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who took fun out of eatingWho invented chia seeds?

When did make-your-own salad places start asking “Do you want arugula or kale?”

Salad used to start with iceberg lettuce and end with Kraft dressing – Italian, French, Thousand Island or the enticingly exotic Seven Seas. Now I choose an extra virgin (immaculately conceived?) olive oil and add vinegar (not the clean-the-coffeepot kind): a palate-pleasing balsamic.

Would someone please tell me how raw fish and seaweed went from off-putting to delectable?  I’m with the cabbie in a 1980s film who said: “I bought some of that sushi, brought it home and cooked it.”

The same set that made sushi trendy transformed coffee drinking.  

My husband and I started our day with instant Maxwell House. My GenX children (well along the coffee-drinking “maturity path”) grind the beans, then prepare their morning brew in a pricey Breville contraption.  A natural beverages CEO notes, “Today’s coffee lovers customize their cups depending on their mood – hot or cold, sweet or strong, flavored or not.” Well, I don’t know a latte from a macchiato; both leave a milk mustache (soy, of course). I close my eyes and point to select blends for my single cup brewer.

I find it amusing that oatmeal’s the new power breakfast.  The kind I buy has flaxseeds–with blueberries (brain food) and almond milk I spring from the breakfast table ready to  go full throttle until the magic lunchtime mix of greens, feta and sunflower seeds propels me through the afternoon. Dinner?  Wild-caught Pacific salmon, lentils (!) and organic, locally grown veggies. Not the Frosted Flakes breakfast, salami sandwich lunch, and pot roast with canned peas and carrots dinner my mother served. How did I survive childhood?  With the graying of America, I anticipate more of my favorite interviews:  “What’s the secret to your longevity, Mrs. Don’t-Need-No-Doctors?”  “I fry my food in bacon grease, add plenty of salt, love sweets—especially frosted donuts—and enjoy a smoke and a shot of bourbon before bed.”

I bless and curse the nutritionist who scared me straight and took the fun out of eating. She made tofu a staple in my diet.  I don’t know what it is, it has no flavor, but I’ve learned to disguise it until I almost forget it’s there.  Breakfast? Tofu (smashed) mixed with yogurt (an item grocers didn’t carry when I was young that now takes up half the dairy aisle), organic berries, raw walnuts and yes, a generous sprinkling of CHIA SEEDS. Yum.  Better than eggs, pancakes and a side of bacon?  Well….

I grew up believing that Wonder Bread, “enriched with vitamins and minerals,” was all I’d ever need. Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob told me it built strong bodies 8 ways.  Now I eat whole wheat bread, sprouted, with seeds and nuts. Do I miss the classic PB&J?  Yes, but I make do with crunchy cashew butter and pomegranate seeds on seven grain bread.

Years ago when my Seattle hostess asked, “Are you a foodie?”  I’d never heard the term. I assumed I was not.  Today I’d get points for shopping at organic markets or the natural foods aisle and my eating preferences (sweet potatoes, yes; Idaho no; whole grain anything, yes; white flour anything, no.)  Asian restaurants? If they serve brown rice.  (See how long an Asian meal sticks to your ribs without rice. I’m barely out of the restaurant before I’m hungry again.)

My culinary education continues when I visit my son in California. He frequents farmers markets and knows how to choose among the array of mushrooms offered. (I never questioned what Campbell used in their cream of mushroom soup; I just poured it over tuna and green beans, added canned onion rings and popped it in the oven.)  I bought Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese by the case; and don’t get me started about Versatile Velveeta.   Cooking utensils?  A can opener and a spoon, big pot and strainer. My pasta maker? Chef Boyardee. When I cooked pasta I topped it with Ragu tomato sauce–pureed until the color was the only clue to its source.

Just when I think I’m riding the latest health food wave something comes along that puts me in my place.  “You’re going to love this,” my son promised, as he checked the ancient grains choices before adding faro to our grocery cart. (The ancient grains in my pantry are instant grits in a hard-to-reach spot.) Now that my generation learned to pronounce “quinoa,” is it yesterday’s news?

Don’t tell my doctor but every year after my annual physical I go off the deep end, lunching on a double cheeseburger with extra fries; dining on pepperoni pizza. Forget frozen yogurt or fruit–for dessert I feast on Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.  For that one day I relive the ignorant bliss of yesteryear.

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