How Sweet It Is

By Judy Berman

Every night, I run the gauntlet as I leave work. I hear the siren song of the vending machine trying to lure me in.

A seductive voice whispers my name as I slip past the huge red, white and blue soda machine.

“How sweet it is,” I hear Jackie Gleason croon, as he downs a drink. Then, off he rushes across the stage as he shouts, “And away we go.”

What energy he has. It must be the sugar rush.

When I resist the temptation of a soda, candy – anything chocolate, or pastries, I congratulate myself for not caving in and buying it. But the sweet stuff is lurking in a number of unsuspecting places such as in cereals, spaghetti sauce, yogurt and Lunchables. Just to name a few.

Sugar is addictive. Dr. Sonjay Gupta reported on “60 Minutes” that we need to limit sugar consumption because it’s taking a toll on our health. “The average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar a year.”

Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, “believes the consumption of added sugars has plunged America into a public-health crisis.” He said 75 percent of it is preventable.

“New research … is starting to show that sugar, the way many people are eating it today, is a toxin and could be a driving force behind some of this country’s leading killers, including heart disease,” Dr. Gupta reported during his “60 Minutes” report, “Is Sugar Toxic?”

Yeah, I know. Buzz kill. Check out any store. Chocolate bunnies and sugary marshmallow peeps have multiplied faster then … well, rabbits.

Sugar is everywhere. At the grocery store, I bypassed the usual suspects containing sugar. Sodas and sweets? That’s old school. You can satisfy your sweet tooth from morning until night. Just read the nutrition facts on the labels to decide which one is the better choice for your health:

  • Instant oatmeal. Once you start adding maple and brown sugar, or raisins, dates and walnuts, you can deduct nutritional value. I saw one brand that contained 11 grams of sugar in one serving.
  • Spaghetti sauce. Sure, I add a little sugar in my sauce when I cook a vat of it. But one brand in the store had 9 grams of sugar per serving. Depending on the brand, a serving is only a half-cup (4 oz.).
  • Fancy some mac ‘n’ cheese? You can have it along with 7 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Lunchables – those favorite no-fuss, no-muss lunch packs for kids. One had as much as 32 grams of sugar for an itty-bitty lunch.
  • Yogurt – healthy food, right? “Caveat emptor.” (“Let the buyer beware.”) One brand had 29 grams of sugar per serving.

They’re all sweet talking us with James Taylor’s “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved by You.”

Dr. Robert Lustig said we replaced one unhealthy thing with another in our diet.

“Take the fat out of food, it tastes like cardboard. And the food industry knew that. So they replaced it with sugar.”

So what’s the solution? Dr. Lustig, in a report he co-authored with the American Heart Association, recommended “men should consume no more than 150 calories of added sugars a day. And, women, just 100 calories. That’s less than the amount in just one can of soda.”

That’d be hard to swallow for most of us. A sensible solution is to have a balanced diet, reduce calories, and exercise.

And I’ll get right on that after I polish off my long-eared chocolate bunny.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Photo: chocolate bunny (author: domenico bandiera from cattolica in 2006 – image originally posted on Flickr http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate_bunnies.jpg

* Jackie Gleason: “How sweet it is.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Eo3btT7UPA

* Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s report on sugar and the serious toll it can take on your health on “60 Minutes.”  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7403942n&tag=api&fb_ref=belowVideo&fb_source=home_multiline

* “Is Sugar Toxic, 60 Minutes,” – An article on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s report on new research showing that beyond weight gain, sugar can take a serious toll on your health …  http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2012/04/is-sugar-toxic-60-minutes.html

* “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You,” by James Taylor http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=how+sweet+it+is+to+be+loved+by+you+James+Taylor&view=detail&mid=7CE6E14B0F46736BF26B7CE6E14B0F46736BF26B

Adventures at the House of Naan

by Judy Berman

It’s hard to argue when our girls moan about the endless strands of flawed DNA that they inherited from me. Any faux pas they make is quickly eclipsed by my own unraveling.

A prime example is what happened at the House of Naan.

Naan is leavened bread, an Indian food that’s simple and tasty. As we savor the naan and herb tea with cloves, I think it’s odd that my husband and I are the only ones at this popular but tiny restaurant.

The caramel-colored waiter has sleek black hair. His mustache and neatly trimmed beard are salt-and-pepper. His crisp white shirt and pressed black slacks are the only concession to his profession.

He smiles, but says little. There’s no, “Hi. I’m Fred and I’ll be your waiter for tonight.” It’s obvious who he is and why we’re there. No fuss, just straight up, two menus, and he lets us ponder our options while he’s off to fill our drink requests.

About an hour later, I’m pushing the vegetables of the Malai Kafta around the plate. But I’m not too full for kheer – a rice pudding flavored with rose water. At last, we decide to leave before they have to roll us out the door.

Dave confides he’ll leave a little extra for a tip because we kept the two men past closing. They shut down for  2½ hours in between lunch and dinner.

“When do they close?” I ask.

“2:30.”

My eyes widen as I look at my watch. It’s now 3:30. Dave, who never wears a watch on the weekend, was unaware we arrived at the restaurant 10 minutes before they normally shut down for the afternoon.

“We’re so sorry,” we both apologize as we back out the door.

The man, who waited on us, smiles and says quietly, “No problem. We weren’t going anywhere.”

I had visions of them slapping up their huge closed sign before we pulled out of their driveway.

I felt: GUILT!

Moments later, I’d feel worse.

When we pull into a parking lot in the village, I remind Dave we have to mail our phone bill before Ma Bell comes to our home and personally yanks out our wires. We’re about to walk to the post office when I look in my purse and realize the bill is not there.

The bill is not in the car or on the ground next to where we parked.

We jump back in the car. Dave nervously scans the side streets which are really just a blur as we whip through the village. He is on the alert for the ever present, always vigilant police cruiser. A mile and a minute later we’re back at the House of Naan.

The closed sign still leans precariously against the window, revealing only the OSED on the red and white sign. The restaurant is dark inside and the front door is locked. I knock, gently at first, on the glass door. No answer. I try again, this time more vigorously. Our waiter comes out of the dining area.

He is in his stocking feet and wears a bathrobe. He’d been sleeping.

Still, he smiles as he unlocks the door. I explain – as fast as I can – which might not be a good idea. I don’t know how intelligible I am at warp speed to someone who’s just been rudely awakened. But the concern on my face is unmistakable.

“Our bill. Our phone bill,” I now falter. “I … I think it fell out of my purse.”

He turns to speak to someone, probably the other waiter, who is now wrapped in a blanket and stretched across the booth where we’d just had lunch. The man fumbles around the booth and floor in search of my bill. I never see his face.

Dave, afraid I’d never leave until I had the bill in hand, enters the restaurant.

“I found the bill. It was in your purse,” Dave announced sheepishly, waving the bill at me.
The waiter laughs, repeating Dave’s comment. I cringe, my face now the color of my bright, red sweater. Again, I apologize and make a hasty retreat. I’m certain I’ve ruined his slim shot at sleep. He’s probably in there snickering about the vegematic who can’t keep track of time or her bills.

Determined to make it up to them, I call our friends, Rob and Lisa. I relay the whole embarrassing episode and ask if they’d like to join Dave and me for dinner at the House of Naan next Saturday.

“Sure,” Lisa piped up. “How ‘bout 3 o’clock?”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Gift of Time

By Judy Berman

During our visit with Dad in June, a tune kept running thru my head. I couldn’t quite make out the words or recall all the music.

Slowly, it came to me. The song was “The Windmills of Your Mind.” A phrase that stuck with me was: “Pictures hanging in the hallway and the fragment of this song, Half-remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong?”

The song reminds me that time was slipping away. For several years, my husband and I have flown to Vegas to celebrate Father’s Day at Joe’s Crab Shack with my Dad (Joseph H. Fiet III) and my brother, Hank. Dad’s 91, and I’m not sure how many more Father’s Days we’ll have together. His health hasn’t been good. Dad’s been in and out of the hospital for several months.

But he looks forward to this outing.

Inside this laid-back restaurant, we bypass the T-shirts that state “Bite me” or look like leftovers from a Jerry Garcia paintball war and head to our table. We’re ready to dive into their shrimp. The wait-staff is rocking out to a tune that blares thru the speakers. Their dancing and singing is all part of the atmosphere.

Minutes later, our table is overflowing with popcorn shrimp, coconut shrimp, shrimp scampi and Louisiana-style bayou shrimp.

Conversation flows as smoothly as the drinks. Dad doesn’t finish his beer, but he obviously had a great time and so did we.

Shortly after we return to Florida, Dad has a minor stroke and goes back to the hospital.

Each time Hank calls, I hesitate before I answer. I suspect the news will not be good. Some days, it is. Others, not.

On July 6th, the news we’d been dreading finally comes. Hank was with Dad at the hospital shortly before Dad died. It seemed as if Dad rallied for our visit and, again, for Hank to be with him.

Dad’s gift to us: precious time. There is never enough time when it comes to those you want to be with. Still, I am grateful for what we were able to share.

I told my eldest daughter, Danielle, that, when Hank called, a repairman was in the garage working on our hot-water heater. She said the repairman probably wondered why I was crying.

“Yeah,” I joked, “I was really attached to our old water heater.”

Dad would have loved that.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music link: “The Windmills of Your Mind,” from “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968):

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAGGTVft5Lk&feature=player_embedded

Photo caption: Dad (Joseph H. Fiet III), Hank, Judy and Dave during one of our annual visits at Joe’s Crab Shack in Las Vegas