Friday, May 23, 2008

BEST OF: Fry attack

Most of us at least make a stab or two at trying to eat correctly, doing our low-cal, low-fat, high-exercise penance for past indiscretions. But sometimes, after an angelic breakfast of orange juice and cereal with fat-free milk or yogurt, I’ll get a major munchie attack about half-past lunch.

That’s especially true if I’m driving past JJ’s or the grill, and catch a whiff of crisp, hot French fries, right out of the fryer. Yes, I know they’re empty calories, coronary arrest lurking in a greasy little white paper bag. But that aroma can be so seductive that some days, it’s almost impossible to drive past the parking area.

When I’m really hungry and know I’ll be heading past those seductive scents, I’ve even tried distracting myself with peppermint lotion under my nostrils. Trust me: peppermint-laced fried potatoes will never challenge deep-fried Twinkies, which also sound like a culinary nightmare.

Recently, I gave in to the siren of the fryer, deluding myself with the thought that I’d avoided a French-fry binge for weeks. And, according to Julia Child (not to mention various dietary behavior-modification gurus), if you really, really want to eat something, you’re supposed to go ahead and eat it, in moderation.

“Don’t try to eat on the cheap,” they say, or you’ll wind up eating everything in sight to compensate for what you really want. It’s like a “Cathy” cartoon from hell, come to life.

You know what I mean. When you’re really craving a Linn’s éclair, Sugar-Free Jell-O just won’t do. Fat-free yogurt’s good, but it’s not a French Corner Bakery tart or one of Caren’s Corner’s sundaes. Celery’s a joke unless it’s filled with cream cheese or peanut butter, or sautéed in butter with onions for a rich turkey stuffing. And rice cakes make good building blocks for a tiny granddaughter. But lunch?

So there I was, decadence personified, searing my hands by snatching the first few blazing-hot fries out of the bag.

I dug around in the bag for the catsup packets, each the size of two plump, side-by-side stamps and holding a tablespoon or so of the spicy condiment. Aha! Found ‘em.

The trick is getting the catsup out of a packet.

“Tear here,” said the tiny printing near the ridged top edge of the packet.


I squeezed my grease-slicked right thumb and forefinger together at the “tear here” mark on the catsup packet. But the minute I tried to pull the other edge with my left hand, my right hand would lose its grip.

It was like trying to hold onto a raw egg white with your fingers spread apart, pry the pit out of an extra-ripe avocado, or grab a wary, soapy 2-year old out of the bathtub.

There in the middle of the sidewalk, my options were few. Those packets are made from well-disguised chain mail. I had no scissors in my pocket, no Swiss Army knife in the glove compartment.

Bite it open? Don't think so. I already pay my dentist far too much money to try that maneuver.

I had this vivid vision of having a catsup temper tantrum, putting the packet on the pavement and stomping up and down on it. But just think of the mess I’d have made and, what’s worse, there wouldn’t have been any catsup left.

By now, I was back at the office, and my fries were cold. Yuk. Cold fries rank right up there with chilled Cream of Wheat, or a warm Dove bar. So I threw the whole mess away, and stalked off in a hungry huff.

Later, I figured it out. The Zone Diet and Weight Watchers conspired to invent the catsup packet. It’s cut-proof, tear-proof and meal-proof … on purpose. It’s behavior modification, whether you want it or not.

I’d say thank you to them for their diet assistance, but I really, really wanted those fries.

Next time? I’ve got it all figured out. I’ll just take along my own little bottle of catsup. Have Heinz, will travel.

This column ran May 1, 2003, in The Cambrian.

No comments: