Moving Towards a Plant Based Diet

The science is clear- eating a more plant based diet with fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains will extend life span, improve the quality of life and substantially reduce the risk of most diseases. Unless one has been raised in a vegetarian home there are many challenges to making progress with this lifestyle change.

I am not willing to be a food related “…arian” of any kind. “Vegetarian”, “Pescatarian”, “Fruitarian”, “Pescatarian”, or “Pollotarian”. I was raised Catholictarian and from it I developed a Post Traumatic Stress Dogma. Veganism is not “Arian” but it is pretty dogmatic. And generally, I’m more inclined to “asms” then “isms”. I’m not an “Arian” word-ist. Love vulgarians, barbarians, libertarians, (hot) librarians, and contrarians for example. In fact, I’m a sexagenarian, although I was so disappointed to find out what that really means. Bottom line is I’m not giving up meat. Or cheese. Or eggs. Or ice cream. Or <sigh>

The second challenge involves learning how to cook plant based. Think of a food you’ve eaten that at worst, made you retch or at best you spit out. The “art” of cooking is learning how to cook that food so that instead of gagging- you think “YUM”. “Yum” like all your dopamine sensors are firing off like a 4th of July fireworks display over the Mall in Washington DC or you’re sitting in a bar with your friends for an afternoon of tequila shots and 4 local sororities swing in for the last stop of their pub crawl. Because, when it comes down to it, you are committing to many days when you think, “double bacon cheeseburger lettuce tomato on sesame bun vs black bean brown rice bowl” and your brain immediately says, “bean rice!!” See my point?

My mother was a good cook. Of the things she cooked good. Her Italian food was fantastic but she had a couple of hundred years of recipes to rely on. Vegetables, not so much. She generally boiled them into submission. My Dad hated vegetables. My brother hated vegetables. I hated vegetables. I was in my 20’s discovering how much I liked vegetables when I realized nobody wanted to tell her she was a serial vegetable killer. A downright Ted Bundy of spinach. A Jeffrey Dahmer of escarole. Vegetables are significantly bettered when “s’d”. Sauté, Stir fry, Steamed, or Stewed. See, “s’d”? I think the “S” cooking words were invented to cook vegetables so you don’t think you’re eating drywall after licking a cast iron frying pan. I think many people who know how to cook learned from their parents grandparents. So, if you don’t have that tradition, you need to find another way. Learning is hard.

My third cchallenge is I’m a lazy cook and my 1200 sq ft condo does not have an1800 sq ft pantry. I bought a recently released, well reviewed vegan cookbook and began perusing recipes. Here’s some things I’m NOT shopping for or finding room to store: medjool dates, fenugreek seeds, dark agave nectar, persillade, tamarind. ..”. His recipes have recipes INSIDE the recipes for spice blends and sauces. I work for a living. I do not have all day to cook, shop, slice, dice, blend, purée, grate and plate. I can tell you how to make a meatball in a couple years of minutes with 8 ingredients, most of which you have at home. This is a lot of work to keep okra from being gag worthy slimy.

The fourth challenge is tools. The reason cooking is a “hobby” is because there is a never ending list of accessories and tools you want to do it well. I actually just bought a zester.

I’m starting to covet a food processor, immersion blender, stand alone mixer, an herb garden, a sous chef, a valet and a sex addict with ocd who likes to make shopping lists, grocery shop and organize pantries. Ok, I can shop and organize the pantry. But I digress.

Change is hard. I’m on the board of directors for a local charity that teaches teen volunteers commercial cooking skill while they make plant based meals for cancer patients delivered by other volunteers to their homes. Last time I did something like this, I was on the local American Cancer Society Board. I’d smoke in their parking lot before meetings. Their executive director got so angry with me. We’d have short conversations about the difference between “if you do something, you’ll die” and “you’re dying anyway. This executive director however, cooks us vegan meals for board meetings, is a yoga instructor, and has the personality of Mother Theresa. Who likes beer. Who always says, “You can do it,”. Maybe I can.

(I’m currently under probation with a registered dietitian. To see how THATS going see https://humorforthehorizontallychallenged.com/2020/08/11/e-mail-updates-to-the-dietrician/

“Rest Area Reviews”

I mentioned to someone last night after an 8 hour drive from Washington DC to Charlotte NC West across I66 and south down I81 that at my age, I stopped at every rest area. Except one. They suggested I should do a blog on Rest Area Reviews.

What a great idea- I thought. With a demographic ranging from the pregnant, to parents with young children to the enlarged prostate age group, this would be a real useful page turner. So here’s a test

“Virginia Rest areas offer a variety of architecture and interior design for the discriminating rest Area aficionados. The true rest area connoisseur will appreciate the thought and design that has been invested in these oasis’s of elimination.

I suppose the iconic Va rest area is the Virginia for lovers design.

What is provides in instagram and FB posting app (because who doesn’t want a selfie in front of the “LOVE” sign after a hearty bladder emptying), it lacks in interior design and modern plumbing. Think your elementary school bathroom design.

Greater appreciation should be had for the more modern “convenience store design” where expansive motion center doors open to a white Center lobby with gleaming vending machines offering water to soda to every trans fat, artery clogging, nutritionally deficient snack known to Man. The actual bathrooms are designed by that famous airport bathroom designer, Toilette D’Aeroport, where washing and the other stuff are separated, al in small gleaming white style.

I admit my favorite is the Virginia cottage style design, where a walk around the building to find your door is not necessary, they being closely and conveniently located in the front of the building. What is May lack in architectural sophistication it makes up for in bath design with extra large brown and black faux marble tile, new soak plumbing fixtures and those wonderful motion Center faucets that only work if you do aerobics in front of the sensor while chanting Haitian voodoo spells.

A true lesson in not judging a book by the cover.”

So, do I have a best seller here? Should I have dreams in going viral? What state should be next?

A tango for you

(The original appeared in the CharlestonMercury Newsletter).

Even the heat of a Lowcountry summer seems a bit brisk compared to the sultry Argentine tango. Image in public domain. (Ed)


Having been asked by the Mercury to write a little bit about my experiences in the mysterious world of the tango, I thought it appropriate to address the most common questions I receive. Such questions are perfectly legitimate and I’m always happy to answer them.

The decorous expectations of the “salmon sheets” restrict me from writing some of my more colorful thoughts … but there is a good-humored difference between what I think and what I say. So here goes the Q&A … if you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me through the Mercury.

Q: “Wow! Eleven years! You must be an expert?”

A: “No, but I’m average,” is what I say.

What I’m thinking: “You play golf? Wow, 11 years! You must be as good as Tiger Woods!”

Q: “Oh, I’d love to do that, but I can’t dance.”

A: “We have weekly lessons. Tango is a walking dance — if you can walk, you can tango.”

What I’m thinking: “Yep, I was born with the “Gene Kelly gene” and one day, when I was four years old, I pulled away from my mother, snatched a hot blonde out of a convertible and recreated the dance number from Singin in the Rain on King Street in front of the old Kerrison’s Department store. Dude, you’re looking at a short, obese middle-aged guy who was always picked last for any sport from first grade through ninth grade gym. That’s why you take lessons. And practice”

Q: “Is it hard?”

A: “If you can walk, you can tango!”

What I’m thinking: “While you’re taught some steps, Argentine tango is a completely improvised social dance using all non-verbal communication in which the leader must maintain their own axis and balance, know at all times what foot the follower is on, communicate direction, distance and speed with energetic communication and musicality all the while dancing to the ability and heart of the follower. The follower is reading these subtle and energetic forms of communication so as to move, almost in any direction, at any time, without anticipation or expectation, backwards, in high heels almost always on one foot. Yep — it’s a breeze.”

Q: “Do you have to have a partner?”

A: “No, some couples do come regularly and some dance mostly with each other, but most people dance with everybody.”

What I’m thinking: A delicate analogy works better here than anything else but, alas, my filter has kicked in again. A good tango friend summed it up this way. “If you’re in a relationship and only one of you dances tango, that’s a problem. If you’re in a relationship and you both dance tango, that’s also a problem.”

Q: “How did you hear about it?”

A: True story. I attended a meetup event in a group that I had been attending for quite a while. A new woman walked in and sat down, so later I walked over to make her feel welcome. As we were going through the usual “what do you do/where are you from/what brings you here, blah, blah, blahs, I became obsessed with the four packs of breath mints next to her purse.

“Ok, I can’t help it,” I say, “What’s the deal with the breath mints!?!? Is there something we need to know about your breath? Or were you expecting a problem with our breath?”

She burst out laughing. “No,” she said, “I dance Argentine tango and when you’re that close to people, breath mints are a must. Maybe not four packs.”

My head turned to the side like a German shepherd who hears a high-pitched sound no one else can hear but he doesn’t recognize.

“What the hell is Argentine tango?”

There’s a free class every Tuesday at MUSC and the rest is history. And I always carry breath mints.

[That free class is now five dollars and still is every Tuesday … except during global pandemics because tango, if you think about the whole cheek-to-cheek thing, is mildly out of accord with social distancing rules. Anyway, you can find us as the Charleston Argentine Tango Society (C.A.T.S) on Facebook. Before attending, I recommend you visit YouTube and search “Argentine tango” and at least take a peek down Alice’s Rabbit Hole. ]

Last Q: “Why do you do it?”

A: “We all crave connection. When you get on the dance floor with a perfect stranger, chest to chest, cheek to cheek, heart to heart and the music starts and your breathing synchronizes and you move in perfect harmony, with the music, with the beat, in what tango calls ‘two bodies, four legs, one heart’ and you lose all sense of time and space till, at the end, the music stops and you stay in the embrace a moment or two longer … that’s why.”

Lawrence Laddaga is partner at Laddaga and Garrett, a leading local provider of legal services for the health care industry. And his breath is minty, minty fresh. (Ed)


Things To Do while Socially Isolating –

According to CNN this is your best, lifetime opportunity to get a Ph.D in “Nerd”. Unless of course, you are already a nerd in which case, carry on. However, for us non nerds, I have some alternative suggestions.

I ran across this article today, on CNN. https://apple.news/Aw6yrWvDJTDq6FxEAwsyOzA. “Social distancing doesn’t have to doom your weekends. We have ideas”. Updated 10:26 AM EDT March 14, 2020. These included “read everything, virtual museum tours, learn a language, pursue amateur film criticism…”; I stopped scrolling here from eye bleed.

I’m not really sure who this advice is for, since most of us work 24/7 and are so amazingly happy to be actually home with free time we don’t know what to do first. Yeah we do- laundry, cleaning, chores cause I’d you’re actually going to be both living and working from home, you should cut the disgusting factor. Then I assume you do whatever you love doing with your free time when you do have it. I figure this list is you’ve don’t all those things, are bored, and need to fill time you can’t normally fill with 50 or your closest friends at the bar. Change that to 10, bars closed.

There’s got to be better options! Think back to the last time that being stuck at home required creativity as well as frugality? Yes, college. These suggestions all (most) require copious amount of alcohol so first things first, stock up. Next step- drink up. TV, or music in the background will help. Or, drink with friends on zoom Or drink whilst playing video games. Don’t forget to order some food. Ok. Ready?

Inventory, catalog, review, and organize your porn collection. You may sober up while doing this so don’t forget to re-hydrate. You may not actually HAVE a porn collection so substitute whatever fills a similar role in your life. Field and stream, or People magazine, NASCAR, ESPN, the bachelorette or bridge.

Again, start inebriated. Find the thing in your house you have the most of. (Hopefully, liquor/wine bottles). Could be food boxes in pantry. Count them. Twice to make sure.

Drunk dial some exes, or rarely spoken to family members or former friends. Nothing passes the time like awkward social situations lubricated by alcohol.

E Mail Updates to the Dietitian

Upon hearing of my 50 year struggle with my weight,

a provider friend referred me to a dietitian she had retained with glowing recommendations. I thought why not. As I was proofreading my first e mail update, I thought, “Oh, these are going to be good. I should save these. ALL of these. Rather than wait till I’m a month or so in, I thought I’d post now, letting you know to come back and check in periodically on my progress.

“Hi, Loved our first meeting yesterday. Looking forward to receiving Meal Plan on Wednesday. Instant oat meal this Morning. Dinner -Salad and I made some homemade lentil soup from scratch with sautéed mirepoix, garlic, thyme, rosemary, cumin, ginger, vegetable broth, chicken bone broth, white wine and simmered it for 4 hours. It needs some salt or Parmesan cheese.
Was good for first effort. Shopping list ready for Friday. Ive already had a fantasy about a grilled ribeye and a baked potato. Jesus

I did good with not eating after 9, of you count 9 as after the end of Daylight savings times in a few months. And, if we not mention the vanilla drumstick ice cream cone at 10:15.

Day 2

Thanks for your reply. Nice to know these ribeye steak food porn fantasy/hallucinations are in fact, bad habit cravings and that eating more like a bunny, in heat, will ease them.

By the way- good call on the oatmeal. It’s a real appetite killer!! Obviously, one can see it expand upon being doused in water or milk but I’m getting the sense it continues to expand in the body like spray insulation. That’s alive. And in mating season.

Day 4 August 14, 2020

Made it to grocery store yesterday. Bought Dr Bobs Redmill extra thick rolled oats. I noticed Dr Bobs oats compared to Quaker Oats are like corn kernels compared to grains of sand. I followed your plan and put 3/4 a cup of oats in a bowl with a cup and a half of milk. This looked like ALOT to eat to me but I put in the fridge for 20 minutes as instructed. Upon removal I added the fresh blueberries and banana as instructed. Now I’m sure this is two much to eat. So, oats do not absorb cold milk as the do hot fluid. First discovery – partially hydrated oats taste like … (are you thinking cardboard)…drywall. Cardboard actually has some flavor. Think bowl of chalk in milk. The fruit just acted like a really beautiful woman on an unbearable Tinder date. Definitely back to hot oatmeal tomorrow.

Day 5 August 15, 2020

It’s a pandemic Saturday and my calendar is filled with…..nothing. “Hey”, I say to myself, “why not clear out the freezer a bit of some of the things I’ll be eating less of to make room for veggies and fruits and stuff”. I found a beef shank cut for Osso Bucco (which I’d never prepared) and thought – yum. So I spent all afternoon cooking this Osso Bucco. I also fixed brown rice and roasted vegetables which I am supposed to be eating.

This was going pretty well until on a pantry trip I found two boxes of betty Crocker fudge brownie mix. I always make a double box.

Day 9. First follow up call with Dietitian August 19, 2020

(For the benefit of public health, this particular dietitian could not be sweeter ….um.. maybe wrong adjective for a dietitian…. could not be more accepting and non shaming so any references to my negative feelings are strictly internally generated. And possibly magnified for humor sake)

Anyway, a picture is worth a thousand words. I can tell I’m going to be in timeout once a week for the next 11 weeks. Next week, I intend to start with, “Bless me dietician for I have sinned; it has been one week since my last confession.” (Note to self- never see a sex therapist). She asked how the oatmeal was going – I admitted it was life changing (never in a million years could you have persuaded me this would be a description of oatmeal). She was fine with my not eating it cold or with milk. She asked how I did fix it. I said, “Hot, with cinnamon, a teaspoon of brown sugar, a table spoon of maple syrup and the fruit you suggested”. I saw this look flash over her face as she started to say something, stopping cause her filter blocked her (I know this look because it happens to me dozens of times a day, looking left and which point I said, don’t be shy. I can take it. “Try the oatmeal without the sweetener she said, giving some options to help with the flavor”. After that, I worked up to the double box of brownies.

It occurred to me this relationship is going to be very disappointing for her. Women are used to that with guys, aren’t they?

Day 16  August 26, 2020

E mail updates have been supplanted by Zoom follow ups on Wednesday.  I like to start with “forgive me dietitian, for I have sinned, it has been one week since my last confession”.  She asked how I was doing, I asked if she wanted the good new or the bad news first.  She thought a long time. She decide to go with the good news.  I went with being consistent with my oatmeal, eating plant based almost every day, cooking and trying her black beans/rice bowl, etc. 

Here’s where it started to turn.  My four friends and I go out to dinner once a month.  We usually go to a really nice place, although we did go to waffle house once ’cause one guy moved here from “off” and had never been.  Anyway,  what I wanted to order was the steak…. 

BUT, what I ordered instead was the wreckfish –

She was completely less jaded about this than I and commented that both plates had lovely vegetables. Ah, yes, my vegetables. Here’s where I shine. “I had 5 more versions of vegetables – I had Tequila than night”. “Tequila is not a vegetable serving, ” she said. “What?!?! It’s made from Agave! Thats a plant. That’s plant based!” “No,” she said softly. Almost with a hint of sadness. So what about Rye Whiskey? Not a whole grain?” “Nope”. “Bourbon – Corn?” “Nope”. “Potato Vodka?” “Nope”. “Wine Grapes Fruit”?? “Nope” Boy and they worry about elections being tainted. These science dietitian rules are kinda shady, if you ask me.

“What’s the bad news?”, she asked.  I told her of the morning I had a meltdown.  In a triggered, irrational, anxiety attack, trauma from food and a lifetime of dieting kind of way.  I said I thought I needed a food therapist.  “Is there such a thing as a food therapist?”  She said, “You can talk to me”.  Oh, boy.  Is there “dietitian client confidentiality?”   Also, this Tequila thing is going to be a problem. 

September 3,2020. We’re settling into a comfortable rhythm of mentor and mentee, coach and trainee, probation office and food criminal. I usually horrify her at least twice in a 30 minute follow up call. We’re we’re discussing how to tackle my late night eating issues when my once a day sugar addiction raises its ugly head. I was describing what I ate after my dinner salad Some Roasted vegetables and purple rice (good) and then some Fancy Nancy chicken salad from the “chicken Salad Chick”. (Not good). As the look of horror spread across her angelic face, I explained my manicurist mentioned it to me and I had to try it. “Think if me as a crack head who’s best friends are all drug dealers). <sigh>. Making progress.