Category Archives: Food

New Year’s diet

I’m struggling with the diet my wife and I started after New Year’s. It’s only day 4 today, but the first week is always the worst, because that’s when you kick the sugar habit. Eating too much sugar is a life-long bad habit for me, ever since childhood, when I could eat everything I wanted and not gain a pound.

Weaning yourself off sugar (or caffeine, for that matter) does make you ask why you became so dependent on it in the first place. I haven’t read that much about what experts say about “comfort” eating or “emotional” eating, but the sense I have is that they are ways to find a quick, super easy way to feel better.

Of course, the real point is that there are more lasting, reliable ways to feel better, and most of these involve doing something worthwhile like helping someone else or helping yourself by eating right and exercising. Like most things that are worthwhile, these take more work than eating out of a vending machine.

Which takes me back to the first week of a diet. I find that I go into mourning for snack foods that I love (“I wish I had a black and white cookie.” “I wish I had a piece of chocolate cake.”) Then, the further into it I get, the more I admit to myself that I will appreciate being fit and in shape, and I will also appreciate not being controlled and hypnotized by processed, fatty foods.

Smokers say that after they quit smoking, they get to the point where they can really taste their food, and the same thing is true to a lesser degree with eating less junk food. All of the fresh vegetables start to taste delicious. I’m not allowed much fruit in the first week of this diet, but the fruit I am allowed (a tablespoon of raisins, a dried apricot) taste like candy.

There is a metaphor in this, that giving up quick, empty joys clears the way for you to notice deeper, more substantial joys. In three weeks, this will make me really happy.

For today, I am clinging to the fact that I have lost 2.5 pounds, and I get to eat a little applesauce for a snack later today.


We arrived in Palm Desert, California, yesterday for the Thanksgiving long weekend. Our daughter is playing in a field hockey tournament. I’ve written before that I love life on vacation, probably most of us do. Something about discovering new people and experiences gives me a shift in perspective that reminds me to be on the lookout for experiences to appreciate.

One of the best things about it is that my wife and I travel exceptionally well together. On the road, I have a better sense of how to accommodate her and make her life easier. Here, as always, she also encourages me to strike out on my own and enjoy myself.

This morning I walked up the street to a hotel where we ate last night. I had seen they had a nice fitness center, and I hoped to buy a day pass. When I got there at 6:00 this morning, the attendant at the fitness center, a really nice woman from the Indian reservation on which the hotel sits, apologized and told me that they only allow hotel guests. So I asked her whether there was another gym close by, and she told me there was a really nice one just a short drive away.

I walked back to the hotel, took the car, and drove to the new 24 Hour Fitness in Indio, California. It was the nicest gym I can remember using. It’s only been open 3 weeks, so it is state of the art and super clean. The staff there were exceptionally helpful, and I had a tremendous workout. I’ve felt great all day.

Last night was just the same. Some of the team parents, the coach of the club, and half the girls went to the hotel buffet next door. There were 18 of us, and we had an all you can eat dinner. Not only was the food outstanding, shockingly great, but the head chef came to the table when he heard there was a high school team in the restaurant. He thanked them personally for coming to the restaurant, and he wished them good luck in the tournament. When we left, he waited for us at the door and thanked us again.

The entire team and I have been thrilled with how well we have been treated by everyone. It is just great how friendliness begets more friendliness. It is already a marvelous Thanksgiving.

Nostalgia (Soda Pop)

Today’s edition of “All Things Considered” on NPR featured a story on John Nese’s store in Los Angeles, called Galco’s Soda Pop Stop. Nese inherited the store from his father and now stocks over 500 types of hard-to-find soda pop. He carries a brand of root beer made from sasparilla bark, and he even carries rose petal soda, which he imports from Romania.

Not only is this my favorite kind of radio feature story, shedding light on a particularly unusual and whimsical slice of American life, it took me back to the product attachment I used to have as a child. Items that resonate in this way include Chuckles candies and Necco Wafers, cotton candy, Stan Mikita hockey helmets, Eskimo Pie mint ice cream bars, and Schwinn bicycles. Chuckles and Necco Wafers hold a special spot because we used to stop at Ada’s Penny Candy on the way home from church with my father every Sunday. He bought the Sunday New York Times there, even though we subscribed for home delivery every other day of the week. Ada wrote every regular customer’s last name on the copies of the paper in black grease pencil. The candy was the real reason my dad bought his paper there, though he loved Ada and served with her on a town political committee.

I am a product marketer’s dream. When a particular product establishes a place in my memory and my life, it stays there forever. So when I was in the Phoenix Airport last month, I was thrilled to come across a kiosk that sold Chuckles and other throwback candies. I could even remember, 25 years after I ate my last packet of the fruit jellies, in which order I always ate them, from least favorite to most: green, orange, red, yellow, black.

The radio story captured my imagination not only because I loved the idea of seeing all of these unusual sodas in one place, but also because I couldn’t imagine the business sense behind making an obscure soda in a very small operation with such narrow distribution that no one has ever heard of it. There is only one reason to invest in making a product like this: you want to connect with a person like me.

I can’t wait to go. Please listen to the story. If you ever go to L.A., please visit the store and let me know how it was. Here’s the link, if you want to buy online. You can buy old fashioned candies, including Chuckles, there too. Yum.