A Square Meal:

Don’t believe all they tell you about nutrition. People with high blood pressure are urged to avoid red meat and live longer. In my estimation if they give it up entirely their life may not really be longer, but it will seem like it.

I interpret on Tuesday mornings at a clinic between healthcare providers and Hispanics. That may sound like an oxymoron, unless I explain that it’s a Free Clinic. We are all volunteers. It’s a misconception that people in this country don’t care about healthcare as long as they are getting it. 400 of us in this practice care enough to give up one morning or afternoon a week to make it happen.

A hospital interpreter would earn $90 a week for what I do for love. I offered my services at the hospital but they turned me down for ‘incorrect use of the gerund’. I don’t even know what the gerund is but I’ve spoken Spanish fluently for fifty years and can translate precisely whether that pain is a dull ache or a tickle, piercing, stinging, burning, cramp or occasional. I may not be medically trained, but if they mention the heart, liver or kidneys I simply run my mental eye down a restaurant menu and I know the terms for offal.

my plate food groupsThe nutritionist who advises people suffering from diabetes or obesity has plastic examples of a correct portion of the right food values. For example, a portion of rice is about half a cup and in my opinion, not worth cooking. They are allowed a larger helping of broccoli but while they’re at it, why not eat a generous amount considering broccoli is good for you? That’s what I do. Most portions are half a fist in size. They depress me to look at them. A portion from each food group (protein, vegetables, carbohydrate) on a plate in those quantities would not add up to a square meal. The patients look predictably glum. They need their food: most of them have laborious jobs in the chicken processing plant and you can’t do that on half a cup of rice. They probably go home and make themselves a Spanish omelette (3 eggs, fried potatoes and a little garlic) for a bit of comfort.

I notice that the nutritionist who obviously takes her own advice (and has a sedentary job), is skinny to the point where I would send her for a blood test in case she has a wasting disease. I on the other hand could have spent twenty years enquiring ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ if I gave a damn.

My philosophy is: Moderation in All Things. I am not about to give up ribeye steak even if it means I die six months earlier. I don’t want to go to my maker thinking ‘That looks inviting but I shouldn’t.’ I’m a good cook and every day I say to myself ‘Oh, that was delicious.’ I also eat Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate every day, but only one or two squares. People say you shouldn’t drink alone. But anyone is welcome to join me in a glass of Chardonnay. I’m not about to give up alcohol because there’s no one else here.

I’m not as reckless as I sound. For the purpose of this article I weighed the piece of steak I had bought, cut up, frozen in individual portions and then resurrected on demand and it was 3.5 ounces. Taste is everything: it permeated the three mushrooms and half a parsnip sliced and fried in olive oil in the same pan. A little boiled cabbage with nutmeg (no butter) contains so few calories, I felt virtuous. I’d have made the steak ‘au poivre’ but this generally implies cream. I eschewed the cream and just enjoyed the poivre.

I hope to calculate it finely so as I approach the Pearly Gates I’ll reflect that I enjoyed my food, but not to the point where I couldn’t fit into a size 18. In Heaven there will be an enticing menu and it won’t be fattening. I hope I can help with the cooking rather than the washing up.

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Eileen Dight

Eileen Dight

Eileen Dight is a retired British specialist on trading in Spain, now resident in Ireland. Spanish- and French- speaking, graduate (at 46) of International Politics and History; former editor, interpreter and fundraiser. Her five sons and twelve grandchildren live in four different Time zones around the world. She has lived in England, Wales, Spain, France and Virginia, North America for 11 years. In 2012 she self-published her memoir Plate Spinner and Only Joking, 200 pages of collected jokes categorized for easy reference, as well as What’s On My Mind, her first 50 essays published in Like The Dew. All available on Amazon.com.