Wednesday, December 18, 2013

cole dining with dolly

Cabbage soup.  Now, there's a story.

I saw that nice little head of cabbage at the market yesterday and realized I had not made cabbage soup for years.  Decades, in fact.

It was back in the 1990s while I was still under the authority of the Air Force.  Well, for the purpose of this story, the Air Force's weight regulations.

I remember when the maximum weight chart came out in the 1970s.  My maximum weight was 179.  I could not imagine weighing that much.  I would be as big as the hangars sheltering the F-111s at Upper Heyford.

Of course, I was in my 20s, and had maintained roughly the same weight through high school and college.  I was blessed with the metabolism and hubris of the young.  Chili dogs.  Pizza.  Steaks.  It was an endless round of food without consequences.

Then, somewhere in my 40s, my body betrayed me even worse than it had in puberty.  At least, in puberty, I got something in turn.  But when your body decides to switch metabolism, there is nothing you can get other than larger.  And I did.

Large enough that I was constantly dancing around the maximum body weight I once thought was impossible.  But the scales said it was more than possible.  It was who I was.

Fortunately, the Air Force was no more efficient about weight standards than Greek customs agents are about what you stuff in your luggage (a story for perhaps another day).  The Air Force only cared once a year.  That was it.  The annual weigh in.  Like a cattle show in Kansas City.

A month before The Fatal Date, I would take up some sort of fad diet.  One year it was the watermelon diet.  Another year it was nutrishakes.  But the most memorable was the cabbage soup diet.

I was staying with my friends Ken and Patti in Olympia.  I think it was Patti who had found the diet.  Then called the Dolly Parton Diet, if I remember correctly.

The trick was to eat only one type of food on any given day.  The hook was that you could eat as much as you wanted of a rather bland diet soup.  And lose up to 20 pounds in a week.  Or some such silly thing.

Whoever came up with this diet had never reckoned with the likes of Steve Cotton.  I was very careful to eat only the foods allowed on any given day.  I would then gorge myself with the soup.

"Gorge" is not a hyperbole.  I ate cabbage soup all through the day.  After I went to bed, I would get up and eat another bowl.  And then another.  Finally, I had consumed a giant pot of cabbage soup -- all in one day.

That is how the week went.  I became a cabbage soup addict.  A full stock pot of soup each day.  I was probably only steps away of taking it intravenously.  The only people who understood me were veteran AA members.

And, of course, I lost no weight.  Not even water weight loss -- which is the only thing the diet could ever offer.  What I got was an award-winning case of flatulence.

You would think I would not want to see another bowl of cabbage soup.  But, after twenty years, that cabbage cried out to me.  Along with the onion, the garlic, the peppers, the carrots, and some rather mediocre tomatoes.

All for 54 pesos -- just over $4 (US).  Enough soup for several meals.  As long as I do not develop another cabbage jones.

Last night they joined together in a boiling chorus of soup.  Along with a handful of thyme and marjoram.  And it was quite good.  The only thing missing was a nice baguette.

Two days ago a Canadian woman visiting Melaque asked me where she could buy some good bread.  "Paris," I responded.  "No," she said, "where is the nearest place I can buy some good bread?"  "Paris," I repeated myself.

So, I dined sans baguette.  Enjoying my soup without caring one bit what the scales tell me when I am done.

Dolly Parton would understand.

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