Cheesy Goodness

I was once assigned to write a feature article on an osteoporosis treatment that involved repairing crumbled vertebrae with injectable cement. I went to the hospital to watch this procedure one morning and was given, to my surprise and trepidation, a full set of surgical scrubs. Somewhere in the midst of the resulting article, I corrupted the popular saying You are what you eat by substituting for “eat” the word “wear.” And neither my editor nor I caught this slip-up before the magazine went out. Well, that was a long time ago, and I didn’t care a great deal about what I ate. I lived on Chinese takeout and peanut butter crackers.

Now battling the insults of age and having read many compelling studies about brain health and diet, I realize exactly how glaring my mistake was. Dietary choice, it seems, is possibly the single most powerful gear in any mechanism of control we have over the health of our hearts and brains.   

"Tater Tot Casserole" by punctuated, via flickr, creative commons

"Tater Tot Casserole" by punctuated, via flickr, creative commons

I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to rub off my newfound obsession with food on John, my boyfriend of four years. Recently I tore from a women’s magazine brightly colored photos of a diet consisting mainly of berries, peppers, nuts, beans, red wine and kale, and spread them out on his kitchen counter. “If it’s not in these pictures, I don’t think we should eat it,” I said. John, who is very amiable, sat down on a bar stool and began to read the article.

Emboldened, I continued. “And I don’t think all the stuff you buy in bulk at Sam’s Club is good for you.” No negative response. I felt like someone on the brink of successfully smuggling an illicit item through the border patrol at Customs (not that I have ever done that). I slipped across the kitchen and opened the freezer door.  At this, the alarm went off.

“Move away from the tater tots!” he said, in the stern voice of a computerized security system. “Move away from the tater tots!” I took out the ten-pound plastic bag, which will no doubt exist in a wad somewhere long after both our earthly bodies have returned to dust, and studied the ingredients. The fine-print blurb started out innocently enough—potatoes, oil, salt—then slid quickly into a stew of unpronounceable chemicals that sounded like they would more properly be used in refinishing furniture than feeding a single man, no matter how desperate and hungry. 

“Four tater tots contain approximately the amount of fat an adult should eat in a week.”
“They taste good.”
“They have more sodium than beef jerky.”
“I like them.”
“Would you consider eating them for dessert?”
“No.”
“Can we just try the diet for two weeks?”

Although John wants to lose a few pounds, the full implications of the request sank in. “No more cheesy goodness?”

Cheesy goodness? It turns out “cheesy goodness” is an easy casserole invented by one of his poker buddies. Here is the recipe: empty a bag of tater tots into a Pyrex dish, cover completely with American process cheese food made of carcinogenic colorants, and broil. Cheesy goodness could probably win a bake-off contest for the most unhealthy dish make-able in less then two minutes not counting oven time. I’ve taken as a personal challenge the redesign of Cheesy Goodness into a healthy side dish which loses none of its original appeal. John says he’s not holding his breath or counting the hours. O thou, of little faith....