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Vol. 18, No. 6, 2019
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Robert J. Lewis
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This satire joins others by Ron Singer targeting food faddism, including the twice-published “Technicolor Meal” and “The Eating Variations,” set to music by Rob Paterson. Some of Singer's food writings are included in two forthcoming collections of his work, Gravy and The Promised End (Uncolicited Press, 2019 & 2020). For details, please visit

Yadda yadda,” said Bill, my sister ‘s husband. Of average build (like me), Amy was worried about Bill’s obesity. What I had read on foodie blogs led me to believe that this unique restaurant might prove more effective than her nagging and lectures.

It was my first visit to Healthy Options, and I had already noticed several differences from other restaurants. The formica tabletops were immaculate and completely bare: no napkins, paper or cloth, and no mats or tablecloths (mold spores). Nor were there any pre-appetizers, such as bread and butter, or olive oil (fat, calories), or condiments, such as ketchup (corn syrup, diabetes, weight gain), mustard (acid reflux), or mayo (god forbid). And, finally, no cutlery, whether silver or stainless steel (allergic dermatitis), chopsticks (gastric cancer, infectious diseases, such as H-pylori), or plastic (which, according to one recent Swedish study, is linked to asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis, at least in children). Instead, on each table stood a small spray bottle, sealed, of course, and presumably containing a dose of epinephrine (of dubious sanitizing value: soap and water work better).

“What’s with this place?” Bill complained. “Where is everything? The napkins, silverware? Are we supposed to eat with our hands? And no bread while we’re waiting? This joint looks more like an operating room than a restaurant. And the name makes it sound like a health food store.”

“Not to worry, Billy.”

I’m good at guessing people’s weight. Since he is about 5’10”, and has a medium frame, my guess was that my brother-in-law tipped the scales at around 210, maybe even 215. Amy was right to be worried. Since they were both in their mid- forties, Bill’s obesity had entered the now-or-never phase. BTW, my invitation had specified that I would be picking up the tab, even though the blog where I discovered Healthy Options made it clear we would not escape for under $125 apiece.

“And where’s the waitress? They do serve food here, don’t they?”

“They call them ‘servers,’ nowadays, Billy,” I pointed out.
According to the blogs, the choices would be cutlery made from nickel-free alloys or, yes, hands, but surgically scrubbed, and then inserted into surgical gloves. I didn’t think I should tell him this, so I just hemmed and hawed. I was saved by the server, who approached our table bearing . . . nothing. This server was a slender young male dressed in a loose-fitting beige shirt, pants that I assumed were made from unbleached cotton, and natural-fiber sandals, also beige. Since it was summer, he wore no socks.

“Groundwater, spring, hyporheic, or aquifer?” he asked. Billy looked puzzled, which was good. I meant for the dining experience to unsettle him.

“Spring, please,” I said.

“For you, sir?”

“I’ll go with the hyper-whatchamacallit.”

The server disappeared into the kitchen and, a moment later, emerged carrying two small, identical-looking glasses of water and a large manila folder. He set one of the glasses in front of me, the other in front of Bill. I sipped mine; he drained his.

“Ah, Chateau de Tap, 2019,” Bill pronounced, licking his lips. Without responding, the server handed each of us a sheath of papers from the folder. I could have sworn he was trying not to smile as he awaited Bill’s reaction.

“What is this sh . . .!” Bill said, scanning his papers. “Don’t you assh . . . people believe in privacy? Where did you get this sh . . ?”

I glanced at my own papers, which contained exactly what the blogs had led me to expect:

“Salad Course,” I read. “Cucumbers, lettuce, celery (undressed).
Diagnosis: acid reflux.
primi: buckwheat noodles (3 oz.)
Diagnosis: DNA suggests family propensity to obesity. Given that the diner’s height-weight-body-type profile falls within normal parameters, this is strictly precautionary.

I would save the rest for later, surprise myself. Bill’s mouth had fallen open. While we were reading, the server had disappeared into the kitchen, and he now returned bearing my salad and a small pile of what looked like frizzy blond hair. Both were served on small brownish-orange plates that I recognized as wheat bran. To Bill’s apparent relief, the server also presented us with two sets of cutlery (presumably nickel-free). No surgical gloves.

Bill read aloud from his menu: “Mung bean sprouts (1/2 oz.), served on small wheat-bran plate. Reduces obesity and the multiple risks attendant to high blood pressure, while providing essential nutrients such as folate, copper and magnesium, in all of which the diner is markedly deficient.”

“Thanks a lot,” he spluttered, but then appetite prevailed. Eschewing the cutlery, he seized the plate and devoured half the sprouts -- and half the plate. With sprouts protruding from both sides of his mouth, as he masticated them, he looked like a young zoo elephant working on a load of hay.

Not bad,” he said.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” I admonished. Reaching for the spray bottle, I cleansed my hands and started in on my own salad -- also using my hands. Like Queen Victoria, I did not like to show up my dining companions.

As he finished his salad with one more big bite, Bill assumed a sly expression. “I think I get it now, Fred,” he said. “Healthy Options. In Spades.” And looking over his shoulder toward the kitchen, into which the server had again disappeared, he called, “Bring on the next course, Sonny -- and the next insult.” Turning back to me, he added, “Let me guess. Rabbit pellets?”

“Ha ha,” I said, lifting another handful of greens toward my mouth. It occurred to me that I, too, may have looked like a zoo animal, but a smaller one, such as a tapir or an aardvark. “No need to guess, Bill. It’s all there on your carte du jour.”

“My medical report, you mean.” He turned to his sheet again, but before he could start reading, the server reappeared, this time carrying two medium-sized bran bowls. One contained my buckwheat noodles; the other, a smaller portion of something I did not recognize. It was a small, squiggly pasta that appeared to be wearing a hearing aid. Neither did Bill recognize his primi. “What’s this?” he asked, with a fairly straight face.

“As it says on your Carte, sir,” the server sneered, “for your primi, our dietiticians have selected a two-ounce portion of high-protein, low carbohydrate, campanelle. This option addresses issues of . . . ”

“Never mind!” Bill interrupted, struggling to keep his temper. “Just bring me a large cheeseburger with fries and a double chocolate shake.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but we . . . ”

“. . . don’t have any of those?” Bill interrupted again.

“Well, actually, we do have them,” the server replied, also starting to lose it. “But not for diners like you. High-calorie, high-fat items are reserved for those who . . . ”

“. . . suffer from anorexia,” Bill interjected. “But why this choice of pasta? Is it Lo-Cal, or something?”

“Correct, sir. Compared to other shapes, such as linguine, penne or spaghetti, campanelle has a higher chewing-to-calory ratio. This enables the diner to . . .

“ . . . work off the calories even as he consumes them.” Bill was a quick study. As soon as he finished saying this, he tore off a huge bite, bowl and all. Two more and, as the server and I looked on in horror, Bill’s pasta was gone. (I had not even started on min).

Pushing himself up from the table, his mouth still full, he said, “I’ll skip the secondi and the dolce, thanks. I’m full.” And he stalked out of the restaurant. Not bothering with my own pasta, I apologized and paid the large bill (adding a compensatory tip). Then, I rushed from the restaurant, hoping my brother-in-law would not yet be gone.

As I flew through the front door, I noticed the Health Department notice on the front-window: PENDING. In the excitement of the impending occasion, I must have missed the notice on my way in. Then, I realized I had also forgotten the second reason for which I had invited my brother-in-law to lunch.

“Sorry, Bill, sorry,” I said.

“No big whoops, Freddie. It was sort of funny.” For all his failings, Bill is a good sport. Who knows? In years to come, he might even recall our visit to Healthy Pleasures as a didactic practical joke played by his passive-aggressive brother-in-law. (And I am a “didact” -- a teacher, that is).

“By the way, Bill, Amy wanted me to mention that she’s worried about money. You know, the money you lose at the track . . . ” He had been a racetrack bum for decades. Soon after they had met, he had told her this, but she later confided that she had naively chosen to regard her then-slender, handsome hipster-suitor as “Runyonesque.”

“Oh, that,” he said, with a disarming smile. “Well, tell her to stop worrying, I don’t go to the track, anymore. No one does.” Why didn’t I feel reassured? Probably because I had recently read an article about online pari-mutuel gambling. “Oh, and thanks for the lunch, Fred.” (“Such as it was,” he added, sotto voce.) We shook hands and went our separate ways.


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