First it was butter. Then fat, salt, cooking oils, red meat and sugar were all banned by the Food Police sometime before the turn of the century. The banning of all these essentials in the early ‘70s or so jolted us into learning more about our unhealthy eating habits. At the time, there wasn’t much literature about healthy eating, so we learned what we could through word of mouth and magazine articles. The first food to get banned was fat. Even today our stores are stocked with “No Fat,” “Low Fat” foods. The thinking of the Food Police, however, has wavered somewhat into admitting that fat is a good source of protein. In the early ‘80s we discovered we weren’t getting enough protein. What is the most obvious source of abundant protein? Beef, of course. We began a carnivore’s diet and ate steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner, until, quite honestly, I got tired of even looking at a cow. Then the Food Police said beef was out because it clogged our arteries and chicken was in. Now, I really like chicken in all of its multifaceted recipes, but eating it for dinner every day got old after a while. Upon further research, however, we learned that meat wasn’t good for us at all. Instead we needed to get more of our protein from plants, so we switched to eating a lot of beans and legumes and eggplant. Now imagine telling four ‘tweens that there would be no more McDonald’s hamburgers—instead we would be eating rice out of a wok for every meal. To give them credit, they all tried the rice-in-a-wok diet for a few days before rejecting it. But since that was all there was to eat, we kept crunching our way to a healthy diet. Eventually, we all got tired of it. To this day, I can’t eat stir-fried veggies from a wok.
Nancy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few months after we moved from the farm in 1990. She underwent horrific chemotherapy treatments. I thought that there must be better cancer treatment than what she was suffering through. I read every book I could find on alternative treatments for cancer.
Bernie Siegel was my favorite author—he is a writer and retired pediatric surgeon who writes on the relationship between the patient and the healing process. He is known for his best-selling book “Love, Medicine and Miracles.” The Mustard Seed Market was just getting started in the Merriman Valley in the late ‘80s, and Margaret Nabors began teaching a course on how to cook for a Macrobiotic diet, which has shown significant results for cancer patients. I had read several books on the diet and decided to take the classes. We learned that brown rice is the heart of the diet, and by adding certain vegetables you could vary the menu. Or you could live on brown rice alone indefinitely, but I didn’t try that.
I have to admit that I have been a victim of the Food Police, those people whom you know from church, late night TV and your local Shaklee Representative, who are more than willing to share the latest about foods that are not good for us. I’m not totally at fault because I was following the “Head of The Household,” who fixed the meal and said that this was what we were going to eat or we would have to starve. I was a brave soldier through most of the diets and encouraged the kids to give it all a try. They lasted longer on some diets than on others, but eventually we moved on to personal tastes and moving out of the house.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned what I like and what I don’t like. I’m open to new tastes, such as the cabbage soup at the Valley Cafe. The thought of cabbage soup took me back to the account of the Great Depression by James Agee in his book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” It was what was served in poor families in Appalachia and in prisons everywhere. Yuck! However, my son, Colin, who is a vegetarian, ordered the soup and gave me a taste over my objections. Wow! That cabbage soup is really good. And if I say cabbage soup is good, you know it really is.
Not only is butter back, so is salt and fat. I stopped eating steak when all I got was a good-looking, very, very lean piece of beef. They look good, but they may have been injected with water to add to the weight of this cow, which had the body fat of a Michael Jordan—no marbling. Finally, on our annual week-long golf outing to Northern Michigan, we found a butcher right around the corner who offered nicely marbled beef, which he cut into steaks for us. Larry grilled them for us perfectly, and we lay around all evening stuffed to the gills from steak and all the fixings.
Today, I eat a balanced diet of McDonald’s, Rockne’s salads, Yumm Bowls, spaghetti from a jar and Swensons. I am more concerned with carbs than calories. I once went on the Adkins Diet, where you eliminate most carbohydrates, and in about six weeks I was able to lose 15 lbs. I pay far less attention to the Food Police and eat what tastes good. I guess I’m part of the new trend of quality over quantity. My father judged a restaurant by how much food they gave him. My mother said the difference between her and my father was that my mother liked to dine, my father liked to eat. I am more of a diner than an eater, though the ease of drive-thrus has put nourishment in my body, no matter the opinion of the Food Police.