The Way it Was: A little about diets, a lot of old food jokes

by John Straka Published:

The word "diet" can have many different meanings. Most of them have to do with food. Some people go on a diet to lose weight or are ordered to do so by their doctor. In such cases, the word means to restrict what the person eats, to count calories, to avoid certain foods and to eat more of certain other foods.

That word can also be used to describe what foods are eaten by people in different countries or in certain places within a country. The people of Asia live on a diet of mostly rice and fish. Mexicans eat a lot of corn. Americans live on a diet of wheat products, such as bread and pasta.

I grew up in a Bohemian neighborhood where the favorite foods were pork and dumplings with a lot of homemade bakery. I ate much more organ food then than I do now. I remember enjoying my Mom's fried liver and onions and the occasional kidney stew. Some of our diet was homemade or raised in our chicken coop or rabbit barn. Come to think of it, we ate what was least expensive. Sausage instead of steak. Lake Erie blue pike instead of lobster and pork chops instead of lamb chops.

But that's not what this column is all about. It's about making fun of food, of diets that are supposed to help lose weight or improve health. Have you ever heard of the "seafood" diet. Every time you see food, you eat it. If it looks good, you are more likely to want to eat it. I recall reading about experiments where people got sick from eating blue mashed potatoes.

With a vitamin B diet, you eat lots of foods that begin with the letter b, such as bacon, barbecue ribs, butter, bologna and beefsteak.

Some diets recomend eating only one food, or just one type of food. There is the case of a man who ate nothing but bananas in an attempt to lose weight. After three months, he had not lost even one pound, but you ought to see how fast he can climb trees.

I like the story about a woman who wanted to lose about 120 pounds to get down from 250 to 130. However, she was not going to eat salads and skim milk while her husband, sitting across from her at the dinner table, was eating steak with mashed potatoes dripping with melted butter. She insisted he eat the same foods she ate. It was a great success for her. She dropped the 120 pounds, but her husband, who weighed only 110 pounds to begin with, disappeared altogether.

Another of my favorite stories is about the couple on a cruise. If you have ever been on a cruise, you know how important and lavish the food can be. Since the price of the cruise includes the cost of meals prepared by experts and the salty air stimulates appetites, many passengers gain weight. This husband and wife were enjoying a meal when the wife got up from the table and headed for the buffet. Her husband admonished her by saying, "Mary, this will be your third trip to the buffet. Have you forgotten about your diet?" Her answer was, "Don't worry, it's OK. I'm only going to get some sugar-free sweetener for my coffee."

Some people are satisfied eating the same foods over and over until it becomes a habit. A man I worked with ate hot Ralston cereal for breakfast every morning for more than 25 years. Some live on a diet of coffee and doughnuts or bacon and eggs every morning. My boss in the 1950s was asked by his doctor, how much salad he ate. He laughed at the doctor and said salad was rabbit food. He was a meat and potatoes man. He died at an early age.

Lee, with whom I worked, was one of the most unusual men I have ever known. One day at lunch, one of our group noticed that Lee was eating sandwiches with no meat in them. He explained that since he had not gone out to buy lunch meat the day before, his wife made his sandwiches without meat, but she added extra bread. The next day he was eating sandwiches made only with meat, no bread. That was because his wife had packed the bread in the previous day's lunch.

Sometimes I use this story when eating in a restaurant. It's about the customer who complained to the waitress that his soup was cold. She asked, "What do you want me to do, burn my thumb?"

A similar story is about two men at a lunch counter. One of them is in a hurry and his coffee is way too hot to drink, so the other guy says, "Here, take mine, it's already saucered and blowed." For those who don't get it, I remember when my Dad and others would cool hot coffee by pouring a small amount from the cup into the saucer and then blowing on it to cool it a bit.

A customer objected that his steak was too rare. He told the waiter, "I've seen cows burned worse than this and they lived."

When a restaurant charged customers according to how much weight they gained, they found rocks left under the tables.

Straka can be reached at wenceslas88plus@gmail.com.

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