Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Member of the Clean Plate Club

When I lived with a fit and hearty fellow named Bob years ago, he would heap his dinner plate with meat, taking much smaller portions of potato and vegetable, sometimes eschewing them altogether in favor of hot cherry peppers or a hunk of unbuttered bread.
Dessert was not a word in his vocabulary. He lumped them all together under the generic word cake and said, “I don’t eat that stuff.”

I, on the other hand, consider dessert part of the meal, feeling that no repast is complete without a bit of something sweet. It’s an old habit instilled by my mother who felt the same way. She liked to quote Winnie-the-Pooh and finish off each meal with a “smackerel of something,” preferably some tasty morsel oozing sugar and chocolate.

Her father, my Pepere, was famous at family gatherings for his ability to make room for dessert. “Go ask your grandfather if he wants pie or cake,” my Memere would instruct as she cleared the dinner plates.

“Pepere, do you want pie or cake?” I would obediently inquire.

“Yes,” was his reply. “Two fingers of each,” and he would spread out his thumb and pinkie, creating a five inch span indicating the desired size of each piece. Over the years this sort of indulgence made him into a man of admirable girth.

I seem to be following close behind. For a long time I blamed the three Gs—Genetics, Gravity, and Gravy—for my increasing bulk; genetics (witness my grandfather, not to mention my Aunts Margaret and Rose or my Uncle Roland); gravity—after all, my weight began shifting downward with every birthday after forty, as did the muscles in my upper arms and the skin under my eyes and my chin. Now I’ve reluctantly had to admit that the blames lies in the gravy—and the bread and the butter and, woe is me, the desserts. Everything I eat seems destined to collect at my waistline or in the general vicinity of the waistline I remember having.

A friend that I hadn’t seen in years recently asked, “Where’s that skinny little girl I used to play with?” and I had to admit I’d buried her under gallons of ice cream. Another high school chum who resurfaced after 45 years saw me at the doctor’s office one day. We eyed one another and finally blurted, “Gosh, you look familiar, but…” at the same time. We reminisced a bit and then he took my hand in his big paw (this man was at least 50 pounds heavier than when I’d last seen him in 10th grade chemistry lab) and said, Pao-line, you been livin’ large!”

Yeah. Thanks.

I drove home thinking about the dirty four letter D word, knowing that if I didn’t do something soon I’d need more than a diet to undo those decades of desserts. The three Gs are still exerting a powerful pull but I’m working on a new set of letters now, the Ws—Willpower, Walking, and Withholding. (Okay, when I see something sugary and oozing with chocolate, I add Weep).

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