2011.11.30 One thing at a time

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

In her book “Starting from Happy,” author Patricia Marx writes about sitting next to a psychoanalyst at a dinner party and watching him segregate his various food items.

“He intently pushed his food into neat little no touching piles.” And later: “And next to Imogene, the psychoanalyst was quarantining carrots and making pariahs of his potatoes.”

The image of a psychoanalyst acting obsessive is a rich one, indeed, and Marx’s book is filled with rich ones, indeed. It’s most amusing.

The description of the wacky psychoanalyst did bring to mind a recent dinner table incident, however, it’s somewhat of a mystery. I can’t quite pull it back into clear focus.

I was sitting across from Morenci mayor Keith Pennington at some public meal and he noticed that I was eating all of one item before moving on to the next one. I suppose most people take a bite or two of this, then have a bite of that. They move around the plate while I stay in one place to finish off that one food before digging into the next one. I know it’s all going to be mixed together before long, but I’m just a one-thing-at-a-time guy and Keith spotted my behavior. At least I think he did. Was this just a dream?

I thought about this on Thursday when my plate was over-filling at the Thanksgiving meal. There was no room for worries about one thing touching another, but that’s not much of a concern of mine. My green bean casserole will have a little mashed potato on the edges, but that’s OK. I’ll eat the green beans and then follow that mixed border into the potatoes.

I’m not obsessive about this. It’s not something I have to do; it’s just something I do. There’s no hard and fast rule in my head like the oddball psychoanalyst.

I often eat out of a bowl and I think this points toward one thing at a time. Now we’re getting into pretty strange territory. At our less-than-formal meals, I’ll take a bowl while my wife uses a plate. The main course goes into the bowl and when that’s gone, I’ll load the vegetable into the bowl. On rare occasions, I’ll place some of the “other item” such as a vegetable on top of the main item and eat that off before digging into the remainder.

Now I’m feeling like that psychoanalyst. Well, not exactly, I’m just feeling like I’ve placed a major oddity on display for hundreds of people to snicker over. But maybe they have culinary skeletons in their closet, also.

Of course I had to ask Mr. Google about eating foods separately and came upon Dr. Bass and his theory of “Ideal Health Through Sequential Eating.” It’s the forgotten concept of strata digestion, he says.

You eat your tossed salad, then you go on to corn on the cob, then you eat your meat or rice, etc. As the bottom layer leaves the stomach, the next takes its place. 

He has a list of bad food combinations which could open up some new avenues for obsession. He simplifies things with a basic rule: Eat the most watery foods first, and chew everything to a near watery consistency before swallowing.

I think Dr. Bass might fall into most people’s “wacko” category, but I’ll hold off because I already have a good start on his approach. I’m sequential, but probably out of order.

My wife is often amazed or disgusted when I place a new item in my used bowl or on my plate containing residue of the meal. I guess I’m talking about dessert. I can put a piece of cake onto my well-cleaned dinner plate where she insists on having a new dessert plate.

Imagine my shock Saturday night when Colleen allowed me to place some broccoli into a dish that had previously held pineapple and grapes.

“Are you sure?” I asked before dropping the broccoli.

I should have been elated. I should have welcomed a new era of loosening up a little, but that wasn’t the case. It was just disturbing. It wasn’t right. After all these years she can’t suddenly put broccoli onto a little fruit juice. 

It seems that one of us needs to spend some time with a crazy psychoanalyst, but   Dr. Bass would smile. At least she had the sequence correct. 

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