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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.


January 3, 2007


New York has banned trans fats, Chicago has banned foie gras, and my hometown of Hattiesburg has just banned cigarettes.

That is how I intended to start this week’s column. Typically, I would use the next several paragraphs to make fun of the overzealous food police, vegetarians, and New Yorkers in general— some of which fit all three categories— easy targets, all. Next I would use a few paragraphs to humorously point out what would happen if the trans-fat food police came down to Mississippi and tried to shut down our catfish shacks and barbeque joints.

I would then use the closing paragraphs to take a few final jabs at vegetarians, diet junkies, and members of PETA before finally delivering a humorous knockout blow to those who are trying to regulate every aspect of our lives.

Unfortunately, I am writing this column on New Year’s Day and I have resolved to lose 25 pounds in the next four months. A trans-fat ban is actually looking pretty good right about now.

Full speed ahead, Captain, straight into dieting hell.

I have been on an eating spree since June of 2006. I once read an article that stated one’s taste buds change every seven years. At 45 years old, I must be on the cusp of another one of those changes as I have developed an abnormal and obsessive love of onion rings. Like a pregnant woman craving asparagus cupcakes, it has come from nowhere. Three years ago I endured the same phenomenon— that time with turnip greens— though turnip greens are much healthier than onion rings.

Recently, I have felt like a teenager on a growing spurt, though the only way I have been growing over the last six months is— out.

The catalyst for this most recent food-inspired resolution is pure vanity. My publisher is sending a photographer down from New York for a two-week food and lifestyle photo shoot in May and I don’t want to end up looking like the Mississippi version of Paul Prudhomme circa 1982 in my next book. Up until now my published works have featured beautiful watercolor paintings, self-deprecating cartoons, or vintage photography. Now the subject matter has taken a definite turn for the worse: Me.

A published book is as close to permanent as almost anything in life. Once it goes to the printer, it’s as final as final gets. Scary, yes. Motivating, double yes.So I have resolved to dust off the old diet books, remove the stacks of cookbooks that are piled up on the treadmill, stop using the exercise equipment as an alternate clothes-hanging closet, and throw out all of the chips and sugary kids cereal in my pantry.

I am not quite sure which route I will take to drop this excess poundage. In the past I have counted calories, eliminated fat, used Sugar Busters, and spent a few months with Dr. Atkins’ and his sadistic slow torture method of carbohydrate deprivation. No matter what I end up doing, I know cardio persecution will be a major part of it. I hate cardio.

So I, along with the millions of other slugs who waited until New Year’s Day to make the decision to drop excess poundage, will now be eating healthier. Even still, I am comforted by the fact that I made the choice on my own. New Yorkers have to rely on their local government.

For the immediate future, the catfish houses, barbeque joints, and meat-and-three cafes of South Mississippi will be serving one less customer— no onion rings, less bread, and bland chicken breasts are on the horizon. Sayonara, trans fat. I’ll miss you (at least until June).

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