The Five Food Groups: Tofu, Sushi, Pesto, Godiva, and Sparkling Water

If my mother (God rest her soul) had only known how eating would change over the years, she wouldn’t have spent all that time when I was a toddler pushing tapioca pudding down my throat while pretending the soup spoon was really a bus hurtling through the Holland Tunnel (“here it comes, so open wide”). It not only made me a speedo-consuming foodie forever but also hooked me on comfort dishes like canned spaghetti-os and scrambled eggs.
Little would the two of us ever know that in a scant few decades, I’d be accustoming my palate to an epicurean diet of string cheese, Hot Pockets, and Perrier. It hasn’t been easy to arrive at this gastronomical Mt. Everest. The climb upward has forced me to confront many biases that cried out for dietary purging. For one thing, almost overnight I had to give up my addiction to deli delicacies like salami on rye bread. Not only did the health police come down on the preservative (“it’s cancer-causing”) angle, but the baking lobby criticized the bread for its lack of multi-grain goodness. Of course the pro-gluten free people had to stick their two cents in and revamped the entire dining culture with their strict aversion to gluten (“does anyone really know what it is?).
All I want to know about gluten is that I automatically can ignore that bit of info on any menu, wrapper, or restaurant PR. If it’s got gluten, I’ll eat it. After all, I had been consuming it for 50-some years without losing my eyelashes or some such anomaly, so how bad could it be?!

There are other consumable items I’ve learned to hate over the years. Number one on my list is “tofu.” Although my husband, who purports to be a vegetarian, will eat it in salads, soups, and anything that isn’t moving (but let’s not talk about sushi yet), I won’t touch the stuff. As soon as my eyes scope out the word tofu on any menu, I quickly skip over that dinner entree. I’ve gotten really speedy at this over the years, and if there was an Olympic event in avoiding tofu, I’d win the gold hands down.

Of course tofu is only second to sushi in my digestive hit list. Everywhere I go it seems that there’s a restaurant that proudly declares itself to have sushi. And they’re always jammed. Why do all these people want to eat raw fish? Is it some cult that developed overnight when I was busily learning other code words for “raw” such as steak tartare? Could it be that these people fighting for seats at sushi bars all over the world are really ETs that the food industry has found a way to make money from? If you touch them, will they break? I could go on, but what’s the use, I can put up with rare-ish steak and burgers, but eating raw gives me instant colitis. Again, my husband has been known to eat it at buffets and bar mitzvahs, but he’s been known to eat anything before him, including snails, snake, and venison. He’ll even brag about my lasagna, which is a bit over the top since most of it is either canned or microwaved.

And where was I when Pesto sauce displaced marinara or meat sauce? Was I too busy munching on gourmet pizzas to pay attention to drastic menu revamping? Next thing I knew pesto sauce was on everything—pasta, fish, veggies. I swear I even saw it once on creme brulee.

Then Godiva came along, and we were all caught up in the tidal wave of chocolate luxury items. I admit that like everyone, I splurged on boxes for self and gifties for friends. At first, I thought it was heaven on earth, but as the years went by and the prices skewed upwards, my taste buds rebelled. One day they simply mutinied and swore Godiva was no longer the leader of the pack. Even Hershey began tasting better, and I was getting less reflux symptoms with these Costco chocolates what with their lower percentage of cacao beans and fats. So I stopped cold turkey, and to this day Godiva has not been welcomed into my home. No longer a Godiva addict, I’m free to sample the “mediocre” stuff out there and I love it. One day it’s See’s, another day it’s Lindt or Rocky Mountain. Goodby Godiva, Ride your horse, but keep away from my sweet tooth!

Are you like me when you dine out at a really posh place? As soon as the waiter asks me if I want sparkling or regular, I take an almost instant dislike to said waiter. And it’s not just because I know that if I select sparkling water, my bill is going to go up astronomically. It’s just that I’m really not a big water drinker. I know, I know. Everyone from your workout instructor to your yoga teacher urges you today to stay hydrated with water, but I can’t do it. Eight glasses of water a day is way too much liquid. I’d have to be thirst-deprived for two weeks to down that much. I realize I’m in the minority here since everywhere I go I see people, mostly women with two kids in tow and a backpack, clutching a bottle of water. Every three seconds, it seems, they take a swig of the stuff and metaphorically pat themselves on the back for staying hydrated. They are nothing but H2O showoffs. I mean these are people who at one time flunked out of college or got pregnant accidentally, but now they throw around the word hydrated as if they have a medical degree. Yes, they flaunt it in a mean-spirited way, sneaking looks at mall pedestrians who just might be observing them and their healthy, hydrated habit. If they don’t get enough envying glances, they get hostile and make a big show of uncapping it and forcing their kids to glug down a few ounces.
It bugs sippers like me. We have been non-gulpers since birth and are content to eat a BLT with a minimum of three sips of water to wash the cholesterol down. We never buy bottled water except when we go to Mexico or some other third world country where clean, germ-free water is not part of the package and is clearly optional.
So there you have it, my five most detestable food groups but ones that 89 percent of the free world esteem. If there are others out there with the same predilections I endorse, I encourage you to join my club. You can email me at and sign up for quarterly newsletters detailing the latest food trend. Dues are waived if you include a package of Goober’s peanuts with your application.
Happy foraging. Kale is big right now, but just you wait and see: I hear that tree bark sculpted into croquettes and fried in peanut oil is the next big thing.

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