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 www.ronsinger.net.
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.
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).
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.”
to worry, Billy.”
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.
where’s the waitress? They do serve food here, don’t
“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.
spring, hyporheic, or aquifer?” he asked. Billy looked puzzled,
which was good. I meant for the dining experience to unsettle
please,” I said.
go with the hyper-whatchamacallit.”
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.
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.
is this sh . . .!” Bill said, scanning his papers. “Don’t
you assh . . . people believe in privacy? Where did you get this
sh . . ?”
at my own papers, which contained exactly what the blogs had led
me to expect:
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 . . . ”
mind!” Bill interrupted, struggling to keep his temper.
“Just bring me a large cheeseburger with fries and a double
sorry, sir, but we . . . ”
. . don’t have any of those?” Bill interrupted again.
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?”
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).
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.
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.
Bill, sorry,” I said.
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).
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
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.