Alan Chartock: I Publius

So, you scream at my writing, “What can we eat?” The answer, of course, is nothing.

The great Yankees-Mets manager Casey Stengel was supposed to have once said, “You could look it up.” This will be referred to from now on as YCLIU.

Lately, as so many of us have been self-quarantined in our homes with our various electronic devices, we have taken to looking things up. Roselle and I started looking up what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating. I’m sure that you’ve done it, too. As a young 79, I am aware that virtually every food on the planet has probably been on a “bad” list at some point. Our wonderful doctor from yesteryear, Tom Whitfield, once told us that it wouldn’t have bothered him at all if we never fed our children milk. Turns out that milk causes concern to some nutritionally aware folks. That’s not the half of it. Try some of these on for size.

Red meat: A lot of people have been warning us about this for years. I’m not going to be a hypocrite. I love hamburgers and steaks, but red meat is a definite no-no on a lot of lists. We do know that vegetarians live longer. YCLIU! I am not a vegetarian and I probably will not become one.

Because I am a follower of Dr. Jason Fung, the Toronto physician who has championed intermittent fasting, and because I stick to the Whole30 diet, I have lost a lot of weight. That has alarmed me, although this is not the first time I have found myself in this spot. As a result, I am trying to gain weight — not as easy as you may think, especially if you are aware of what foods can (according to the self-styled experts) give you cancer or other really bad things. I tell you this because now I am in a really bad place. I weighed 117 this morning and I have been having huge slices of ham with my eggs every morning. According to some pontificators, anything containing nitrites, like bacon or some cured ham, is verboten. This is not a good situation and I guess I have to throw out my ample supply — ditto the pickles that I love so much.

I don’t have to tell you about sugar that is causing the diabetes epidemic that has exploded in this country. If you stop to read ingredients to figure out what has sugar in it, you will weep. If you are an all-or-nothing person as I am, you will realize that you might never have an ice cream cone again, something that I have known for quite a while — ditto bread and desserts of all kinds.

It also turns out that in order to gain weight, there are certain foods that I need to have. For example, there are avocados. They can help you gain weight.

So, look where we are. We know that carbohydrates are bad for even those of us with minor league sugar problems. So, you scream at my writing, “What can we eat?” The answer, of course, is nothing. Just look up what people are telling us about diet soda. Based on what I have read about this stuff, I would, could and never will have another one again. And forget about bacon! What about broccoli, “nature’s whisk broom?” I’ll bet you the ranch that somewhere, somehow, someone will figure out why George Bush’s least favorite food is bad for you, too.

Now, of course, we get to the question of what government should do about all these dangerous foods. We know we have a Food and Drug Administration that tells us what medications are safe. If red meat kills us, which some people believe is true, at what point will they tell us that steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs are illegal? It probably won’t be all that long before each of us takes three or four pills a day as our food supply.