The ear of the New York Times, for one thing, perhaps because he was a restaurant critic there. As a result, they chose him to write the Week In Review wrap on the new dietary guidelines, and not me. "Four Days on the Uncle Sam Diet...," he called his piece, where he did pretty much the same thing that I did on this fine blog. So while neither of my readers left a comment about my posts, perhaps yawning them away and wondering, "Ubi sunt the political rants of yesteryear?" he gets a readership of millions.
Another thing William Grimes seems to have in spades is royalty payments, judging by the number of his books at amazon. I bet when he gets his royalty statements from his press, they don't still--three years out--show how many copies he still has to sell before he sees a check. And one is even published by Oxford UP! Oh my furious little friend, chides William Grimes, I am so sorry to hear that you have not heard back from a publisher yet. I am sure that your book about Ezra Pound will be very important.
It has only been two weeks, I snarl back at him, wringing my copy of the Week in Review. Back off.
Plus William Grimes has people paid to generate graphics for him, like the catchy little number printed above his article on page one of the section, and conveniently included at the top of the e-version. "YOUR CHOICE!" screams the catchy graphic. If only I had learned how to post my own digital photos before I ran my little series. I could have shown the muesli! Everyone wants to see the muesli!
And of course fancy Mr. Grimes ranked a graph: it show how the author's first two days' consumption compared with the new guidelines, including a revelation of how far over his recommended 2211 calories/day he went. Well, it turns out my browser won't display the graph, so take that, Mr. Grimes!
What else does this man have that I do not? Well let me quote from his article (emphasis mine):
And in many respects, I ought to be an ideal candidate to follow almost any diet. I am thin, my cholesterol level is low and my blood pressure seems to be not just acceptable, but fabulous. Doctors constantly comment on it. In other words, I would be starting off at a point that, for many of my overweight, cholesterol-burdened fellow citizens, remains a distant goal.
Why don't you just trumpet from the rooftops, Mr. Grimes? "Well, furious friend," he responds to me, taking a little sip of wine, "perhaps you ought to scale back your caloric intake." Sure, sure, Mr. Grimes.
But now I have no other choice but to reveal that William Grimes wrote quite a good piece about those guidelines. He says early on, "I gave it a try, curious to see how hard it would be to change my eating patterns to fit the program."
OK, William Grimes, in the name of science, I make this truce with you: I will add your findings to my own, and together we can venture forward on our quest to better understand what our government wants of us.
Besides, how can I not appreciate a man who writes (again, emphasis mine), "I was dismayed to find that a mere stick of butter contains a whopping 800 calories, or more than one-third of my daily allotment."
He began as I did, by figuring out his daily calorie allowance, 2211 calories with a discretionary allowance of 290 calories. That puts us in slightly different places, thanks to my exercise regimen. (Take that, William Grimes!)
Once I stop my snarling, I find that our findings are similar. For instance:
Plunging ahead, I revised my usual breakfast, based on several slices of butter-streusel coffee cake, and instead consumed two servings of orange juice, a half-cup of oatmeal with a teaspoon of brown sugar, and two cups of tea with milk. Plus one slice of brioche toast with jam.
Two hours later, I experienced hunger pangs . . .
Well, I could not sympathize more. I am starting to like you, Mr. William Grimes. You are welcome to join me for muesli any morning of the week.
Later, at the meal most crucial to us foodies:
By dinner time, stark choices loomed. My calories were running out, and vegetable account was in deep deficit. Catfish was the entree, and I lovingly eyed a recipe involving a pecan-butter sauce.
But pecans, I quickly discovered, are butter in the form of a nut. One cup contains 822 calories, 772 of them from fat.
It was then I realized: the only reason I had been able to stay sane on the new guidelines was all the swimming: if I had had to stick to a 2000-calories-a-day diet, I might well have lost my mind.
As he so nicely concludes:
The guidelines were beginning to feel like wartime rationing. I walked around with a nagging feeling of being just slightly deprived. After two days, it began to haunt me.
I also began to chafe at the relentless assault on pleasure that the guidelines seemed to represent. At every turn, American were being urged to consume foods in their least tasty forms. There they were, the dreaded chicken breast with the skin removed, the unadorned steamed fish and the unspeakable processed cheeses.
Mr. Grimes's concerns--that these guidelines force us to change our entire food culture and deprive food of the real pleasure that it offers--are right on the money. They are not the concerns of most people, so-called ordinary Americans, for whom the real challenge is how in the world do I eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables, especially when fast food is so much cheaper? That was the story in the Greenville News yesterday. I suppose that is a different kind of cultural shift.
My gift to you, Mr. Grimes, is the reminder that these are mere guidelines. I am enjoying all the fruit that is now in my diet, and the return to whole foods. Like the strawberry-banana yogurt I made this morning, starting with fresh fruit, plain yogurt and honey. And they did make me reach for a sandwich on wheat bread instead of white yesterday at the swimmeet. But there are compromises I will not make: I have already noted that I am not giving up liquor, but I also refuse to back away from the amazing foods out there, the beautiful Italian filled pastas served with a simple sage-butter sauce, or the delicious herb-infused skin that comes on the chickens I roast, or the delicate flavors of the beautiful coffee cake that the PP baked last weekend. I consider myself guided, but only as far as I will allow Uncle Sam to lead me.