Chewing the Fat

I was 12 years old, and everyone else had left the dinner table twenty minutes earlier. But there I remained seated while under the baleful eye of my mother. “Keep eating it until you’re done,” she said. The “it” she referred to was a hunk of suety oleginousness; a clump of sebaceous adiposity. Or, as it is more commonly known: fat.

My mom quite honestly believed that “fat is good for you”—and therefore my siblings and I were required not only to finish every meal she laid out for us, but also every component part of it—including trimmings, stems, skins and, yes, fat.

The problem with fat—be it from beef, chicken, ham, turkey or salmon—was that I simply could not swallow it. I could chew it for hours—even days—and make less progress than a slug traveling from Tukwila to Pullman.

Big Bertha could tunnel through the planet quicker than I could ingurgitate a glob of gristle. Even a gun to the head would not speed things along.

Occasionally, if lucky enough, I would pretend to cough—launching the fatty chunk into my cupped hand and then onto the floor where I hoped the dog would gobble it up. If our family had owned a dog the ruse would have worked better.

But pet deprived I sat forlornly at the dinner table chewing away on indigestible fat lumps like a cud-chomping cow.

Cows apparently have a couple of stomachs. So ‘cud’ is food eaten earlier that then comes back into the cow’s mouth to be chewed again until going into the second stomach.
It’s like beginning to watch an episode of “Hoarders” on one TV—pausing it—and then going to another room in the house that also has a TV and resuming. Except “Hoarders” is even more disgusting than the cud thing.

In fairness, my mom may simply have been ahead of her time regarding the idea of eating a diet high in animal fat. After all, the FDA, nutritionists and just about everyone else disagrees these days about which foods are healthy.

Take butter. Please.

All of sudden, new studies say that butter might actually be good for you. And it is certainly better than those margarine substitutes. I know what you’re saying: “I can’t believe that ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ is not better than butter, but in fact butter is better than ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!”

But it turns out that butter contains cancer-fighting fats, protects against arthritis and hardening of the arteries—and helps promote a healthy brain and nervous system. That is the good news about butter—so start spreading it.

The most popular special diet these days is something called “Mediterranean.” A guy I know—eager to eat better—just found out it consists of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. He was hoping it meant spaghetti and meatballs, beef kabobs and pepperoni and cheese calzones. Hold the butter.

So what IS good for you?

Granola, right? Wrong. Most of it is loaded with sugar. On the other hand, a tablespoon of sugar contains zero granola. So go straight to the sugar, even though it’s really bad for you. My mom may have admonished us to eat our fat—but she never said; “Now you kids eat every bite of those powdered doughnuts!”

Trail mix is healthy for sure, yes? Nope. Too much sugar and calories there too. Plus more salt—and less fun—than a margarita. Experts say it would be better to bring a spoon on your hikes—and eat portions of the trail itself.

Anything that is processed is bad for you. No one is quite sure what that process is, but it’s bad. Like the political process, for example.

Perhaps you have heard about something called a “Paleo” diet. It refers to the Paleolithic period of human history. I’m not sure what the diet is about, but it sounds prehistoric—probably meaning a diet rich in insects, hyenas and fossils.

Personally, I prefer the next period—the Mesolithic—where the cuisine and selection of beverages was better. But while the Mesolithic is closer to our modern times, make no mistake about it—the Mesolithic period was extremely primitive. People had only stone axes, crude farming implements and basic cable.

Little is known of their fat consumption—but since most people back then didn’t live beyond their 30’s, their diet didn’t kill as many of them as Saber tooth tigers.

But fortunately the Mesolithic people lived in an age where the study of nutrition was unknown. Besides, they were the Dark Ages so no one could really see what they were eating anyway.

Uh-oh! Even as I finish writing this, my tongue has discovered an old piece of forgotten fat in the corner of my left gum. Luckily, my mom is not around to know.

And I DO now have a dog.