Thursday, June 13, 2013

from the Archives of Robert West

Low Carb Diet
by Robert West

     I recently read the following article in a doctor’s office while waiting for completion of a follow up of my wife’s recent knee surgery.  An overweight London undertaker visited a doctor for a hard of hearing problem.  The doctor put him strict no bread no potatoes no sugar diet.  His hearing problem did not improve but over a year’s time he lost over 40 pounds and kept it off for years.  In 1864 he published what is probably the first ever-low carb diet book.
     I believe I my dad could have written such a book, not as a diet one but about general health.  He was born, raised and worked on a farm until he was eighteen.  Like all farm kids he grew up eating meat, potatoes and gravy with thick slices of home made bread to sop up the gravy the spuds missed. Dessert was usually a large piece of pie, the crust made with lard that had been rendered from home grown pigs.
    Sometime after he left home Dad came up with the conviction that starchy foods such as, white bread potatoes, pasta etc were the root of most health problems.  Eating fatty meat, gravy, butter and other greasy foods should be avoided as much as possible.  He also believed that too much sugar caused and fed cancer cells.  I can remember as a child sitting down each evening at suppertime to what mother called a balanced meal. There was always meat, usually veal, or chicken or fish.  There were one or two kinds of vegetables, a salad of some kind but seldom pasta or potato.  Wheat bread, but no butter completed the meal.  Once in awhile we were treated with a pasta dish.  If we had dessert it was Jell-O with bananas or a bowl of home canned fruit, or seasonal fresh fruit.  Pies and cakes were saved for special occasions, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.  My sister Doris and I always looked forward to our birthdays.  Our Aunt Lela baked us an angel food birthday cake.  This was years before ready to mix cake mixes came on the market.  Her cakes always came out perfect; they almost melted in your mouth.  I give her much of the credit to the fact I like to cook.  In the winter when I was in the fifth grade I came down with mumps and was out of school for a week.  I went back to school. Two days later I was sent home with whooping cough and spent the rest of the week home.  Mom helped dad at the store so I was alone most of the time with not much to do.  There was no television to watch no video games to play.  We had a radio to listen to, but what kid my age wanted to spend the morning listening to soap box operas with idiotic names like “Oxadol’s Own Ma Perkans” or “One Mans Family”?  Afternoon programs were much better.  “Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy”, The Lone Ranger” and his friend Tonto, “Buck Rogers”, space hero were some of my favorite shows on the radio.
     One morning I was bored enough to pick up one of moms magazine to look at. One page had a picture of a devils cake with a recipe to go with it.  I decided to bake a cake!  I waited until mom went back to work after lunch to check her cupboard for ingredients for the cake. The only trouble I had with following the directions was the one about creaming the sugar with shortening.  I had found the cream in the refrigerator but the recipe did tell how much cream to use.  I called my aunt to see if she could help me.  She laughed at my problem and explained the creaming process.  I had to call her back later about dusting the cake pans with flour.  Much to the surprise to my family and me the cake turned out very good.  Dad even ate several pieces!

     My dad never changed his eating habits.  After my mother died in 1977 he spent equal time living with my sister in California and in Palouse, his beloved hometown.  While living here he stayed in a small apartment above our grocery store.  His breakfast seldom varied.  A bowl of raison bran with skimmed milk but no sugar and two pieces of burned toast.  Yes, I said burned.  After the initial popup it was re-toasted until it was black.  He ate this with no butter or jam.  I visited him every morning about nine.  Although he enjoyed good health I always afraid I might find lying on the floor or in bed sick.  I was always relieved when about half way up the stairs I smelled the scent of burned toast. I knew he was OK.
      Dad was legally blind but enjoyed taking car rides over the countryside.  We were returning from a trip to Lewiston one afternoon when he surprised me by asking to stop and have a beer and a hamburger (fried food was another no no).  We stopped at a tavern I knew had good burgers.  The sandwiches arrived along with a large plate of French fries.  He sent the fries back.  I ask him why.  “French fries and potato chip should be outlawed, they are saturated with fat.” was his reply.  He had a friend living in Pullman who visited him quite often.  One morning they decided to go the Oasis for coffee. After serving the coffee Paul Beyer the owner bought out a freshly baked apple pie and ask them if they wanted a piece.  Dad tuned him down.  His friend ordered a piece with two scoops of ice cream.  He told dad this was his breakfast.  When dad was telling about this he said “No wonder he is always sick, imagine having pie and ice cream for breakfast!
     Dad was about six months short of his 98th birthday when he died he enjoyed very good heath until the last three or four weeks of his life. His mind was far better than mine, thirty years it’s junior.  His memory was outstanding.  Physically he was able to climb the steep hill to our home for the supper meal until he was 96.                                     
     Frances and I have eaten these healthy balanced meals since we first got married. We certainly are not committed to them as dad was.  We enjoy eating potatoes and gravy several times a month.  Baked potatoes and pasta dishes are in our menus quite often.  Nothing tastes better once in awhile than a juicy hamburger with French fries or chips. A batch of homemade noodles cooked in homemade chicken broth made by grandma Frances is the favorite meal of our grandchildren when they visit us. We are not dessert eaters so little baking is done except on special occasions.  I will admit that I like home made cookies with a passion. I have been known to eat half a batch at one sitting. On Sundays we eat what we call our “sinful breakfast” bacon and eggs and hash browns or biscuits and sausage gravy.
     I scoffed at the low carb diet when I first read about it. I now realize there must be some merit to it. When I entered the army in February 1943 I weighed 155 pounds, ballooned up to the 175 pound range and kept within five pounds of that weight while I was in the Amy.  Six months after my discharge and enjoying my mothers cooking I was back down to 155 lbs. and have kept it within 7or 8 pounds ever since.        .   
     I do have a confession.  I ate two pieces of pumpkin pie with real whipped cream for breakfast last Christmas morning.  It was left over from the family dinner the night before.  Sorry Dad!