It is menu time again around here. The past few days I have been putting together a menu plan for the coming fast. While the end of the Apostles Fast fast is fixed, the beginning is determined by the date of Pascha, which means, early Pascha, long fast! This year it is at its longest, a full month. But, it is also a lighter fast, since fish, wine and oil are permitted on all but Wednesday and Friday. So, I took the opportunity this year to plan a heavy load of fish dishes into our diet for the month of June. Seems appropriate, as so many of the apostles were fishermen! I am also taking advantage of the many herbs in our garden, and hoping that maybe before the month is out we will have a few fresh vegetables (though after 2 floods/washouts requiring lots of replanting, the garden went in pretty late, so that may be wishful thinking). Many of the recipes are from a new cookbook I recently discovered: 400 Calorie Fix, a plan for helping you to relearn proper food portions. The facts it includes are impressive. The average American today consumes 600 calories a day more than we did in the 70's. Our plates and bowls are 36% larger than they were in the 60's, and even classic recipe books such as The Joy of Cooking have increased their recipes so a serving is 42% larger than it was in 1931. All that adds to a real challenge for healthy eating. The Church Fathers often warn of the dangers of gluttony, and each time we go to confession, we are called to confess both the sins of gluttony and gourmandizing (the sin of requiring the finest foods). A part of fasting is learning to reign in the passions, we exercise restraint over the most basic of acts, eating, that we may learn to restrain other passions as well. It is also an act of obedience, as we are not allowed to pick and choose how we will fast. We do not decide what we will give up, as that is an exercise in our own independence and self reliance. Rather, we subdue our passions through obedience to ancient rules of fasting. If you are trying to maintain a balanced diet, or lose weight, fasting can be a blessing or a curse. Since the simplest thing to do during a fast is to eat pasta all day, it would be easy to pack on the pounds. And since the guidelines of the church do not restrict the amount of food consumed at a meal, it can be easy to still be a glutton in the midst of any fast. So, this summer, my goal is to focus on eating more healthy portions of food, and taking advantage of the season with the great variety of local fruits and vegetables available.