December 1, 1995

Eat to Live, Live to Eat

I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired; but after all, the Scotchman would shake his head and say "Where's your haggis?" and the Fijian would sigh and say "Where's your missionary?"

Mark Twain, 1879

We all have to eat. If we don't eat, we die; it's as simple as that. There are some people who eat to live, and some who live to eat. You can often identify these extremes by looking at them. Eat to live people tend to be skinny, while live to eat people tend to be fat. Much of what people look like is genetic, but a good deal represents life style.

Being a believer in moderation, I do both at different times. Most of the time, I eat to live. While the things that I eat are wholesome and flavorful, the fact that I eat pretty much the same thing every day makes it boring. I love fresh fruit and vegetables, but a ripe banana or a juicy apple doesn't make my mouth water like a chocolate mousse.

I start the day with an orange or a glass of orange juice, depending on the availability of oranges. This is followed by two slices of whole wheat or rye toast with jam or non-fat cream cheese. Sometimes I manage to get a loaf of seeded rye bread that would injure your foot if it fell on it That can make my mouth water! I would eat it all the time if it were available locally. The closest place that I know of to get a fine loaf of old-world bread is the San Francisco Bay Area. Sometimes I bake my own. Sometimes Lu bakes a batch of breakfast bread, like banana bread (when we have a bunch of over-ripe bananas) or some other kind. My morning fare is not usually very exciting but it is tasty and wholesome. I used to have a cup of decaffeinated coffee with that. With the outrageous boost in the price of coffee, I've switched to herb tea. Besides, I was getting tired of coffee every morning.

I get hungry again at about ten, when I have a bowl of shredded wheat, with raisins, wheat germ, and skim milk.

I will not eat something that I don't like just because it is good for me. Fortunately, my tastes run to fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain breads. There are lots of things that I love that are not good for me; the main ones being chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate chips, chocolate bars, chocolate chip cookies, bittersweet chocolate, chocolate cake, chocolate with nuts, chocolate without nuts etc. There are very few desserts that I don't like. As a consequence, when I am eating to live, like an alcoholic with booze, I can't even have them in the house.

Lunch usually consists of a cup of soup or a sandwich, a glass of fruit juice and a banana.

As you can see, the problem with this fare is that it gets boring. Oh well, that's always a problem when you eat to live. It takes some thought and effort to make it interesting. If you spend a lot of effort to make food exciting, you're really living to eat. To me, it's not worth the effort. I am willing to settle for an occasional loaf of gourmet bread or breakfast cake or a bagel with cream cheese. The truth is that, at my age, I can't stand very much excitement in the morning.

During the afternoon I snack on pretzels or whole rye crackers.

After all of this routine, I like dinner to be interesting, if possible. Lu and I both cook. We try to keep the amount of meat or fish that we eat in fairly small portions (about a quarter of a pound each). I always have a large bowl of salad vegetables, about half an hour or more before dinner. I enjoy the snack and it cuts my appetite so that I don't end up ravenous at dinner. Dinner can vary from passable to delicious.

The trouble with moderation is that you may not really live longer, but it will feel like it. Occasionally we liven up our lives with a pizza, or we go out to dinner. My local favorite is the Tsunami in Willits. We sometimes top it off with one of Albert's ice cream cones -chocolate, of course. If we get to Ukiah or Santa Rosa, there are lots of choices. On these occasions, I eat what I like, not what's good for me. I go for flavor and texture, not quantity; preferring a fillet mignon to a sirloin steak. I love scallops, abalone, crab and shrimp. If well prepared, there is that ultimate in glorious decadence: sweetbreads. One thing is for sure; I am not going to waste my occasional wild indulgence in high fat and high calorie foods on something as prosaic as a Big-Mac or a deli sandwich sloshed with mayonnaise.

One of the real joys of living a moderate, healthful life is that, the one evening when you say "To hell with it!" is so much sweeter than it would be if you lived to eat all of the time.

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