Trucks, food and senility

I’m in a hurry. I have plans.

Fat chance.

I wrestle my junk heap of a truck into a parking space at the end of the market lot. I scurry inside the building to look for the makings of something quick and tasty for dinner. I’m late, and I have to prepare something so Kathy can chow down, then get out of the house and make it to an appointment.

The selection process is simple, and all goes well. I make a beeline to the flesh department and veer off to the finny things display case. I find a couple packs of what the folks at the market endearingly refer to as “Dover sole.” It is anything but real Dover sole — it is likely some kind of plentiful trash fish or hunks o’ young flounder. I can make do, though. I’ll rinse off the almost-too-soft fillets, dry them, season them, then give them a light dredge in seasoned flour, (salt, pepper, herbes de Provence or a bit of tarragon) sauté them in a mix of extra-virgin olive oil and butter. They’ll be cooked in a matter of a couple minutes, and I’ll take them from pan to a heated plate and make a pan sauce with some finely diced shallot, lots of fresh lemon juice, some rinsed capers, a touch of dry white wine. And more butter, of course, once the liquid reduces a bit. I’ll hit the mix with a dose of chopped parsley and back to the pan go the fillets to soak up a bit of the sauce. The technique would work equally well with cod fillets or another firm white fish, even tilapia or catfish, if one were inclined to eat dirt.

With it? Couscous mixed with green peas (I have half a pack of peas in the freezer) and shaved parmesan. A bit of extra butter, of course. Fresh ground black pepper. Some of the fresh lemon juice, if there’s any left. Some of the chopped parsley.

Do I need more?

No.

I leave the market a pretty satisfied guy. I’m feelin’ snappy, on top o’ the world.

So, predictably, I meet with disaster.

Ah, life. Every minor triumph is invariably countered, isn’t it? If your answer is “no,” you’re delusional and need counseling.

The disaster?

I get in the truck, put the key in the ignition, turn the key and … nothing. It doesn’t start. It doesn’t even turn over. There isn’t a click; the only sound is the weak and wavering tone that sounds when key enters ignition.

This is nothing new. It’s happened a number of times in the past. I anthropomorphized the machine and chalked it up to eccentricity.

Thus, whenever it happened, I treated the truck like an addled cousin. I fiddled with the key a bit. I sat back and waited a few seconds. I turned the key again and, Yahtzee!, the pile of crap lit up and I drove off.

So, this time, I go through the ritual.

Nothing. Just that pathetic, wavering tone.

I go through the routine again.

Nada.

Again.

Zip.

Realizing a hallmark of insanity is repetition of an action that has consistently proven unsuccessful, the next time I add a powerful blast of positive mental energy to the mix, counting on an extrasensory boost.

Nope.

It’s dead.

I decide to give the beast a push and pop the clutch to start the engine.

This is an ugly sight: A chubby, gap-toothed guy pushing a crumb-ball Chevy truck across the parking lot with one leg dangling from the open door, cursing loudly, then leaping into the driver’s seat.

The truck lurches violently. The only sounds … a scream, and that pathetic, weak tone coming from the dashboard.

It’s dead. And it ain’t comin’ back to life.

Two things remain: first, I need to clear all the vital information out of the cab so any rascal who decides breaking into a rusty, ancient truck is a worthy venture will be denied critical financial and personal documents. These documents are scattered all over the place, and this takes me a while. Pay stubs, bank receipts, driver’s license, insurance notices. Is that my Social Security card beneath that May 1996 copy of Art in America? By golly, it is. So, that’s where it’s been.

Second, and far more painful: I need to call home, whimper, beg for a ride.

With dinner finally cooked and eaten, and Kathy on her way (flush with the joy that comes of reminding me, again and again, how poorly I care for my truck) I sit back and ponder the situation.

I decide I will call my son in-law, Jon, and ask if he can help me in the morning.

I pick up the phone, put finger to button and realize I can’t remember the phone number. I call my daughter, Ivy, frequently; when I do, I pick up the phone, and I dial her number. Automatically. Tonight, though, I can’t remember the number.

It’s then I realize … I am my truck.

Old, rusty, shorted out, making a feeble noise.

The phone number is missing from the memory bank.

And the phone number is not all I can’t remember. This is getting to be too regular an occurrence.

Names?

Hit or miss. Unless it’s someone I love, someone I’ve known for a long time or see on a regular basis, the name is probably MIA.

Items on a mental shopping list?

You gotta be kiddin’.

Anything not written on a note pinned to my coat?

Probably not.

I am my truck.

An hour or so later, the phone number burbles up out of the mental murk and I make the call. Jon meets me at the parking lot the next morning with his Big Mother diesel truck. We chain up and haul the wreck to a garage for repair.

When I get home, my distress propels me to research foods for the brain — foods alleged to enhance memory.

I cruise everything from medical journal entries to the hypes from guys promoting an end to death. I spend the better part of a day dealing with the subject, in the hope of discovering someone, anyone, who will verify the benefits of my diet, assure me I am not eating my way to senility.

As with the truck, and my brain, this hope is dead and it ain’t comin’ back to life anytime soon.

Nearly everywhere I look, the answer is much the same, and not the one I want: beware a lack of “good” cholesterol, watch out for nasty fats, ingest stultifying amounts of “high fiber” foods, boost fruit and vegetable consumption to eerie levels,

My mood is negatively affected by the news, even though I realize nearly all the “studies” have been done on animals, like beagles. Beagles, for crying out loud! What do they know that they can forget? Phone numbers? Peoples’ names? I think not. Does PETA know about this?

But, the scientists and touts are persistent.

There is some respite in the many advocates of fatty fish —mackerel, salmon, albacore tuna herring, sardines. I love mackerel — especially Japanese mackerel, saba. Surely, I’ll find a couple fresh, clear-eyed and plump beauties at the local market here in Siberia With a View real soon.

Apparently, people who eat baked or broiled fish (not fried), high in omega-3 fatty acids, are less likely to have “silent” brain lesions that can cause memory loss and dementia — this according to the venerable Jyrki Virtanen of the University of Kuopio in Finland.

Virtanen would be a hero of mine but for the “not fried” thing. And, where the heck is Kuopio anyway?

Researchers determined that folks who ate omega-3-rich fish three times or more per week had a nearly 26 percent lower risk of silent brain lesions. This is a good thing: If you plan to have brain lesions, make ’em loud.

Of course, lacking sea sources, essential and “good” omega-3 fats are also available if you choke down shovels’ full of flaxseed and walnuts. You can also get a load of them if you take in a gallon or so of canola or soybean oil (I recommend using a ladle or a large straw).

Turns out, breakfast is critical. It should include a high-protein source as well as a high fiber starch. The eggs, dairy and meat I appreciate. But, without a tortilla and chile? Please.

Some shameless grant hustler performed a study that showed people who eat a major load of high-fiber breakfast cereal each day not only remember phone numbers and names, but are generally happier and more attentive throughout the day than those who do not.

I am bouyed by the fact this nonsense is neatly balanced by a very smart guy who determined that eggs increase production of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter. If he could only secure funding for a tortilla and chorizo study.

Back on the dark side, there is a goof who advocates eating massive amounts of blueberries. Something about flavonoids.

And there are those who claim drinking bathtubs full of water is a great idea — the strategy counteracting the confusion and memory problems that come with dehydration. Wine is basically water, isn’t it?

Then there is the warning about the deleterious effect of stress and boredom on diet and therefore on memory. Granted, avoiding stress would excuse forsaking employment of any kind, but this isn’t going to happen. So, stress it is.

Apparently when we are under stress, we tend to ingest foods with suspicious nutritional content. A gaggle of lab coat-clad stick-in-the-muds claim foods high in salt, fat and sugar do the roller-coaster trip on our systems — a short-term boost followed by a plunge to a depressed state. According to these dupes of the vitamin industry, such a plunge produces deterioration in the brain and memory reduction. Heck, if we want to deteriorate our brains, all we need to do is pay attention to campaign ads during an election. What does it matter if we are eating corn chips and bean dip while we do it?

The item du jour: Vitamin B — via poultry (OK), tuna (okey dokey, but environmentally questionable if it is bluefin), salmon (Kathy won’t eat it if it is not “wild caught”) various seeds (if you’re a bird). There is an odd notion out there that we need vitamin B in order to process information — without it, the turf in Brainville quickly withers. I say chew up a couple Flintstones, snack on some paté and call it a B day

Bottom line: To do all that one can to preserve zippy brain function and preserve or restore memory, the health crowd says we need to compose our diets with attention to vitamin and mineral content, with great caution concerning “bad” fats (the ones that taste good), guarding against too much dairy and rich food, and too much alcohol.

Good thing I won’t remember all this.

Because, when all is said and done … I am my truck.