You know, for instance, how tiresome Robert is about his food. Well, last night the mutton, I am bound to say, was a little underdone, and Robert was beginning to throw it about his plate in the way he has. Well, my Guru got up and just said, ‘Show me the way to kitchen’—he leaves out little words sometimes, because they don’t matter—and I took him down, and he said ‘Peace!’ He told me to leave him there, and in ten minutes he was up again with a little plate of curry and rice and what had been underdone mutton, and you never ate anything so good. Robert had most of it and I had the rest, and my Guru was so pleased at seeing Robert pleased. He said Robert had a pure white soul, just like you, only I wasn’t to tell him, because for him the Way ordained that he must find it out for himself. And today before lunch again, the Guru went down in the kitchen, and my cook told me he only took a pinch of pepper and a tomato and a little bit of mutton fat and a sardine and a bit of cheese, and he brought up a dish that you never saw equalled. Delicious! I shouldn’t a bit wonder if Robert began breathing-exercises soon. There is one that makes you lean and young and exercises the liver.”
Queen Lucia, E. F. Benson
It requires merely a glance at television these days to see the year-end preoccupation with dieting. I guess it’s universal that the penalty of indulgence comes home to roost as we approach the New Year. For some – me included – it’s an alteration I welcome. I don’t look at it as a deprivation; rather it’s a window, a chance to regain control of an otherwise hostile environment dismissively called socializing – but which unfortunately is more often an accommodation of other peoples’ culinary choices. The equal devotion to unparalleled enjoyment succeeds to enforce habits which in retrospect we as regularly would have preferred to avoid.
I acknowledge my remonstrance has the appearance of a repentant glutton. That may be true. It’s nonetheless my perpetual ambition to do what ultimately makes me feel better – and that includes purifying my corpulence. There is naturally the competing view that for people my age it hardly matters what we eat. I mean, it’s not as though we have to get in shape for the funeral. But I honestly have my moments of good and bad, times when a wedge of cabbage is promising; others when a carrot cake with three inches of cream cheese icing has the allure of divine revelation.
Inadvertently this analysis has afforded its own enlightenment – casual though it may be by comparison; and it is this – my appetite is as mercurial as my dieting. I’ve also learned with increasing definition that I am as much driven by mood as appetite or diet. Which reminds me of the quip of Marg Campbell when she went into a local bakery. She looked dreamily at the cakes and other goodies in the display case and said, “When l’m happy, I eat. When I ‘m sad, I eat. If anything ever happened to my husband Don I’d put on so much weight, I’d be so goddamn happy!”
The truth is that when things go well I have greater control of my passions – whether hunger or restraint. It’s an anomaly frankly I’ve endured for years. Sure, I know it’s easier to be nice when you get what you want. But shit happens as the saying goes; and when it does, it tends to pull down everything in its path. And that’s when the the ribbons of conformity start to snap!
Who doesn’t confront challenges of a similar disorder from time to time? Seriously, it’s quite normal. Thankfully today was a gift of beneficence, an indisputable charm! I adore string beans! And prunes! What are you having for dinner?