Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Isn't It Organic?"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
Whenever I go food shopping, which is once in a blue moon, at which time I head directly to the beer aisle so I can buy a six-pack of Blue Moon, I accompany my wife, Sue, who clips coupons, knows what’s on sale and always carries a circular. This baffles me because circulars are rectangular, which is the admittedly feeble excuse I use for rarely going to the supermarket.

But I recently got a crash course in food shopping — the crash occurred when I hit another shopper’s cart with the one I was pushing — from Christine D’Angelo, a certified nutritional counselor.

I won a raffle for a free grocery excursion with Christine, who met me and Sue on a weekday evening after work at the store where Sue does her food shopping.

With Sue holding a rectangular circular and me pushing the cart, which in accordance with federal law had four wheels that all went in different directions, we set off with Christine, who brought budget shopping tips and a weekly meal plan for Sue and a Groucho Marx mask for me.

“Does this mean I have to buy animal crackers and duck soup?” I asked Christine, who should have gone with Harpo, the Marx Brother who didn’t talk.

I put the mask in the cart and we headed up the first aisle, where Christine gave us her top tip: “Don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry.”

“I haven’t had dinner yet,” I said. “Would you mind if I nibble while we shop?”

“No, but you’ll have to pay for whatever you eat,” said Christine, who was on the last day of her three-day bone broth diet. “It cleans you out,” she explained. “No solid foods, only liquids.”

“I could do that with beer,” I said.

“Beer builds bodies,” acknowledged Christine, adding that women sometimes use it as shampoo. “We like it on our heads.”

“I don’t shampoo with beer,” I said, “but it goes to my head, too.”

Christine’s second tip: “Buy in bulk.”

“If you buy too much food,” I pointed out, “you’ll end up being bulky.”

“Now you know why I don’t take him grocery shopping too often,” Sue said to Christine, who nodded sympathetically. Then she extolled the virtues of a Mediterranean diet because it saves money.

“How could it save money,” I wondered, “when you’d have to travel to Italy every day?”

Christine, wisely ignoring the remark, continued: “Consider eating more natural foods. Go organic. We’re not made for synthetics.”

“I know,” I said. “Polyester is kind of chewy.”

“I like greens,” Sue said.

“That’s good,” Christine replied.

“Sue’s even married to a vegetable,” I noted.

Christine did not disagree. Instead, she gave us more tips: Buy seasonal produce, buy only what’s on your list, look for store brands.

“And,” she said, “look on the lowest shelf because food at eye level is the highest-priced.”

“What if I bent over and couldn’t straighten up?” I wondered.

“Then you’d save money every time you went shopping,” said Christine, who walked us through the condiment aisle and talked about the benefits of olive oil.

“You know who loves olive oil?” I asked.

“Popeye!” chirped Christine, referring to the sailor man’s girlfriend, Olive Oyl.

“Very good,” I said. “I’m impressed.”

I was even more impressed when Christine also talked about the benefits of organic beer.

“American beer contains ingredients that aren’t allowed in Europe,” she said, suggesting I try Spaten Optimator, a German brew. “You could be the terminator of the Optimator,” Christine said.

I put a six-pack in the cart and said, “It’s good to know I’ll not only be eating healthy, but drinking healthy, too.”

“You could even be shampooing healthy,” Christine said as she walked Sue and me to the checkout.

“Thank you,” said Sue, who already was an educated food shopper but appreciated Christine’s tips, expertise and, especially, patience in putting up with my stupid jokes.

“Tomorrow, when you come off your bone broth diet, you should have some organic beer,” I told Christine.

“Good idea,” she replied. “After shopping with you, I think I need it.”

Copyright 2017 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Worth the Weight"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
As a 175-pound weakling whose idea of lifting weights is doing 12-ounce curls, I had always vowed that I would never go to any gym that wasn’t situated next to a bar.

I recently found such an unlikely combination when I won a one-day trial membership to Blink Fitness, which has gyms in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California.

Because going to the West Coast would entail hopping on a plane, a form of exercise frowned upon by the Federal Aviation Administration, I drove to the Blink location in Melville, New York, which happens to be situated next to Blackstone Steakhouse, an establishment that has a bar where powerlifters such as myself can do 12-ounce curls.

My brief membership began after work, where I didn’t work up much of a sweat, and ended an hour and a half later in the upstairs equipment room, where I didn’t work up much of a sweat, either, because I was too busy talking to members who were trying to work up a sweat but couldn’t because, of course, I was talking to them.

“How’s it going?” I asked Scott Grimando, 48, an illustrator who was in the middle of a workout on the shoulder press machine.

“OK,” Scott replied between huffs and puffs. “Trying to keep in shape.”

Except for a woman who was working out with a personal trainer and appeared to be even older than I am (63 physically, 12 mentally), Scott was one of the more senior members, most of whom appeared to be in their 20s and already in such good shape that they shouldn’t have bothered working out.

“I have a one-day membership,” I told Scott.

“Make the most of it,” he said, adding that he’s a pescatarian.

“I’m Catholic,” I responded. “And I may need last rites before the night is out.”

Scott patiently explained that a pescatarian is a person who doesn’t eat meat but does eat fish. “It’s a good diet to be on,” he said, returning to his shoulder presses.

I sat down next to him and did 10 at a weight that probably didn’t exceed that of a Chihuahua on a pescatarian diet.

Next I spoke with David Kahn, 50, a lawyer who was on a pedal machine.

“I want to look buff,” said David, who did. “Also, I got hurt Rollerblading, so coming to the gym is safer.”

David, who used to play soccer and softball, practices corporate law and said he couldn’t represent me if I got hurt working out.

“But I could represent the gym,” he said with a smile.

“In that case,” I said, “I’ll take it easy on the machines.”

And I was on plenty of them. There was the treadmill (where I watched Charlie Sheen in a rerun of “Two and a Half Men”); the moving stairs (which I climbed steadily but didn’t get anywhere); the calf exerciser (I didn’t see any livestock); and the dumbbells (I was the biggest one).

All in all, it was an invigorating experience. The gym was clean and spacious, the people were friendly and the equipment was top-notch. And I didn’t need last rites.

“How was it?” assistant manager Christian Dellosso, 23, asked as I was leaving.

“Terrific,” I said. “Considering I’m 40 years older than you are, I feel really good.”

“Great,” Christian said. “I hope you’ll join.”

“I’m thinking about it,” I said. “But first, I have to go next door for one more workout.”

I strolled over to Blackstone Steakhouse and ordered a beer from bartender Vinny Fodera, 59, who sported a sweeping mustache and a muscular build.

“Do you work out?” I asked.

“No,” Vinny said. “I used to lift weights, but they were too heavy.”

“If you don’t mind,” I said, lifting a cold one, “I’m going to do some 12-ounce curls.”

“Be my guest,” Vinny said. “For guys our age, it’s the best exercise you can get.”

Copyright 2017 by Jerry Zezima