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Robert St. John

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

Diet Dilemma

August 27, 2007

Diet Dilemma

I was walking from the restaurant to my office the other day and, out of the corner of my eye, caught a glimpse of C’est La Vie, the French bakery across the street.

The morning sun fell gently on the face of the bakery and a golden glow shone all about the building. Through the glimmering radiance I could have sworn I heard a heavenly choir of angels singing “Gloria” (not Van Morrison’s G-L-O-R-I-A Gloria, but the glory hallelujah-type ditty usually sung by a choir). The bakery was calling to me. My thoughts turned to pastry.

The custard-raisin croissant is a thing of simple beauty— butter, flour, milk, egg, and yeast. A touch of custard in the dough and the addition of raisins and cinnamon make it one of my favorite breakfast treats.

I continued to walk towards my office, ignoring the siren song of the heavenly choir. Approximately halfway across the parking lot, the diet angel and the diet devil instantly appeared— one on each shoulder— as they have many times before.

The diet devil spoke first, “Go over and get one of those custard-raisin croissants. You deserve it. Those scales in your bathroom are broken. There’s no way you weigh that much. Eat. Enjoy. Live.”

The diet angel chimed in saying, “Robert, you know those scales aren’t broken. If anything they are seven pounds off giving you a false sense of security. Croissants are loaded with butter and…”

“Don’t listen to him,” the diet devil interrupted. “He’d have you eating sunflower seeds and rice cakes all day. You’re a chef. Chefs aren’t supposed to be skinny. Eat one. Heck, eat two.”

“Skinny? Ha! You haven’t seen skinny since the Regan administration,” the diet angel replied. “Just go into your office and eat a protein bar.”

“A protein bar? You’ve got a world-class bakery across the street and you’re going to eat a protein bar?” said the diet devil. “I’ll bet they just pulled the custard-raisin croissants out of the oven. They’re probably warm enough to melt in your mouth.”

“Just think of how many extra miles you’ll have to walk to burn off those calories,” said the diet angel. “You’re gonna have to start shopping at the Big and Tall store again, and everyone knows you’re not tall.”

The diet angel won that battle, but the diet devil will live to fight another day (a potential rematch might be reconvened on my shoulders as early as this afternoon)

Lightheaded from a lack of substantive food, I sat at my desk and wondered how fate had dealt me such a terrible blow.

Why couldn’t a Frenchman have opened a bakery 97 steps (yes, I’ve counted them) away from my office when I was in my 20s? Back then, I could eat anything in site and not gain an ounce. When I opened my first restaurant, the people at the pizza delivery joint down the street from my house knew my name. I had a standing order when I got off work at midnight: a large pepperoni pizza and a two-liter Coke— all that and a 32-inch waist, too.

In those days I had the metabolism of a hummingbird.

In my early 30s, I could eat a seven-course meal at a fine-dining restaurant, and three hours later, eat a late-night breakfast at an all-night diner— all that and a 34-inch waist, too.

In those days I had the metabolism of a mountain goat.

By the time I reached 40 years old, my waist had expanded to an all-time high of 42 inches and my metabolism was like that of a pot-bellied pig.

Today, at 45, I purchase jeans with a 38-inch waist and am currently on my way back to 36’s (as long as the diet angel can keep me away from French pastries). My metabolism is like that of an average 45-year old mammal and I am learning to live with it

National Geographic Adventure magazine just published a list of America’s top 10 cities Along with Nashville, Austin, and Chicago, my hometown of Hattiesburg made the top ten list. These lists have been around for years, but this is the first time that Hattiesburg has shown up on list that didn’t feature retirement communities.

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the same year a French bakery opens in town; we land on a top-ten list. The quality of life is going up. My waist size is going down, and through it all, the heavenly choir of angels is still singing.

Miniature Banana-Nut Muffins

2 cups flour
3 /4 cups sugar
1 Tbl baking powder
1 /4 tsp salt
1 /2 tsp nutmeg
1 /2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped fine
1 egg
1 /2 cup whipping cream
1 medium sized mashed banana (about 1 cup)
1 /3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350.

In one mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, walnuts and salt.

In another bowl, blend the remaining ingredients together well. Fold wet ingredients into the dry. Do not over mix.

Fill non-stick miniature muffin tins 3 /4 full of the mix.

Bake for 14-16 minutes.

Yield: 24 miniature muffins

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