Remembering the good eats of old

By Dennis Minich

As I look back over the past six weeks or so, my main thought is, “Well, that was interesting.” The holidays blitz by and the only thing I really have to show for it is debt and an expanded waistline. And as you probably know, my waistline does not need much more expansion.

For weeks it’s been cookies, pies, hams, casseroles, candy, chips, dip and everything you ever dreamed of frying. You may remember about eight weeks ago I made a plea to the Kansas City Chiefs to win some games so I could pig out on game days. They responded with eight-straight wins.

However, this weekend even they abandoned me. It has been wonderful, however, now it’s time to look ahead and do the worst two things in the world: live without charging anything else and dieting.

One of the things that makes dieting so difficult is keeping all the rules in mind. For example, they came out with diet drinks. But the first diet drinks contained some kind of sweetener that was bad for you, so they took it away. Then they came out with another one and for years it was OK to drink that diet drink. But then they said drinking diet drinks were bad because your body craves sugar or something, so I switched almost exclusively to iced tea. But then I had a doctor tell me anything with caffeine was bad for me, so I had to get away from tea and the only option I had other than water was caffeine-free diet drinks. When you are living on caffeine-free diet drinks, you have simply slipped to the bottom of the taste tree. You can go no lower. But now I am back to tea and my only option would be water and I am not going to fall for that.

One of the keys to dieting, I guess, is to figure out how to fool your tastebuds. A couple years ago I found the joy of the air fryer. It was one of those impulse things on a “Black Friday” sale.

At first, I was a skeptic, but as time has passed, I have learned to enjoy some of the treats that used to come only after scalding in unsaturated oil. But I know using the air fryer makes things healthier, so I have pulled it back out. Earlier this week I pulled a package of breaded cheese curds out of the freezer. The directions call for a couple minutes in the fryer, but I chose a few minutes in the air fryer. I really doubt they were as good as the real thing, but for my purposes they fit the bill. When Leslie came in to eat, she questioned breaded cheese curds, but I explained they had been cooked in the air fryer so were therefore a healthy alternative. I was either quite convincing or she simply didn’t feel like arguing with me on the topic. She simply ate them.

For many years I longed for a kitchen big enough to cook. My old house had a kitchen about the size of a pup tent, so trying to do much mixing and stirring was almost impossible. Now I have a big kitchen, but I realize I don’t have a bunch of those fancy gadgets that make cooking fun. I know cooking is supposed to be fun, because I see people cooking on TV all of the time they are laughing and smiling.

Most of the time when cooking, I neither laugh nor smile. I would say it might be more like grunting and cussing.

I don’t know how they do it, but on TV they put stuff in a mixer and the next thing you know, it’s done. I think it’s similar to the spinning things they use on the crime shows. No matter what the cops pick up, a thread or a water glass or piece of furniture, they cut off something, put it in the spinning thing and suddenly they know who done it, how and why. I wonder why real-life cops don’t use things like that spinning thing? Anyway, when you have to take the time to actually mix things, then put them in a pan, then cook them, it’s no longer fun, it’s more like work.

I really wish I could get one of those things that you put everything you want to eat in it, close the top and wham, 30 minutes later you have a fully-cooked meal ready to serve a dozen people.

But getting back on track, even if I had every gizmo known to man, the simple truth is I now have to diet. And no matter how much seasoning you put on it, there is no way to make a piece of zucchini taste like a candy bar nor any way to make celery as enjoyable as a bag of snack mix.

At this point all I can prepare my nice little diet-appropriate meals and remember the good old days, like last week when cheesy potatoes were an acceptable side dish and a piece of cheesecake didn’t need to interfere with my dessert.