Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Matters of the Heart

It’s always a challenge to decline food from mom. Her little kitchen may be small, but the amount of food that comes rushing out is huge. Everyone always wonders why her food is better than anybody else’s. We try to guess her ingredients or ask her the recipe, but like an old fashioned Italian mama, she refuses to give it up. She’ll tell you the base behind it, like tomatoes, parsley and basil—but stops in her tracks at the most crucial parts. We always say, “Well she made it with love.” And that works for me. It’s worked for me for many, many years—as well as it worked against me as far as keeping my weight down. It’s hard to refuse anything she makes.

Mom’s meatballs are out of this world. It’s like a chip; can’t stop at just one. Her meatballs cure all. If you have a headache—“Here have a meatball…” If you’re sad, “Here have a meatball…” Even if you have a stomach ache—“Here have a meatball!”
This stuff is magic! And, it really does work. Did mom mess with our minds? Did she psychologically put a spell on us to love her food? Did she come into our rooms at night to put subliminal messages into our dreams?

“You will love my meatballs…You will love my meatballs…You will love my meatballs…”

Even her meatloaf is to die for. I always heard my friends say, “Ew! Meatloaf? That’s disgusting! I hate meatloaf…” And I always thought, “WHY?” Mom made her meatloaf stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and mushrooms. Her ingredients for the meatloaf, was much like a meatball loaded with garlic and other herbs to make it delicious.

Mom’s busted. (And so are my damn pants!) She’s been caught red handed. I walked up to her while she was cooking and realized what her secret ingredient is.

Bacon.

Quick start to getting your first angioplasty! Need a triple bypass? Have a meatball! Need that artery a little wider? Just have a meatball!

See how this works?

All this time I thought she was just using what ‘was there’. After she cooks her food, she removes the bacon strips from the delicious meatloaf or meatballs.

Okay, let’s even discuss grandma and her techniques. Pure lard. She even used to cook pig fat—yes—I said PIG FAT—and threw those puppies into her gravy. (Italian sauce to those Italian Americans) Just the thought of biting into a piece of fat makes my arteries clog up. It’s bad enough eating red meat—no less add a ton of lard or bacon fat to enhance the taste.

Issue #1. Weight Watcher’s is key to living in an Italian household.
Issue #2. You best buy a treadmill ON location
Issue #3. Must join a gym.
Issue #4. You’ll never win. Your pants size will increase along with your cholesterol levels.

Ironically enough, one of my sisters works for the cath lab in a big hospital. She runs the entire department and specializes in heart related procedures. Well thank God! We’re going to need someone to call on the spot.

The other day, I called her at work.

“Hello, cath lab, how can I help you?”
“I’m having a heart attack!!!”
I scream into her ear like a maniac.
“Debbie! You’re an idiot.” I mean, come on, living in the same quarters as mom and dad—how can she not know that my heart is at risk here?

My parents make fun of me. During the week, I’m all about the rabbit food. I only eat salads, slim fasts, and fish. I'm usually on a health kick during the week. The weekends are full of mom’s goodies. I can’t deny myself a little treat here and there. The thing that gets me is, my parents can eat anything they want, smoke as much as they can, and never have a bit of trouble with their health. (Which I am grateful for…) However, my father’s cholesterol is lower than mine! What the *&@#??? I work out often, eat right during the week and then become human again on the weekends. So what gives?

You can always find me at the local cardiologist getting my EKG and echocardiograms. I have a few cardiologists—just in case one fails to notice a slight problem in the readings.

“You’re good Deb!” They always say. “Everything looks just fine.”

I walk out with a seal of ‘good health’ and start back up with my hypochondriac manias. My many trips to the emergency room involve chest pains. It’s usually a huge ball of gas enlarged behind my ribcage making me think it’s my heart. That’s when my girlfriend runs for the hills and sleeps in the living room during these times. She doesn’t want to ‘be there’ while my chest pains decrease if you catch my drift. Not that you would want to catch my drift. Not pleasant.

Moving on…

“Oh it’s all that roughage you eat during the week that makes you so gassy Deb!” My mother says, as she prepares her Sunday gravy.
“Ma, whaddam’ I supposed to do—ignore chest pains?”
“Oh it’s awl’ in your head! We use nuttin' but olive erl!”
“Grease and fat keeps ya pipes clean kiddo! The doctas’ got it awl wrong! The smoke keeps me goin’ like a bulldoza’!”
Dad pipes in with his tips on health.

My sister Carla is like the fat patrol of the house. She once came into the house and cleaned everything that was bad in her eyes. A package full of bacon was thrown into the pile, along with packs of sausage links, kielbasa, and heavy cream.

“This is it! I’m gonna commit you two!” My sister yells out from behind the refrigerator door, as she’s flinging precious meats into the ‘to be thrown out’ pile.

I will say this, my parents, their parents, and my great grandparents all lived well into their nineties with a fulfilling life full of family, friends and tons of love. Each dinner was made with these ingredients: love and happiness. The worst thing I’ve noticed about foods today are the growth hormones and steroids used to produce big chickens or enhance whatever foods are meager. Preservatives and other junk to keep our foods fresh are destroying our lifespan more than anything. Back then, when my grandparents were occupying the kitchen, it was much different. It was a different time; a different type of food. They’re food was fresh—not preserved. They used to grab their chickens right off a hook from one of their Italian delis. My other relatives used to grab a live chicken in the back of their homes if they wanted dinner. All they needed was a tree stump and an ax. That’s as fresh as it gets. Does it sit well with me? No. I’m used to the traditional Perdue chickies and the good ol’ cuts I get from the butcher.

My motto is, exercise for health—and not for weight loss. (Of course keeping it down is great.) The idea is keeping the ticker in check before keeping the numbers on the scale to a minimum. Cholesterol will kill you faster than weight will. I guess it goes hand-in-hand sometimes. They did a study on who’s healthier—people who have more weight on them with a lower level of cholesterol, or people who are thinner, with an elevated amount of cholesterol. Studies indicated that the ‘thinner’ people with higher levels of cholesterol were at more of a risk.

Another risk of heart attacks and strokes is stress. Having a huge amount of stress will take away years from your life. I know stress and tension are hard to avoid, but it’s a sure way to your blood pressure up. People who tend to have a bad temper or worry often will find themselves with more health problems. Worrying about frivolous matters to big things is normal. It’s human nature. I always worry with the amount of panic attacks I get. I often wonder about my health and my wellbeing due to anxiety alone.

And the one thing I have noticed about my parents in regards to health is that they love life—they don’t have anxiety attacks or worry about things that wouldn’t matter two years from now. They always ask me, “What’s an anxiety attack?” I wish I didn’t know what one was. All the vegetables and low fat foods in the world isn’t going to save me from having a heart attack—it’s living a life with less stress and more love that’ll increase my years.

I guess I need to learn from my parents a little more.

Bon appetit!


Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work—whatever they do under the sun—for however long God lets them live.
And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy. ~Ecclesiastes 5:18-20