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Tearing up the years, with lamb and cheese

I am 1.1 years younger than I am.

This is not a zen koan, conceived to transport you on the wings of confusion to a state of empty-minded enlightenment.

Nope. This is pseudo science.

The other day, lacking anything better to do, I went to a website that claims to determine your “real” age, as opposed to your chronological age. I took a test, and I just received the results in an e-mail.

The news is: I am 1.1 years younger than I am.

I am only 62.

The test is fairly simple, centering on your health history, your food and exercise habits, a bit about your genetic history.

I answered a fair number of the questions honestly – maybe two-thirds of them. I am in a chronic state of denial, so I found it impossible to be accurate when responding to a few of the questions; they concerned topics I do not examine absent the lens of illusion.

I was nearly straight-forward when I answered the questions concerning my medical condition. I failed to note, however, that I suffer from adult ADD. I was distracted by a siren outside the building.

I provided my current weight and height with but a touch of exaggeration (to the lighter regarding the first, to the taller regarding the second). The weight and height I reported were not entirely a fiction: there was a time, in high school, when both applied.

I noted accurately that I’ve never had a heart attack (despite my experience during a trip to Vegas, after I spent two hours at the Bellagio buffet. It felt like a heart attack, but it was merely an overload of lobster sausage).

I’ve never had a stroke or kidney disease. My liver works pretty well, though it is approximately 300 years old.

Yes, I do have somewhat high blood pressure, and I checked that box on the test. I’m pretty sure I came within ten points of the truth when reporting my diastolic and systolic numbers.

Hodgkins Disease? Nope.

Anxiety? Who, me? What should I have answered? Did I give the right answer? Is there a right answer? Should I take the test again?

Hepatitis? Yes, two weeks before my draft physical in ’67. Not a bad disease, all things considered.

I don’t know if I have ever had an FEV1 exam. I don’t know what it is.

Oxygen saturation? I am saturated with all sorts of things, oxygen among them. Ninety-five percent, thank you.

Cancer? You bet. And I am minus a prostate thanks to a surgical intrusion, so I was able to ignore the prostate problem question.

Allergies? Can you say “misery?”

Drugs? Absolutely. Used as prescribed? When I remember.

Alcohol? Absolutely. In moderation, with the Clinton caveat: It depends on the definition of “moderation.”

Driving habits? Seat belt on, 100 percent of the time; I drive like a 90-year-old nun. I don’t think the fact the brakes on my truck are going out is particularly important, do you?

Marital history? Kathy reads my column so my answer on the test was “Blissfully happy, satisfied in every conceivable way, 24 hours per day. Couldn’t be better!”

Exercise? In my mind, I am a fitness maniac. According to the test standards, I am average. So, for test purposes – above average.

I answered nine pages of questions, fired the test off to the site, sat back and waited.

With the results in hand, I encounter a dilemma. What good is it to be 1.1 years younger than you are?

If you discover you are younger than you are, does that give you extra time on the back end, or does it indicate that you should put the pedal down now and end up at the same destination you would have reached, at the same time, had you not been younger than you were?


The health and fitness freaks no doubt see the 1.1 years as an extension.

But, I ask, an extension of what?

Let’s say, for example, I was originally expected to live 80 years.

According to the goodie-two-shoes approach, I can now cheerfully look forward to an 81.1-year lifespan.

I believe the cheer is unwarranted.

What, for example, if I become totally addled by age 78? This means 3.1 more years of wondering where my childhood dog, Butch, is hiding and fretting over whether or not I am late to algebra class.

Let’s say, as a further example, I end up stored in some fleabag “care center.” I’m supposed to be buoyed by the thought of an additional 1.1 years of nasty smelling hallways, daytime TV, an incoherent and incontinent roommate, week-old catheters and bland, soft foods?

Health and fitness freaks, masochists that they are, seek out suffering, and eagerly swallow the promise of added misery at the end of life.

I prefer to see the 1.1 years as a distance to be closed. As soon as possible.

As in, what can I do, stat, to take approximately 1.1 years off the charts?

I could, of course, answer all the test questions accurately. But what fun would that be?

I could stop exercising, going to the gym, lifting heavy objects and putting them down again. But, I like this. Endorphins are some of my favorite chemicals.

I could engage in a rigorous program of sleep deprivation, but I would end up watching television to the wee hours of the morning, flipping furiously between loud infomercials. What’s the point of that if your wife won’t let you use the credit card?

I could drive without my seatbelt, but that might do more than just close the gap. It might close the gap far too quickly. And there’s a good chance I would go broke paying the traffic citations in the meantime.

What about a four-pack-a-day cigarette habit? This sounded pretty good, until I checked out the price of cigarettes. The last time I smoked, you could get a pack for 50 cents. Now, you need a bank loan.

So, absent throwing away my blood pressure medication and having an vein in my brain blow while I sit on the can, I think the only way to make up ground is via my diet.

With this task at hand, where better to go than to flesh and dairy products.

Were I a fan of fast food, the job would be easy. I could eat one of those new sandwiches that involves no bread — just two, deep-fried, breaded chicken cutlets encasing a high-fat sauce, two kinds of cheese and a couple strips of bacon. The thing reportedly contains nearly a daily dose of salt and enough calories to keep a village in Darfur fueled for two weeks. I could chow down on three a day and have that year and a half beat in no time.

Then, there’s a delight offered at a number of dives on both coasts, a recipe I could duplicate fairly easily at home. It is a massive burger with two grilled-cheese sandwiches as the buns. If I chose this year-killing option, I would make the two grilled cheese sandwiches with a thinly-sliced, high-grade white bread, amply buttered for the pan, with a hefty amount of havarti and cheddar as the filling. The burger would be home-ground chuck (80-percent flesh, 20-percent fat) simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and grilled medium rare. I would toss on a handful of grilled onions and grilled poblano chile strips and I could erase my alleged advantage in two months, max.

But, why go low grade? Flesh and dairy can be more imaginative, and more delicious.

As in half-pound lamb burgers, stuffed with feta and tapanade.

The tapanade is easy: pulse a mess of pitted kalamata and green olives along with a couple of anchovy fillets, a teeny bit of salt, some freshly ground black pepper. Slowly drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil while the machine runs and blend until you have a nice past. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

The lamb: if you can find lamb shoulder and can grind your own, great. Chances, however, are not that good here in Siberia With a View, so the store’s ground lamb will have to do. Season the lamb with salt, pepper and ground cumin. Mix in some finely diced white onion and chopped parsley.

Make two quarter-pound lamb patties, about five inches across. Put a mix of crumbled feta cheese and a wad of tapanade in the center of one patty, keeping the perimeter clean of filling. Place the second patty on top and seal the edges. At this point, you can form the meat into a ball and reshape it as a thicker patty, if you wish,

Grill this puppy over medium high heat, four to five minutes on a side.

I think I’ll add a glob of roasted red pepper and red chile aioli to my meat, lubing the flesh with some serious fat. I suppose the meat can be served on a grilled bun, but who cares?

I’d say two of these monsters, ingested three time per week with a side of mac and cheese and a large serving high-fat vanilla ice cream for dessert, should evaporate that 1.1 years in fine style. To ease the ride ... two or three pours of a rich Cahors.

An added advantage to my strategy: it’ll give me a great story to share with my roommate at the care center (again and again and again) — How I annihilated 1.1 years with lamb and cheese.

If I’m able to remember the story.