Home from work the other night, I found Sheri in the kitchen working from a book called The 35-Plus Diet Cookbook. The cookbook’s pages are so yellow they’re brown, the loopy title font looks a little too disco, and the spine has been broken so often Sheri needs a rubber band to keep the pages in place. I wasn’t excited to see the book, which we once consulted nightly but has in recent years setttled near the bottom of the recipe drawer. The book reminds me of skinless chicken breasts and rice, and a time when I – a guy in his twenties – ate like a woman in her forties.
When Sheri and I met, my habit was to eat anything. Fat was best. Pizza. Hot dogs. Kielbasi. I ate enough fast-food cheeseburgers that I still moooo in my dreams.
Then comes a woman who is a bit more careful about what she eats, and she is over 35, and she has this cookbook …
And I’m eating skinless boneless chicken breasts. Baked. With rice. And a green vegetable.
A few nights later? Same thing. Substitute broccoli for asparagus.
A few nights later? Substitute green beans.
“I can’t eat more skinless boneless chicken breasts!” I’d say. “I’ll pick up a gyro.”
But then I felt guilty. Especially when Sheri would say, “Oh, get me one, too.”
Suddenly I’m the enabler. But Sheri felt guilty, too. She knew I’d rather be eating macaroni and cheese. I sacrificed for her by eating skinless and boneless; she sacrificed for me by eating a double-cheeseburger. With bacon.
It took a decade and too many of my own extra pounds to bring our eating habits in line. I cooked more often, added spices to the chicken breasts, and I figured ways to keep them a bit juicier. Sheri agreed to eat kielbasi now and then. I’ve given up fast food hamburgers.
Still, arriving home the other night to find her with that 35-plus cookbook in hand gave me the queasies. No, Sheri assured me, this is our favorite recipe. And it was! Thin slices of steak and asparagus sautéed in a goopy brown sauce. It wasn’t boring chicken!
A few bites into dinner, we agreed pizza would have been better.