I had a friend explain something to me once about Chevy Corvettes and middle age. I’ll do my best to relate the idea without the tart language deployed in the version I heard. It goes something like this: When my friend was a teenager, he saw an older guy driving a Corvette Stingray and as a hot-blooded American male teenager with no money, he said to himself, “That old dude looks absolutely ridiculous in that car. What a (colorful colloquialism)! I’m the one that should be driving that car.”
Now, my friend observed wistfully, he was at a point in life where he was wealthy enough to finally purchase his own Corvette. But there wouldn’t be any joy in it, because now he would be the (colorful colloquialism) behind the wheel, and on the first drive off the Chevy dealer’s lot he was certain he would cruise past a teenager and know exactly what the kid was thinking.
French fries present a somewhat similar dilemma for middle-aged men. We likely have the resources to enjoy any type of food we might crave, and in any amount. And all of that beautiful opportunity is completely ruined by the certain knowledge that the slippery, greasy fast foods bursting with high-carb flavors that take us back to our youth… are out to kill us.
The TV series “Men of a Certain Age” could just as easily be called “Men of a Certain Salad” because the regular guys represented in that program all know what they should be eating. Middle age is the autumn of our French Fries. Yes, we’ll sneak them in every once and a while. But the hard cold truth is that we are leaving them behind. They must stay back there in that cloud of reckless behavior that included schnapps and M-80 explosives and used cars with duct-taped tail lights. When it comes to sensible heart-healthy eating, knowledge is power; the kind of power that sucks.
Let me offer some glimmer of hope. You might not see it as “hope,” but I’ve actually found things that I like to eat that are also good for me, and they have some of the old evil textures of death food. High on this list is Grapeseed OilVeganaise, a mayonnaise alternative. By my lights, the stuff is actually more flavorful than so-called “Real” mayonnaise, and here’s everything that’s in it: Grapeseed oil, filtered water, apple cider vinegar, brown rice syrup, soy protein, sea salt, lemon juice concentrate, and mustard flour. I know… totally hippie. But clinical tests have shown that grapeseed oil lowers LDL (the so called ‘bad’ cholesterol), and increases HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol). Pile it on your healthy turkey sandwich and just pretend it’s bad for you.
Tofu may be synonymous with wearing a head band, but the tofu slices prepared to look and taste like deli meats are, well… okay, but they won’t fool anybody. But you can eat more of them than you would actual meat, and since you’re not eating meat you’re not transferring all the hostility of slaughtering animals for food directly to your heart. Then, slather on the Vegenaise. I’m not a vegetarian, but I get pretty close with help from some of these substitute items that give me a kind of old-school meat/shiny sandwich spread buzz reminiscent of the good old days when a submarine sandwich was the size of an actual submarine.
The truth is that these are the good old days. My old man ate what he enjoyed, never worked out, and died in his sleep of a heart attack. In five years I will be older than he was when he died, and I think I have a pretty good shot at living considerably longer than he did. But that only makes sense because we know what we know now about right and wrong diets.
So there they sit, untouched. Grains of salt alighting on their golden skin, like a snow fall inviting me to play. Those French fries will go uneaten and unloved, and I’ll have the cottage cheese. Or the house salad. Because, ultimately, I like my chances this way. True, a middle-aged man slowly chewing lettuce is probably in some ways a sad image. But so is a middle-aged (colorful colloquialism) shoving fried food into his face.