Sitting down to write this column at 9:00 p.m. Sunday evening, I reach for a bite of my dinner. It’s a half a bagel—not just any bagel, but a crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-doughy-on-the-inside, yummy monster of a sesame bagel made fresh this morning in the bagel capitol of the world (northern New Jersey) and lovingly brought to my house for brunch today by my mom, who wholeheartedly believes that one major way she shows me love is making sure I’m very well fed.
That bagel is toasted and carefully spread with a generous schmear of scallion cream cheese and a half-inch thick slice of tomato. Sadly it’s winter, so it’s not a fresh Jersey tomato, but I think to myself that it counts as my vegetable so it’s healthy and thus I’ll deal with the lesser substitute.
I take a bite.
Mmmmm, just like it used to taste when I was growing up, getting bagels from . Same great flavors as when it was my breakfast meal of choice on the walk from my college apartment to class in the morning. Same satisfying mouthful as my daily breakfast living in New York City during the early part of my career. It’s been my Sunday brunch staple since I can remember.
How many healthy pitfalls and nutritional neuroses can you count in those opening paragraphs?
I love most foods, most especially the ones that are probably not the best for me in this part of my life. I like fatty foods, processed foods, butter-heavy sauces and calorie-laden cookies and cakes. I am an emotional eater, and a lazy, exercise-avoider, and for someone on the cusp of 45, I know the forgiveness my body has shown me in the past – not just the cosmetic, external part of me, but the interior part that my life depends on – isn’t what it used to be.
Truth be told, I need to start a group called “Cheese Addicts Anonymous.” Put just about any kind of cheese on a plate, and I’ll be there. Swiss, brie, Roquefort, mozzarella, aged gouda, cheddar, cream and cottage, stilton, feta, chevre, gorgonzola—even port wine (pregnancy craving) and the variety that comes in a can (I was 10). It doesn’t help that I’m married to a Frenchman; basically we included “honoring your choice of cheese” in our wedding vows.
There’s no such thing as moderation when it comes to this most delectable of dairy dishes. Take a day just a week or so ago. We were skiing with friends, and my husband and I collaborated and conspired with another couple to prepare the perfect après ski meal: raclette. Both the Swiss and the French share responsibility for this amazing culinary tradition. Raclette—a hearty, pungent raw cow’s milk cheese—is melted under the heat of a grill, and just as it reaches its most gooey, melted point, is poured over potatoes, charcuterie meats and cornichons . Oh. My. Gawd!
Thankfully our co-conspirators had brought up half a wheel of raclette that probably weighed close to eight pounds. The eight adults didn’t finish the whole wedge o’ wonder, but I’m betting I polished off about a pound of cheese myself. I know I didn’t ski it off either on the days of skiing that followed.
This week marks the start of the “Game On! Wilton Style” lifestyle and diet competition, based on the Game On book and trend that followed its publication. After I ran my first column introducing the idea, close to two dozen brave readers have signed on to play our game and try and get our lifestyles – and our booty’s – into shape.
There are great prizes at stake, including group training classes from our sponsor, PTP Personal Training Professionals of Wilton and a series class pass from Hello Yoga, as well as other things. Over the next few weeks as we play I’ll write about some of what we’re doing and about the progress we’re (hopefully) going to make.
But most importantly, what’s really at stake is our longterm health—and what it takes to make some lasting behavior changes that stand to make the difference of a lifetime.
I’m just going to have to start finding the sound of that more delicious than the taste of camembert, Havarti, Edam, Emmenthaler, Gruyere, Romano, Parmesan, marscapone…