As we sat down at the Mediterranean restaurant, I beamed at my wife.
“Why did I suggest we eat out tonight?” I asked.
“Because you love food?” she said.
“Yes, yes,” I said with a trifle irritation. “But why did I suggest this particular restaurant?”
“Because you love Mediterranean food?”
“That may be true,” I snapped, my good humour vanishing, “but it’s a stupid answer.”
“Sorry,” she said. “I thought it was the obvious answer.”
“It’s so obvious, it’s stupid. When I ask a question like that, I’m not really looking for you to answer it.” Then I shook off my irritation. After all, I thought, my wife had shown previously that she is sometimes not very perceptive. She misses the subtle nuances of conversation.
“Let’s try this again,” I continued with a smile. “Why did I suggest this particular restaurant?”
“I have no idea,” she said and smiled sweetly. “Please tell me.”
Well, she may start slowly, I thought, but she surely picks up the cue fast.
“OK,” I said. “How many times have you told me I should be eating healthier food?”
“Is this another question that you will answer?” she asked innocently.
“No, this is a normal one!” I snapped. “You answer it – how many times?”
“I can’t count that high. But most recently I told you this morning.”
“Exactly. Well, I brought you here so you could watch me eating healthy food. And of course eat some yourself,” I added generously. “I read an article today that raved about the health benefits of Mediterranean food.”
The article’s title in The New York Times had caught my attention: “Mediterranean Diet Shown to Ward off Heart Attack and Stroke”. The by-line was even more inviting because the writer, Gina Kolata, was an old friend of mind who I’ve never met. A few months ago she had written an excellent report in the same paper on the cause of obesity, in which I learnt that any fatness perceived by an observer looking at me – my wife, to pick a name at random – was not my fault but my friends’. Scientists had cited evidence suggesting fatness was contagious. I was putting on weight because I was hobnobbing with people of rotund disposition.
I had read today’s article by Kolata with interest and printed a copy to fuel this dinner conversation.
“Listen to the opening words of this article,” I said to my wife. “About 30 per cent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.” Taking a cue from my own statement I proceeded to order the wine.
Minutes later my wife remarked, “That’s olive oil, not dhal. You’re supposed to lightly touch it with bread, not soak the bread in it and eat it with a spoon.”
I smirked. “You’re wrong,” I said, my voice muffled by bread. “Olive oil is better for my health than dhal.”
“What about bread? Does the article say eat four rolls while waiting for your meal?”
“Have some nuts,” I said, changing the topic. “Excellent for preventing stroke.” She shook her head.
“On the way home,” I continued, “I plan to stop at the grocery and stock up on walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. I need to add at least 1 ounce – almost 30 grams – to my daily diet.”
I turned to the waiter to request a refilling of my wine glass and, while he was at it, the bowl of nuts. When I turned back, my wife was reading the article.
“You’re very clear,” she said, “about what you want to add to your diet. You’re also very good at this. But the article also talks about food that is not healthy. So what are you going to subtract from your diet? I’m talking about things like murukku, ice cream, cookies and yes, bread.”
She removed the bread as I was pouring olive oil on it and told the waiter to take it away.
Perhaps bringing the article with me was not such a hot idea after all. I made a note to stick to quoting memorized sentences next time.
Paddy Rangappa is a freelance writer based in Singapore.
Read more on his blog: http://theflip-side.blogspot.com© Paddy Rangappa