Never ask a carnivore chef if the restaurant can accommodate a vegetarian His or her idea of feeding one is tantamount to handing the guest a head of lettuce and saying, “My work here is done.” The chef at my retirement center falls into this category. He’s never met a recipe he imagines a bit of meat wouldn’t improve. I was halfway through a bowl of tomato soup the other day when a kindly staffer whispered in my ear, “The base is made with beef.”
I met someone higher up the retirement center’s food chain, the other day. The chef of chefs. When he asked how I liked the menu, I told him it was toxic. Reeling back in his chair with his hand to his heart, he cried, “Do you know how it hurts when you say our food is toxic?”
I replied, “Do you know how it hurts to be obliged to eat it?”
Having squared off, we got down to business. A vegetarian needs protein, I told him. Meat isn’t the only or best source of the nutrient. Plants are equally versatile. When vegetarians are captive, as they are at a retirement center, a chef would be wise to know these options. Ours hasn’t a clue. My protein choices were cheese and eggs. Or, eggs and cheese. What vegan vegetarians do in this establishment, I shudder to think.
I went on to explain that after three months of the in-house diet, I gained 6 pounds. Horrified, I went back to preparing my own meals. I have to pay for the cheese and eggs whether I eat them or not, but my good health is worth the extra expense. A few months after resuming my former diet, the 6 pounds melted away without my raising a sweat.
Recently, I read a review about a diet book written by two economists: The Economist’s Diet. (“It’s the Obesity, Stupid,“ by Joe Weisenthal, Jan. 15, Bloomberg Businessweek, Jan 2018, pg. 74.) The writers advise their readers not to fuss with calorie counting. Make meta-rules, instead. For example, at lunch a meta-rule might be to eat only salads. That way, a dieter doesn’t see the fried chicken lying in wait among the entrees.
I don’t subscribe much to this theory. You can’t stop smelling fried chicken, after all. Nor do I agree with the authors’ notion that people living in wealthy countries are prone to obesity because food is plentiful. Wealthy countries have more choice. Choice includes the ability to eat healthy foods. That we choose not to do so stems from reasons other than money. One of them may be the many chefs who lack imagination.