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Volume 16, Issue 6 - February 7 - February 13, 2008

My Style of Supping

Where I do — and don’t — draw the line

Man and the animals are merely a passage and a channel for food, a tomb for the dead, giving life by the death of others, a coffer full of corruption.

–Leonardo da Vinci: The Notebooks, 1508-1518

So much for the original Renaissance man. Had I not read the above words, I would have pictured Leonardo in the vein of a rotund Oscar Wilde, dining and drink gaily with intelligentsia of his time, then following the repast with a long clay pipe and repartee worthy of any journal.

One who writes of food as he did in his notebooks has to be a bachelor, which he was. Was he so consumed inventing, illustrating and painting that, like Scrooge, at day’s end he donned a nightcap, then sat down to a bowl of gruel?

Much as curiosity gnaws within me, I’m not about to explore the subject beyond what’s already done, certainly not within his journals can the search of a recipe be recommended. For such I could surely turn to the scribbled notes of Wilde, who knew how to eat and drink — and make doing so the high point of any day. Or James Beard, who invented more culinary delights than Leonardo did in other fields including flight, engines and mechanics. Leonardo’s probably best known for the Mona Lisa, but with his views on food, perhaps his Last Supper serves him better.

I dare say one supper with him would be my last. Being a passage for food ain’t my style. Can you imagine what life would be like if you ate only to live. No pause in the day for either meal or snack? What a dreary existence.

Cans and Can’ts

For more than 25 years I have been diabetic, a Type 2 diabetic with a heart bypass history. It didn’t take me very long to learn that if I enjoyed a particular food, it probably wasn’t good for me. The higher it was on my list of favorites, the lower it was on the index of acceptable foods made up by a clone of da Vinci.

Obviously, I’m not one who lives to eat, though neither can it be said I eat to live. I would say there’s much I don’t eat so I can continue living. But I do draw a line, which at times I have been known to go beyond, especially with desserts. Custards, puddings, chocolate chip cookies, fruitcakes, German chocolate cakes, cream puffs, brownies with nuts, blueberry or raspberry pies, Bing cherry ice cream and éclairs are on my can’t-say-no-to list. Sometimes, I ask for smaller portions; always I take more units of insulin to help compensate.

Among entrees, ham, hotdogs, liver, sweetbreads, shad roe, lobster in drawn butter, fish ’n’ chips, ribs, prime rib and hamburgers draw frowns from my cardiologist: too much fat or salt. Other things high on the no-no list include pickles, relishes, good cheeses, peanut butter, brown gravy and the hot skin of a baked turkey or chicken, stuffing, salted codfish and Boston mackerel and olives — and certainly not a real dry martini with them. What’s left you’ll find on a hospital patient’s restricted menu, though I must admit that in recent years, there seem to have been as many advances in hospital food as in treatments. There are better ways to eat out, though on the whole I’d rather eat in.

When eating out, you tend to go beyond the limits of what would be on the table at home. After all, restaurant dining is often an occasion: birthday, anniversary, special holiday, payback or recognition of an achievement. Or perhaps the cook of the household is tied up with something else, or just too worn out to prepare another meal. Whatever your reason, restaurant eating is full of incentives: aromas, illustrations of specialties on the menu, a recommendation from the waitress, a friend’s suggestion or a chance to eat high on the hog without a big cleanup job.

Doggie bags are one of the greatest advancements in dining out since the fork — though asking for one until they were fully accepted was somewhat embarrassing to many. Methinks that on a typical Saturday night or Sunday dinner 30 years ago, more doggie bags went out of eateries than were dogs in the nation. Now, asking for one is a compliment to the chef.

The worst advancement in dining out came when they put little wheels on carts upon the tops of which the chef piles pies, cakes and so many sweets the names of which I can’t pronounce. One whose appetite is already sated can no longer say no. Previous to the first of this month, smokers could easily decline: Pull a cigarette from the pack, have it lighted by a waiter and puff away.

Health-wise, I wonder which is worse: the smoke from a smoke or all that sugar and sweetness on the dessert tray. To me — and I’m sure with many others — a relaxing smoke following the entrée caps the perfect meal. Desserts go in doggie bags. One of the main reasons I prefer to eat at home is when the last lamb chop is gone from the plate, I want my pipe and the contentment of puffing away. It beats by a hair my favorite dessert, bread pudding, even with raspberry preserves.

Out on the Town: Burton Picks

But as I have a wife, a time is quickly approaching when eating in is out. On Valentine’s Day, if I eat in, I eat alone as Leonardo must have done. I could fill every tabletop with yellow roses, but to wife Lois, it wouldn’t be the day of St. Valentine unless we ate out. Period. End of discussion.

For that holiday and our anniversary in June, we usually go to the Sunset in Glen Burnie, a nice restaurant with solid and very tasty foods, a long list of entrees and one of the best salads anywhere. Or it could be Garry’s Grill or the Woodfire in Severna Park, Lewnes’ or Boatyard Bar & Grill in Eastport or Jalapeños in Annapolis. If I’m just hungry, no special occasion, I’ve found any of the Double TT Diners a place I will get so much good food that a doggie bag will be needed.

If granddaughter Grumpy is along, it’s easy: Cheeburger Cheeburger and their splendid milk shakes that take one back to the days of soda fountains. Or any Japanese restaurant that has on its menu seaweed salad.

In the doggie bag department, keep Miss Piggy in mind. She says, Never eat more than you can carry. Enough said.

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