“OK, fat boy, your time has come.”
“I beg your pardon, are you referring to me?”
“I’m taking control here, chubs. We’re doing something about this situation.”
“You’re thirty pounds overweight, you have high blood pressure, you’ve had cancer surgeries, your diet is atrocious, you drink way too much. I’m worried about you. Need I say more?”
“Hey, wait a sec: I go to the gym and lift heavy objects and put them down again, and …”
“That means you’re a fat guy with muscles. Fat guys with muscles die prematurely, you know. Look at pro football players; any guess about average lifespan? You have no excuses. I’m taking charge.”
My daughter, Ivy, is on the phone, barking at me.
Ivy has purchased a juicer; she’s visited the Internet (the bane of truly civilized humans) and researched all the nifty, health-related things a person can do with such a machine.
The course she’s decided on?
Torture her father by putting him on a juice fast.
“It’ll flush the toxins from your system, and you’ll lose weight. It says on the Internet site that your health and attitude will improve. The mood thing alone would be a plus — and you will have more energy.”
“How long does this fast last? A couple of hours? A day?”
“Ten days. We start tomorrow. I’ll do it with you.”
“Well, I don’t know if tomorrow is best, I …”
“It’s on, big guy. You and me, rushing headlong to health.”
My grandson, Banzai, gets on the phone and excitedly informs me that he and his mother purchased the largest package of organic carrots available in the history of the grocery business, and they filled the car with vegetables and fruits. “It’s a lot.”
I can only imagine.
The next morning, seven-thirty sharp, Ivy arrives at the door bearing jars full of juices — all colors, from bright orange and pink, to hues reminiscent of a cholera epidemic in Bangladesh.
“Three jars for breakfast, three for lunch, one for a mid-afternoon snack and three for dinner. Take your pick.”
“What’s this,” I ask, holding up a jar filled with a dark green, brownish sludge.
“Not sure. Could be the kale, beet, orange, carrot and chard. Looks good, doesn’t it?”
After Ivy and Bonz leave, I open one of the jars, this one containing a brilliant orange liquid. I slug it down. The juice is tasty, fruity, sweet.
Not bad. Maybe this won’t be so terrible, after all.
It’s interesting how our perceptions turn on a dime, isn’t it?
I open a second jar. The thick liquid is light green. It is one of the worst things I have ever sloshed on my tastebuds. I detect cucumber, bell pepper and distinct, dirt overtones.
It is not, however, the worst thing I have ever tasted.
That would be the crud in the third jar; I gag it down to finish my “breakfast.”
My initial reaction? If I wanted to be in close proximity to sewage, I would get a job at the local wastewater treatment plant.
At work, I drink the contents of three other jars. I also pound down a jar full of watery debris for a snack.
I finish the day with three more jars of juice. One is fruity good. Two are indescribably offensive.
I lay in my bed that night, in the dark, eyes open. I listen to my stomach and intestinal tract. It is like living near a busy railyard. The noise is overwhelming: growls, odd bubbling sounds, the occasional squeak — a pod of whales at the peak of mating season.
The next morning, another delivery, a second day of slop-driven despair. A couple of the juices are excellent; cantaloupe/watermelon, and orange/mango/pineapple. The rest are vile: from the taste, I deduce one is sheep dung and nettles, the other is sugar beet refuse and mulch.
My digestive system is making so much noise I am reluctant to get close to anyone.
The second night of the fast, truly nasty stuff begins to happen. As in severe muscle cramps. I am watching a rerun of Campus PD. It is a favorite episode, one in which an underclassman at an obscure state college projectile vomits just as he swears to the officer that he has had nothing to drink. These college kids are a barrel of laughs. Ah, youth.
Out the blue, my left calf cramps, the muscle tightening into a rock-hard, painful ball. After I scream, I cry.
Later that night, I am awakened by a major-league cramp in my foot.
Apparently, as one flushes the toxins, one expels electrolytes.
The next day, I can barely walk.
After I consume a quart or so of less-than-delectable gunk at lunch, the adductor in my left leg cramps.
At this point, thanks to the juice fast, I qualify for a handicap parking permit.
I am miserable (despite my internal cleanliness) and while Ivy is amused, she keeps pace. She spends most of her day manning the juicer. In fact, she is so industrious, her brand-new juicer fails under the workload and she borrows a friend’s machine.
“How ya doin’, chunky?”
“I‘m convinced this fast is an insidious vegan strategy designed to eliminate omnivores. Oh, and by the way, do you think it’s OK to top off the muck with two or three fingers of vodka?”
“I sympathize, pops. This is a tough one. I’m so worn out from juicing, it’s hard to go to work. Plus, some nasty stuff has been going on down south, if you know what I mean.”
“Indeed I do. Let’s go to the Internet and see what the juice fast site says about adding vodka to the mix. Just in case.”
We dial in the site that inspired Ivy and, as I begin to scan the text, voila, a miracle!
“Wait a sec: It says here that, when you first try this juice fast, you’re to do it for a day and see how you feel. Maybe stretch it to two days, max. Where did you get the ten-day idea?”
“Came up with it on my own. It sounded like a good, round number.”
“We’re outta here. There’s no way we can endanger our health by overdoing this. It’s not like us to overdo anything, after all.”
“You’re right about that. Not us.”
It’s easy. Like father, like daughter.
So, we jump ship after three days (with Ivy swearing that, in three months, her next juicer will be operating at full throttle, providing us with the glop needed for five days of fasting). I pretend to cheerfully agree with the plan.
Turns out, the actual fast is not the big problem.
For those of you foolish enough to consider the juice-based “cleansing” regimen (those of you who don’t know what the liver is for), you need to understand that coming off a fast, even three days worth, is worse than the fast itself.
Put some real food, loaded with bulk and fiber, into a digestive system that has processed nothing but juice for several days and you have a Code Blue situation on your hands. Or, in your gut, to be precise.
If I thought the noise from below the belt was loud when I was digesting juice, I quickly learned it can get much louder.
The day after the fast, I am sitting at a meeting, at a table with a group of folks and …
Are we at the zoo?
Leanne is seated next to me, making a presentation, and my gut makes a noise reminiscent of a bellowing, injured rhino. The noise is loud enough that Leanne halts and turns to me with an expression of terror on her face.
What to do?
Turn and look at the person seated at my other side, as if they are the source of the disgusting sounds. What other option is there?
The problems in Colonville continue for several days. No matter what enters, the reaction is the same: appalling.
There is only one way to put an end to the dilemma.
Baked pasta and a lot of wine.
That’ll do the trick. Pack the system with cheesy carbs and dull the pain with alcohol.
The pasta — rigatoni or penne, cooked to a semi-soft state, the hard side of al dente. Don’t overcook the pasta at this stage, since it will cook more in the oven.
To add to the pasta: sliced mushrooms, cooked over medium heat in olive oil until they give up their moisture and start to caramelize. Thinly sliced white onion, cooked until soft — not browned. The last two minutes or so, the onion stays in the pan, add some finely minced and mushed garlic and cook until soft — not browned.
Make a béchamel — a roux brought to light blond, whole milk, a bit of nutmeg, salt. Add several grated cheeses. How about mozzarella, asiago, parmesan? Perhaps a wad of white cheddar? Melt the cheeses and make sure you’ve got a whopping, cheesy blend.
Add to the pasta in a large bowl. Mix well, taste and season.
Then, to guarantee the intestinal express runs off the tracks, add some chunks of cooked, hot Italian sausage. Nothing says “Cut the juice fast” like highly-seasoned pork products.
Put the mix in a buttered casserole, cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, take the foil cover off and sprinkle the pasta with some grated parmesan or a mix of oiled panko, grated cheese and chopped parsley, then bake uncovered until the top is golden and yummy.
Wine? A couple glasses of a light or medium red will top the carbs off in perfect fashion. Consume a pile of steamed and buttered spinach or some broccoli florets, if you must. Vegetables are to be regarded with suspicion at this point.
From here forward, it’s a matter of proceeding with caution for several days, reintroducing toxins to the body. Soon, the turmoil will subside.
Then, there is only one rule: the juicer stays in the cupboard until the garage sale.