Healthy is as healthy does

“This diet is really working.”

(You’ve noticed, Karl; this is the time to say so. For once in your life, make the right move. Don’t be a twit; say something intelligent, man!)

“Yeah, it is, honey. I can really tell the difference.”

(Very good. That should do it.)

“I think the Pilates class helps, too, and so does all the aerobic activity.”

“Definitely the right idea. You’ve been working hard and the results are remarkable.”

(Easy does it. Keep the superlatives to a minimum. Be realistic, and sincere. After all, the process is working for her.)

“Plus, you know, Chubs, I’ve been thinking …”

(Uh oh. I sense a train is coming, and I may have stalled my car on the tracks. Where’s the nearest exit?)

“All you do is go to the gym and lift weights. You would really benefit from a broader program. Let’s face it, you are not exactly trim.”

“Lifting heavy objects and putting them back down again is profound exercise. I do it all the time. I’m in fine shape.”

“Sure you are. Both of you. Have you looked at your profile in the mirror lately?”

“Well, granted, I am carrying a few extra pounds but, you know, beneath that bit of padding, I am ripped. Several months of famine and I’d be a veritable Greek god.”

“Zorba the Greek, maybe. I think you need to expand your program, Zorba.”

(So much for good sense and a show of support. Of course, with what is happening to the stock market lately, the famine idea might not be far fetched.)

“I have a plan.”

(Oh, no. A plan. My fight or flight response is kicking in.)

“First, you need to get a lot more aerobic exercise. Even if it is only taking long, brisk walks.”

(Three terrifying words: aerobic, walks, brisk. That means scurrying around outdoors, doesn’t it? I’m not sure I should do that.)

“And, you should find time to take a Pilates class. Maybe take one with me. It would be fun to take it together.”

(Dear lord.)

“But, you know, maybe the most important change I’ve made is in what I am eating. Have you noticed?”

(Let’s see: teeny portions of whatever I cook — avoiding items with white flour, or dairy. No butter, no wine etc.)

“Well, yes, I’ve noticed you are shunning all the good stuff.”

“That’s not the right attitude, Karl. That’s negative. You need to alter your perspective.”

(Ah, yes: a perspective built on the premise that the enjoyment of tasty and quality food and good drink are key elements in the life well lived. That perspective.)

“So, I think we need to start a healthier regimen by cutting back even more on the amount of meat we eat.”

I have already reduced our flesh consumption to a minimum, eradicating nearly all red meat. If we eat any red meat, it is usually as a minor element in a combo dish, and then, generally, lean pork. When flesh takes center stage, it is poultry. Plus, I’ve upped the ante on fish. And, to trump it all, I even make a flesh-free meal now and then. The other night, it was a take on pasta e fagioli. Darned good, too, if I don’t say so myself — pasta, with sautéed onion and garlic. Some cannellini beans, a bit of crushed tomato, herbs, kosher salt, pepper, olive oil, chopped Italian parsley, a mess of freshly-grated asiago. Heck, I even went with whole wheat pasta — normally a culinary sin. Partnered with a salad of “spring greens,” kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, a balsamic vinaigrette — passable. Passable, indeed.

Now and then.

“I’m in the mood for a burger. Let’s have a burger tonight.”

“But, you just finished telling me we need to erase the carnivore side of the menu.”

“Oh, not a real burger. A meatless burger. It sounds good, doesn’t it?”

(Don’t say it. Keep your trap closed and go along with this.)

I toddle off to the market and I find a typical “meatless burger” in the frozen foods case — in a section of the case that, frankly, frightens me.

The label on the box touts the product as “flame grilled” and “All American.” Apparently this is a Republican product — it is neither flame-grilled, nor is it any more “All American” than a vegan hot dog.

The label notes the product within the box contains 65-percent fewer calories (than what, is not specified), “low cholesterol,” “high protein” and no trans fat.

Hmmm. I look at the list of ingredients.

Number-one ingredient: water.

Well, we need water, that’s for sure. It is usually pretty easy to obtain water straight out of the tap, but why not in a meatless burger?

Number two on the list: soy protein.

From that point on in what is an alarmingly long list, I find some common ingredients (caramel color, dried onion and wheat gluten, for example) interspersed with a variety of additives with very long, lab-generated names. How does disodium guanylate strike you?

Of course, I purchase the product.

And we eat it.

I decide that, if I am forced to consider this foodlike item again, I will make my own version.

Should be easy. After all, we’re talking vegetable matter here and there are a lot of options.

I’ll assemble a mess of fresh or frozen vegetables, most of them diced small, grated or thinly sliced: corn kernels, carrot, potato, sweet potato, onion, garlic, squash, bell pepper, chile pepper. Maybe toss in some chopped fungus, some chopped nuts.

Saute the veggies in olive oil and drain them, getting out extraneous moisture and fat..

Mix the veggies with some sort of binder — bread crumbs, perhaps some mashed potato.

I’ll tell Kathy about my idea. She’ll like the basic ingredients and, surely, will make modifications. I know how it will go.

“Hey, what about an egg?”

“Egg white, yes. Yolk, no.”

“But, the yolk is the best part.”

“No yolk.”

“You know what would be perfect in this mix, to knit everything together? A bit of mayonnaise.”

“Absolutely not. A bit of yogurt, but definitely no mayo.”

Mix the mess up, toss in a bunch of seasoning. A big bunch of seasoning —from fave herbs and spices to some curry powder. Anything to give this dull mélange some flavor. Add enough of the binder and yogurt (sneak in the mayo and call it “yogurt”) to produce a patty with enough integrity to hold together. Form patties and refrigerate for a half hour or so.

Olive oil in sauté pan over medium high heat. Patties into pan, cooked on one side until browned, flipped carefully, cooked on other side.

Organic, whole-wheat buns, anyone? Toasted?

“You know what would be real tasty on this — a couple hunks of asadero cheese, a tablespoon or three of mayo and some stone ground Dijon.”

“Mustard only.”

(No cheese? No mayo? What is this, a health nut concentration camp?)

On the side — a fresh slaw, dressed with a simple vinaigrette. No sugar.

“I’m thinking a glass or so, or more, of a dry white would suit this perfectly.”

“No wine. Do you know how many calories are in a single glass of wine?”

Dinner over, Kathy will hum show tunes as she tidies up in the kitchen.

“Tell the truth, wasn’t that good?”

(For heaven’s sake, man, don’t tell the truth. You know where that gets you. Lie, then get to the basement as quickly as possible. She’ll probably want to take a walk.)