By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
The other day I was slumped over the kitchen counter, fork in hand, eating a Costco pumpkin pie straight out of the container. It started innocently enough – I bought the pie on my weekly trip to Costco for purely scientific reasons. Thanksgiving is at our house this year so I wanted to make sure that Costco’s pumpkin pie was up to snuff. A pinch too much nutmeg or a surplus of cinnamon can throw off the whole dinner. So really, it was in everyone’s best interest that I officially test it out. Of course, I’ve been buying the pumpkin pie at Costco for about ten years and it has remained amazingly consistent. But still…you never know when some genius is going to mess with the recipe. Think “new coke”.
When I brought it home my husband’s eyes lit up – pumpkin pie is his favorite. We each had a piece that day and again the following day. Then the paragon of virtue that I’m married to says, “Well, I’ve had enough. You can throw the rest of it out.”. THROW IT OUT?? I was stuck with a dilemma that would have tested Solomon. Throw out more than half of a perfectly good pie or, on behalf of all the starving children in China that I heard so much about growing up, save it for another day – or two. Being the good Samaritan that I am, I opted for the latter. So that’s how I found myself at the kitchen counter eating pie. At first I just cut the tiniest of slivers but then the pie was uneven, so I had to cut a bit more from the other side. Which of course was not at all even so then I had to go back to the first side to even it up. Before I knew it, I had eaten a quarter of the pie. But at least it was symmetrical by the time I was finished. Don’t judge – I know you’ve all been there.
As I waddled away from the kitchen I began to feel guilty about my gluttony. I calculated how many hours I was going to have to spend on the treadmill to make a dent in my caloric intake. Apparently I would have to walk for three days. And then it struck me – why are we the generation that feels so darn guilty about food? I thought about my parents and my in-laws – all four of them lived very long lives. I don’t think any of then ever worried about eating too much. In fact I think the only time they worried about food was when they didn’t have enough. To them, the worst sin was when a hostess served “skimpy” portions. They never heard of gluten-free, cleansing, cardio workouts, sat fat, vegan diets or a gym. Truth be told, I’d venture that the only “gym” they got near was Jim Beam.
I think my relatives were pretty reflective of that entire generation. Maybe it was the deprivation of the Great Depression or the sacrifices they made during the war, but they didn’t seem to obsess about food and exercise the way we Boomers do. They were the Greatest Generation not only because of all they accomplished, but because they also perfected the sour cream/onion dip and knew how to make a splendid Manhattan highball. When I think about the Thanksgiving tables of my childhood there was no non-fat gravy or “skinny” mashed potatoes made with cauliflower. No, we had creamed corn, jello molds, and stuffing loaded with sausage. Our pies were topped with real whipped cream – and lots of it. In fact one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is brother Bob and I taking the bowl of whipped cream and embarking in a food fight at the table. And no, we weren’t little kids. We were both in our 30’s . It’s possible we had consumed a bit too much wine. But back to my point – our parents lived long lives despite their love of fatty foods and arm chairs.
So what was their secret? It’s probably not practical to come up with just one hypothesis for an entire generation so I’ll stick with my own family. When I think about my dad and my mother-in-law in particular they both were just a little plump, they both loved a good party, they both loved to eat and they both enjoyed a daily cocktail. Sometimes more than one. More importantly, they were two of the most happy, fun, positive people I ever met. They were too busy enjoying life to let a few calories get in their way. And, no surprise, everyone enjoyed being around them too. And why not? They were either eating, drinking or laughing. Not a bad way to go through life.
After giving this some thought I’ve decided that just having a positive attitude is the best recipe for growing old. So this week on my trip to Costco I’m going to pick up the apple pie. Purely for testing, of course. And when my disciplined husband has had his fill, I will happily slump over the counter and eat the rest. I’m calling it “The Greatest Generation Diet”.