From fast to famine and back to feast again

Some hate broccoli.

Some hate bacon....

-Ogden Nash

Food, glorious food

Hot sausage and mustard

- from "Oliver"

Poems have been written about food. Songs have been sung about food. Photographs and still-lifes have tantalized our tastebuds as well as captured our eye for generations unto generations. Food magazines multiply, extolling the wonders of food.

But what food?

Nowadays, we so seldom say, "I feel like a chocolate shake" and have one. First, we ask if the chocolate is light or dark, then we ask that our shake be made with skim milk and hold the whipped cream.

Then, while it is being prepared, we sadly think about calories and wonder if we've just given up lunch and dinner in our desire for a shake in spite of our efforts to make it as calorie-less as possible.

By the time the shake arrives, the calories and cholesterol have won. We have lost all desire for the shake and hand it to the thin teenager standing behind us and slouch out of Scoop du Jour.

Nutrition test

Nowadays, food must pass the nutrition test before we dare enjoy it. Cookies and cakes and pies must be fat-free. Fruit Loops, which you love, must be bypassed for whole bran. Butter on your toast has vanished in favor of margarines, provided they are free of trans-fats.

What meat to have for dinner? Red meat is inviting disaster. Chickens - how do we know they don't harbor the makings of bird flu within their bodies?

Should we switch to fish, a great source of Omega 3? Not likely. Fish apparently contain masses of mercury.

Virtually every food you like seems to have a prohibition on it.

I have given up carbohydrates, eaten meat and skipped the vegetables; eaten vegetables and skipped the meat; lived on fruits and nuts; existed on yogurt, with or without acidophilus; and eaten oatmeal faithfully day after day.

Why? I didn't actually like any of them, except the vegetables, but I tried them all. I was sure one of them would be the elixir that would make my life perfect. None of them filled the bill.

Eat guilt-free ?

The other day as I was reading a magazine, I came upon a new diet that promised to energize you like the bunny. I read the various components of the diet.

"Oh, I must try it," I instantly thought and read on.

It sounded terrible, but the author guaranteed its effectiveness. It still sounded terrible. And I rebelled.

What is the purpose of eating: to stay alive or to enjoy a meal?

On second thought, could it possibly be both?

My mind drifted back to the olden times when we had dinner parties. It was such fun, pouring over recipes with no thought of vitamins and minerals or arteries and body mass. Just glorious food, good wine, a decadent dessert, good friends and good conversation.

After this burst of nostalgia I finally realized that I could have it both ways: healthy and gourmet. What a remarkable idea, healthy food and enjoyable food at the same time.

Healthy-food lovers will be amazed, gourmets will be astonished and I, at last, will be guilty free and pleasantly full.

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Freelance columnist Roberta Cole can be reached via e-mail at

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