We all talk a good game about how to eat, what to eat, and the importance of preparing our own food from quality ingredients. The truth is that everyone faces the same dilemmas from time to time. Whether it's travel, working late, business lunches, social outings, or simply not being interested in cooking, there are many reasons that eating that home cooked meal may not always be possible.
I've decided to pose a series of questions to our members on a weekly basis on what gets them through these situations. You might be surprised at some of the answers and others might be exactly what you expected — either way, I'm hopeful that this will help you navigate your way through the myriad of awkward, inconvenient, or simply lazy situations you find yourself in.
Gary Taubes from Oakland, California
CA: Do you put much thought into where you eat out? Or do you simply go anywhere and try to make do with what's on the menu?
GT: When we go out, which is not that often, and when we're not catering to our kids (8 and 11), yes, we are choosy in where we eat. Otherwise why bother? When I'm traveling I'll go someplace convenient and make do.
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal in (or near) Oakland?
GT: Getting Korean barbecue with my boys for a birthday will always be memorable as much for the seemingly endless courses as for the horrible packaged ice cream in the shape of a fish that they insisted on eating (or trying to eat) for dessert.
Typical Korean Barbecue - Image credit: ChefSteps
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal outside of Oakland?
GT: I was lucky enough to live in Paris in the mid-80s, when writing my first book. As is the case with such experiences, everything tends to be memorable, but there was one meal in particular on a quai on the Seine in which every course was what we used to call a food orgasm. You'd take a bite and your universe would collapse down to the taste experience. That may have been second, though, to finally getting a good Tex Mex meal at a restaurant in the Marais, after spending the previous ten months in Geneva, starved for guacamole and chips.
CA: For people with special diets, how do you suggest they talk with restaurant staff in order to get what they need?
GT: Simply. This is outside my area of expertise, assuming I have one, but I no longer eat starches and grains and I politely tell the staff that I'd like them to be subbed out for green vegetables or salads. I've never had a problem with that. I suppose any other recommendations I could make would have to be "special diet" dependent.
CA: Do you prepare an emergency meal when you travel? If so, what do you include?
GT: No. Worst case scenario I'm more than willing to go to a McDonald's or Wendy's at an airport food court and order a burger without the bun. And if things are worse than the worst case scenario, I'm happy to take that opportunity to experiment with intermittent fasting and skip a meal or two, something I rarely do at home. On the other hand, I do travel with a bar of really good 100 percent chocolate in my bag for snacks. (My wife says "really good" with 100 percent chocolate means it still tastes like cardboard, it's just not bitter cardboard.)
CA: Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
GT: Grill grass-fed steak or lamb and sauté some spinach. Or if I'm really in a hurry and it's not an option to actually make a real dinner, then eggs, fried or scrambled, with bacon.
CA: Do you consume alcohol? Explain why you think it is or isn’t a good idea.
GT: I don't think the data exists to tell us whether moderate alcohol consumption — say a few glasses of red wine a day — is detrimental or beneficial. As for beer, I got an e-mail after my sugar book came out from someone asking me what I thought of beer and the maltose it contains. I said, I replied that I could have written a book called The Case Against Beer, but who would read it. I don't think there's many beer drinkers who think they're doing their health a favor by drinking it. That's clearly not the point. Life can get kind of tedious without some vices and the goal shouldn't just be to extend it as long as possible. So a trade-off between living well and living long is part of the goal. For those who like alcohol and have no serious after effects (and who don't drive their drinking companions crazy with their babble when they've had too much), I'm all for it. That said, I rarely drink anymore, not because I think it's unhealthy but because it depresses me. The next day or even the day after I'm not hung over but depressed. It's sufficiently unpleasant that I avoid drinking so as to avoid the very lows that follow.
CA: In terms of food, what is your guilty pleasure?
GT: Now a days it's donuts and muffins from Know Better Breads with butter (and no, I don't get paid to say so or have any financial relationship with the company). Although the founder of Know Foods, Steve Hanley, who tries to get to know everyone in this space, would say I have no reason to feel guilty because his products are made without grain, have an exceedingly low glycemic index, and so are perfectly healthy. Maybe so, but I find I crave them when they're in the house and so feel the guilt anyway — it's in my nature. I wish I had some other guilty pleasure that was really deserving of guilt, but I can't say that I do.
Gary Taubes is an investigative science and health journalist and co-founder of the non-profit Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI.org). He is the author of The Case Against Sugar (2016), Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It (2011) and Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007), published as The Diet Delusion in the UK. Taubes is the recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, and has won numerous other awards for his journalism. These include the International Health Reporting Award from the Pan American Health Organization and the National Association of Science Writers Science in Society Journalism Award, which he won in 1996, 1999 and 2001. (He is the first print journalist to win this award three times.) Taubes graduated from Harvard College in 1977 with an S.B. degree in applied physics, and received an M.S. degree in engineering from Stanford University (1978) and in journalism from Columbia University (1981).