The saying among writers is, “Write what you know best.” Well in that case, this is breaking a major rule because here I am, someone in questionable health – not to mention a bit overweight – writing about healthy eating habits!
The thought came to me before one of our casual gatherings and while I was struggling over dinner menu. The diet of my grownup children changes more frequently than I can keep track of. Is this the high protein week or the in-between high carb? Fruit, or no fruit? High-fat, or no-fat? And of course, I need to consider my two vegetarians, one whose body can’t even handle bread and pasta. And I remember that all three kids are also lactose-intolerant. In the end, I put my recipes away and we ordered out. Guess that was when the question popped up. Are we unable to deal with too many choices? Or could we be innocent victims of food industry?
I grew up with a big family and in a large house where enough food was prepared to feed not only us, but also our frequent last-minute drop-ins. In most households, the lady of the house chose the menu and some went as far as designing what they called their “weekly food program.” Mealtimes were a set part of daily life. We washed our hands, showed up at the table, and finished what was on your plates. Our likes and dislikes didn’t seem to matter and the word “diet” was saved for people in poor health. My own thoughts of food had a direct connection to hunger, and even then, they seemed to generate prayers, “Please, God, don’t let it be Aabgoosht today!” – a hearty soup made of lamb.
The world has changed. We now live in a gastronomical society where food is both a major concern and headline news. Not only does a lot of our economy revolve around food and restaurant business, food is the subject of enumerable books and articles. The first cookbook was published in 1475, yet despite the gazillion books that have followed since, it is still a favorite genre for most publishers. Thanks to the number of restaurants and their long hours, the main streets of most cities started to smell like a kitchen. But that was not enough as now we have food trucks, too.
As our hectic lifestyles pushed us to fast food, and “fusion foods” kept on adding to our existing recipes, the health issues that followed, prompted our medical societies to raise their voices. Soon TV talk shows and magazines also decided to jump on the band wagon, and I’m not even going anywhere near how the commercials add fuel to the flame. No wonder a new diet pops up every single day!
The word ‘food’ always reminds me of Nanjoon, a sweet grandmother who lived to be ninety plus. Her philosophy was that all food is good, but it must be consumed in “moderation.” Even in the absence of good medical care, she had no major ailments except for type two diabetes. But that seemed to matter little because her breakfast cookies, ginger breads, and baklava were out of this world.
I try not to let my love for my grandmother influence my judgement and say to myself, “She was an exception.” But then I think of my children’s grandmother, who also lived to be ninety-six without any major health issues. Her motto was, “Eat everything you want, but a little less than you can!” In addition, she made sure to give her diet a pleasant variety. “No chicken today, we had that yesterday!” I don’t think she ever went on a diet or knew the inside of a gym, still, she enjoyed a figure that was better than most.
My old-fashioned mind has a hard time with how food has become the focal point of daily life. There are shakes, juices and . . . “kale?” Food for Nanjoon’s generation had to be tempting and delectable. Kale was not on that list.
Despite the abundance of knowledge out there, and no thanks to all the additives and preservatives, I am shocked to realize that we have raised a family who struggles with petty health issues, allergies, weight problem, and whatnot. No one seems to know enough. What you eat today may not be allowed tomorrow, and what they advertise as good, may end up killing you. The conflict reminds me of Mark Twain who said, “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”
I pour myself a cup of coffee and take a moment to think. “Okay, I’m a diabetic AND a cancer survivor. Which will it be? Coffee with sugar?Or Splenda?” I wish Nanjoon was here to give me a sensible answer. Then again, what would she know? Back then there was nothing artificial, no sweeteners, and when the doctor told her no more sugar, she took her glass of good tea with homegrown dried fruits.