When it comes to eating and cooking, friends certainly are not created equal.
There are the friends who enjoy showing off their baking ability by force-feeding you cookies, cakes, and other sweets.
Then there are those longtime pals who don't feel the need to bake, but they know where to get the best doughnuts for breakfast, bread for sandwiches, and fast-food French fries. They consider walking from the car to the house or pushing a shopping cart exercise.
To the list of people who eat incorrectly and who usually have the girth to prove they enjoy sweets and fats, add the health nuts on your friendship list. You know the type. They are rigid exercisers, have more fruits and vegetables in the fridge than they do sweets in the pantry, and would rather talk about nutrition and your poor eating habits than world news or their golf score.
I am planning to spend a week at the home of Mary Sue, a close friend who fits the last category to a T and rather enjoys scolding me about yo-yo dieting.
As I write this, with my suitcase packed and with one last cookie and a wedge of cheese and crackers to eat so they don't go bad in my absence, I wonder how influential she will be with a house guest who is not only 25 years her senior, but has some deep-seated eating habits.
She never calls from an ordinary location like the living room or the kitchen. She makes telephone calls while riding a stationary bicycle or during a two-hour stint in her paddleboat. The exercise is not just when she is in the mood or when the slacks are tight. It is a daily ritual.
Going out to lunch and dinner with her is a lesson in healthful eating. Does she have more than half of a roll - dry, of course, - or order cheesecake or any dessert except sherbet occasionally?
Perhaps during the week I am with her I can learn to abstain from carbohydrates that are my greatest, most satisfying weakness. Let's start with mashed potatoes. What is better than fresh, hot potatoes, mashed to a fluff with plenty of butter? Even when celebrity chefs add onion, garlic, corn, or broccoli to mashed potatoes, they may not be as good as the original, but they are still too good to pass up.
It is difficult to ignore the carbohydrates that have been lifetime favorites, beginning with mother's rice pudding and grandma's homemade noodles and dumplings.
Bread? Does the current carbohydrate reduction plan mean eliminating the first breads of the day, such as thick slices of French toast soaked in rich egg batter and swimming in maple syrup? Or waffles baked high and crisp? Or toast with butter and jelly that is a must with morning eggs or oatmeal?
When someone figures out how to eat a sandwich without bread I want to hear their recipe. You say just eat the filling with a fork and knife? That is possible, but facing a juicy cheeseburger with crisp lettuce and tomato without a soft sesame-seed bun is too much of a sacrifice.
An egg McMuffin without the English muffin requires wild imagination. Tell me bologna-pickle spread is worth eating without soft white bread.
Now that homegrown tomatoes are almost here, can I make a BLT without one of the designer breads that bakeries and supermarkets offer?
Even more challenging in getting back on a better eating track, can I cut back on pasta with pesto or other aromatic sauce? It seems to me the choices of bread and pasta styles are more extensive and interesting than they ever were. Remember when it was whole wheat, white, or rye bread, and pasta was macaroni and spaghetti? Today's choices demand to be tried.
I expect to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables next week, and to speed by all the ice-cream stands. Mary Sue defines carbohydrates as foods that are stored as energy and then turn to fat.
But they are not all bad carbs, she lectures. Fruits that also have fiber and pectin content are good carbs and should be eaten as a prevention against disease.
Mary Sue knows. Did I tell you? She is a registered nurse who just happens to be my friend.