourage your child to try the green stuff:

  • Don’t overcook. Steam vegetables lightly so they taste better.
  • Teach by example. Eat vegetables with your child.
  • Rather than telling your child to “eat your vegetables,” offer him or her a choice of two and ask, “Which one of these do you want to eat?”
  • Shop with your children. Let them pick a vegetable they like.
  • Add color. Use red bell peppers, bright carrot strips, and different types and colors of lettuce. Bake shoestring “fries” out of deep orange sweet potatoes.
  • Incorporate vegetables into the main dish rather than serving them on the side.

Here’s a great recipe that combines spinach with a family favorite—pizza! For more healthy recipes (with and without veggies), visit HealthyKohlsKids.com.

Spinach Pizza

Ingredients (Yield: 2 servings)

  • 1 store-bought whole wheat pizza crust (7-inch diameter)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 oz part-skim fontina or mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • Black pepper to taste

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Brush pizza crust with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Evenly spread garlic, fontina or mozzarella cheese, and beans over pizza crust. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
  • In a large bowl, toss the spinach with remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil and black pepper to taste.
  • Spread the spinach leaves in the center of the pizza, leaving a border around the rim.
  • Bake the pizza for 8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the spinach is wilted.

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 323
Fat: 11g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 18mg
Sodium: 488mg
Carbohydrates: 37g
Fiber: 7g
Protein: 12g

* Nutritional information is based on ingredients listed and serving size; any additions or substitutions to ingredients may alter the recipe’s nutritional content.

Feeling Young on the Run

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Tori Young, 40, was on the drill team in high school. She never considered herself an athlete, and she spent most of her time eating whatever she wanted. But, as it always does, metabolism caught up with her. “I heard from my friends that things get more challenging when you hit 40,” she says. “They weren’t kidding!”

Although she doesn’t feel older, Young realized her body required more attention than it did back in her carefree high school days. She tried lots of things to get back on track—Jazzercise, tracking meals on the MyFitnessPal app, Kosama, running on the treadmill, P90X, yoga, dancing videos, Kettlebell workouts—but she always found it hard to stick to those programs.

She admits most of the problem was her hectic lifestyle. “I started each week with the best intentions…but like everyone, when we’re busy and on-the-go, it’s easy to make poor choices.”

As a technical recruiting lead with Client Resources, Inc., she’s constantly running around town and treating candidates and consultants to lunch, which makes eating well difficult. And then, of course, she didn’t want to cut into her family time with husband Chad, a teacher and football coach at Millard West High School, and their four kids—Elli, 12, Beau, 9, Leah, 6, and Reid, 2. “Having four kids is absolutely crazy, but it keeps us on our toes,” she adds.20130420_bs_8210 Medium Copy

But an opportunity appeared a few years ago when Young’s oldest daughter, Elli, told her about a school program for third through fifth graders called Girls on the Run. “It’s so cool,” Young says. “It’s all about girl power, being a good friend, and being encouraging and supportive of others while training to run a 5K.” She adds that the girls often included their moms in this program.

Elli, who was in third grade then, didn’t want to do it. “She said, ‘That would be like having gym class even more often!’” Young laughs, explaining that it was probably for the best anyway because she was pregnant with her youngest son, Reid, at the time and wouldn’t have been able to run.

“We did feel like we missed out though, so we signed up the next year. I printed off a Couch to 5K training program online and was able to get to the point where I could run four miles without stopping.”

During Elli’s fourth grade year, they both ran the program’s 5K. “I had to walk twice during that run since it was mapped out on their grade school playground, and it was 30-some laps around the blacktop, down a hill, around the playground equipment, and back up the hill,” Young says. “The hills kicked my butt!”

Although Young stopped running regularly after that 5K, she ran again with Elli in the fifth graders’ 5K. Later, they signed up for a Siena-Francis benefit run. “It was nice to do something that we could do together that was good for us but also benefited [Siena-Francis House],” says Elli, who’s now in middle school.

“I know I have to be aware of how I talk about my own body and my feelings about how I look. We’ve had conversations about not focusing on how many pounds we weigh and comparing that to others, but instead on how we’re treating our bodies and what we’re putting in them.” – Tori Young

Since then, Young and Elli have been participating in all the runs they can. They even participated in Papillion’s Half Marathon events this May; Young ran the 10K while Elli ran the 5K. Both agree that they really want to run The Color Run and Color Me Rad 5Ks, which they look forward to trying in the future.

Young finds running with her daughter to be an inspiring way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I love when we practice and go to Zorinsky [Lake] together…We set some goals, like being able to run farther, and it’s fun to meet one and then set the next one.”

But it’s not just all about the run; it’s also about the time she gets to spend with Elli that keeps her going. “With four kids, I wish I could give them each more one-on-one time, so I really love just talking with her [during our runs].”

“We get to have an uninterrupted conversation and talk about my school, her work, our friends, and random stories,” Elli adds. “We also talk about our goals for the future, like other runs we’d like to do [and] ways to eat healthier.”

“I dislike the body issues that come for most females,” Young says. “I know I have to be aware of how I talk about my own body and my feelings about how I look. We’ve had conversations about not focusing on how many pounds we weigh and comparing that to others, but instead on how we’re treating our bodies and what we’re putting in them.”20130420_bs_8226 Medium Copy

Seeing Elli improve makes Young think they’re headed in the right direction, too. “She was born with a cyst in her lung, which resulted in a 12-day stay in the NICU and a surgery for her right after birth…they removed the top lobe of her right lung. Her scars are faint, her lung regenerated, and the only real lasting effect is some asthma.” Young adds that Elli has gone from feeling like she “can’t do it” and using asthma as an out to pushing herself harder.

Young believes it’s important for parents and their kids to be physically active together. “It’s so easy to get caught up in television…We have so many devices that capture our attention, and it’s hard to break away from e-mail, Facebook, and Instagram…Making time to be physically active together provides the opportunity for quality time and setting goals that we can work toward together.”

Because Young and Elli have been running so much in the last few years, it’s really started to rub off on the other family members. “My husband has been running more lately, and even recently admitted that he pushed himself faster on the treadmill than [me] because he didn’t like the thought of me outrunning him!”

Most importantly, Young feels healthy and happy right now. All she cares about is feeling good about herself, being a positive body image role model for her daughters, and having the energy to keep up with her job and her kids.