Random Musings From Gerry Mandel-Summer 2018

Start Off Each Day With a Healthy Breakfast. Or Else.

The trouble began over a box of Rice Krispies. My wife and I were meandering down the cereal aisle on what seemed like a pleasant venture. I picked up a large box of Rice Krispies and dropped it into our cart.

“You’re not really going to get that, are you?” she said. I looked around. Who said that, my mother? Bawling me out?

“Sure,” I said, fearing the pending conflict. “It’s one of my favorite cereals.”

She handed the box back to me. “There is no nutritional value in that. Read the ingredients.”

That was the beginning of my descent into the Seven Circles of Health. I no longer could be content with eating something because it tasted good, or even because it wasn’t loaded with fat, salt or sugar. No, there was more to eating than that. Ingredients needed to be examined; nutritional value demanded attention.

The cereal aisle is a graphic example of good and evil. On one side, the aforementioned Rice Krispies sits next to Corn Flakes, Wheaties, Cap’n Crunch, and bags of puffed rice for 99 cents. On the other side, Wholesome Heaven. Cereals made from a global assortment of nuts, grains, seeds, rare plants, clusters of dried fruits and even an occasional sprinkling of sea salt. This all leads me to the conclusion that sadists have been put in charge of our breakfasts. They want to see how many weird things they can combine and sell as “healthy.”

I eventually surrendered and began a steady regimen of cereals with “natural,” “wholesome,” and even “organic” displayed on the boxes.

But breakfast wasn’t through with me. Cereal needs milk. Have you looked in the so-called “milk” section lately? I don’t know whatever happened to just plain milk. The choice used to be simple: whole, 2%, 1%, fat free (aka skim, replaced by “fat free”) and chocolate. But old-fashioned milk from cows – so I’ve been told – isn’t good for me. Now there’s Almond Milk. We needed some Almond Milk recently, to go with my all-natural, non-GMO, mainly organic cereal. I went to the ill-named “dairy case” at the store. A half hour later I was still standing there, trying to figure out which form of milk I should buy. Yes, Almond Milk. But vanilla flavored? Regular? Sweetened or unsweetened? And one that sounded mysterious: Almond Milk with a “hint of honey.” I finally opted for sweetened vanilla. Taste still matters, right?

But milk options weren’t through with me. As I reached for the Almond, I noticed – sitting right next to it – Soy Milk. I wondered if that was better for me than Almond. I looked at the ingredients. No clue there. As I replaced the carton, I saw a shelf filled with Rice Milk. Then Coconut Milk. And Cashew Milk. Milk, I finally realized, was no longer a product. It was a category, an industry, a marketing scam foisted on a gullible public in search of The Fountain of Youth.

I returned to the vanilla Almond Milk and read it closely. 80 calories. Non- GMO, verified. I wondered who verifies these things. What cinched the deal were the following lines: “Free of dairy, soy, lactose, cholesterol, peanuts, casein, glue, eggs, saturated fat and MSG. 50% more calcium than dairy milk.” Now how can you beat that? I felt more vital just holding that carton. Even virile.

I’ll be honest with you. I have no idea what GMO means, besides genetically modified organism. It sounds like a new Spielberg movie. I also don’t understand why “organic” is such a hot button these days. Especially on something like bananas. I don’t eat the peels anyway, so does it really matter? Then there’s gluten. I don’t even like the sound of that word. Sounds like someone you don’t want to be around. Anyway, I’m happy now with my cereal and milk resolved.

I have conquered the first two Circles of Health. All that remain are lunch, snacks, dinner, dessert, and drinks. I’ll eventually get there.