The burger I had for dinner last night was a beef patty sitting between two giant roasted mushroom caps instead of the buns God intended. And then tonight, tiny bits of cauliflower tried to do the job of the rice that should have been in the stir-fry.
Yep, I sighed my relief too soon when my household made it a whole month past the year-end food fests without anyone falling into a trendy diet.
To be fair, that might not have a been a sigh so much as a labored attempt to squeeze a good, deep breath past a belt that’s been considerably tighter these days, so maybe it wasn’t entirely bad when my wife said she was starting a month-long diet a couple weeks ago.
That meant so was I, like it or not.
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When either she or I decide to go on diet (the “I” part being entirely theoretical), we’re both on the diet, and our poor boys are probably along for the ride, too. That’s because if the dieter is going to be cooking — no matter how much more bland than our usual fare it promises to be — it’s a whole lot easier to pull up a plate than break out a new mess of pots and pans.
The trouble is the diet my wife picked is the Whole 30, a program that the creator summarizes with a tidy paragraph of two short do’s followed by a list of eight detailed don’ts.
I’m no good with eating restrictions, as my kids have pointed out when I slip our dog something off my plate despite the “no begging at the table” rule that we occasionally remember to enforce.
I blame my upbringing.
When I was little, it wasn’t unusual for me to polish off a plate of ketchup-covered pancakes, get sent outside to open a can of beer for the horse and then pack a mustard and lettuce sandwich for lunch at the beach. It was delicious to me (and the horse), but they were all abominations that any rule-following household would have banned.
Whole 30 doesn’t have any good loopholes I can take advantage of, though — or at least none I could find in the minute it took me to decide to just chisel my own into the program.
I call the result the Whole 360 diet.
Instead of resting in a soft bun, my burger’s free to lie between massive mushrooms (a substitution that far outstrips the original, I had to grudgingly admit). But then I’m free to spin 360 degrees and add whatever looks good onto my plate.
On burger night, it was chips made with delicious, forbidden enriched corn meal. Stir-fried cauliflower “rice” the next day? Fine, just let me turn around and find soy sauce to perk up the soy-free meal.
After dinner, I’m happy to help plan the next few grain-free meals as soon as I turn to grab a good, malty beer.
Surprisingly, it’s working out better than I expected. Not as good as it is for my wife, who’s actually playing by the rules. But my belt’s already noticeably looser, and there’s half the 30 days still to go.
I guess it vindicates food writer Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
But more important, it says there’s room in this world for a guy who’s breaking the rules to score a real win sometimes.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at email@example.com.