Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Spiritual reading

The new bookcases have been installed in the McDonough house and the boxes of attic books have been loaded into them. During Christmas vacation I got to browse some books I had not seen in many years. In one philosophy book I had inserted a "reread" note with the date entered. It was a seventeen page excerpt from the BhagavadGita, a writing dated 600 years BC. I enjoyed rereading it as much as I did the first time. Nearly all of it was on how to live one's life and I realized that I had taken much of it to heart. The gap between readings.....57 years.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fruit Cake

This year is like other years, there is a serious undermining of an American tradition. Once again there are denigrations against a confection that has been a staple of past Christmases, the fruit cake. It is said they are stale, tasteless, too much fruit and too little cake, hard to cut, even impossible to digest. There are few to defend the fruit cake but I proudly state that I like them and do indeed eat them. Pat's Aunt Lottie and Uncle Ed used to, each year, make fruit cake and hand them out as Christmas presents. They had a special recipe which included a soaking in rum making them uniquely tasteful. They would wrap the cake in tin foil, paste a tag with a name on them, and hand them out without any further disguise. Seeing a foil Christmas present was a dead give away as to the contents. Every year, they showed up with fruit cake, and every year it was welcomed by me. My father-in-law, Gene, one year disparaged the cake in my presence. I think he added: "Cheap bastards". That was the year I told Pat to get their fruit cake, and she did. I had fruit cake well past the season because none of the kids would eat it. One year, the fruit cake was slightly burned and did not taste as good. When Uncle Ed gave me the fruit cake he apologized saying: "This year they came out overdone." Yet, he still passed them out as presents, cheap bastard. The burnt taste did not deter me, I ate all we received. Pat let it be known that I liked fruit cake and somebody gave her one that they had in the refrigerator for more than a year, It was an expensive, catalog fruit cake and was excellent. I had it to myself and, over time, ate it all. The fruit in a fruit cake cannot always be strictly identified. Someone has applied the title "candied fruits" into the recipe and no one knows which continent, or world, they come from. I once had some dried apricots and then some dried papaya and it was not even close. Perhaps fruit cake, like sausage, should not be scrutinized as to ingredients. It takes black coffee to bring out the excellent taste of a fruit cake. In a pinch cold milk can be used. I will admit that even with tea the fruit cake is scrumptious. I have even had good results when eaten dry.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


We, in this culture, are all familiar with the pictures of hungry children in Africa. Their ribs and bones stick out of their skins, belly distended, and the obligatory flies around the eyes. We have government programs for this Country that state: "No child to go hungry at night". We have all been conditioned to understand that hunger is something to fight or to be avoided at all costs. We have learned this lesson well and take it to heart in our diets. Consequently, when we feel hungry we, in our affluence, eat all we want and get rid of our hunger. I was talking to a lady the other day and listened to her complain about how her diet was not working. She has been dieting for almost a year and she had lost only two pounds. She wanted to lose forty, and looked it. When I asked if she was serious about losing weight she assured me she was. I inquired if she went to bed hungry, and she said she never goes to bed hungry. "I always eat when I get hungry" she said. She was honestly surprised when I said: "Why do you do that?" She said everybody eats when they are hungry. Here is a woman that completely misunderstands hunger and I am sure she is one of many. I decided to take her under my wing. I told her hunger is a signal from your body to tell you that if you do not eat soon it will begin to take stored fat for the energy it needs. Consequently, for a dieting person, this is a good sign. It says that an opportunity is at hand to fulfill the intellectual desire to lose weight. By eating, at this point, she is subverting her plan to lose weight. Her face lost all movement and she just stared at me. Finally she said: "I never heard anything about this before. Why didn't somebody tell me this years ago?" I pushed on, and said she probably ate her meals until she was full, and to this she admitted she did. My suggestion that she leave the table hungry did not surprise her, she had heard that before. She said: "My neighbor has told me to do that but it just seemed silly to me when I have some food in my plate and I know I can eat more." This told me she was a "plate cleaner" another problem for a dieter. So I unloaded the following rules on her: 1) Use a small diner plate 2) Use a tea spoon to put food into your plate 3) Do not let one food touch another food in your plate, leave spaces between 4) Take small bites when eating, chew well 5) Drink some water with the meal 6) Slow your eating so that you are the last one to finish 7) Never go back for seconds 8) Make desert eating a rare occurrence, and then only a small amount. I told her that if she followed those rules she would often feel hungry. However, in keeping with her desire to lose weight, hunger was good. By not eating when hungry her body would begin to utilize stored fat for metabolism, thus losing the desired weight. The feeling of hunger then signals an opportunity to lose weight. The major question arises: "Can you focus on your intellectual goal to lose weight, or, will you give in the body hunger you sense?" I had to leave for another class but I could see she was amazed by what she had heard. If I see her again I will update everyone.