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The Curmudgeon’s food tree
Aug. 27, 2012
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by Ivan Raconteur

I distrust the government for a lot of good reasons.

One of the reasons is that it keeps changing its food pyramid, which has recently been replaced by a plate. This is the government’s recommendation for what we should eat each day.

The problem is, every time we get used to it, they change it. This reinforces my belief that the people who put together this guide to proper nutrition haven’t got the faintest idea what they are talking about.

Therefore, as a public service, I devised my own model for good nutrition.

I have never been a fan of pyramids, and plates aren’t a practical tool for what I had in mind, so after much careful research and evaluation, I came up with the Curmudgeon’s food tree.

Each of the large branches represents one of the primary food groups.

The first branch represents the chocolate group.

Chocolate is important for mental health. It can help to stabilize our moods and give us a happy little lift when we need it. It can keep us alert, and help us cope with stress.

The chocolate branch includes many smaller branches such as milk chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and so on. There is liquid chocolate and powdered chocolate, and chocolate that melts in one’s mouth in a wave of silky decadence.

There are fancy chocolates in pretty packages and chocolate in bars, blocks, and even kisses.

Some people think chocolate is candy, but it is much more than that. It is a fundamental food group.

A wise young woman who has earned my utmost respect recently pointed out why chocolate chips do not count as candy. They are, she explained, a baking supply. It stands to reason. Grocers don’t stock them in the candy aisle – they stock them with the baking supplies.

So, if you go to the cupboard and fortify yourself with a handful of chocolate chips now and then, it is not snacking. It is simply good nutrition.

The cheese branch is the foundation of my diet. Cheese comes in a wealth of varieties from hard to soft, sharp to mild. It can be enjoyed on its own, baked in a recipe, or melted on top of other foods.

Cheese can be sophisticated or common. For example, it is possible, if one has very little imagination, to make a grilled cheese sandwich using white bread and American cheese.

That might fill one’s belly, but if one also wants to make one’s spirit soar, one can take grilled cheese to a whole different level by experimenting with combinations of cheeses on different types of artisan bread.

Cheese is bursting with protein, and like a welcome party guest, makes everything around it better.

The wine branch is one of my favorite ways to enjoy fruit (grapes are fruit, and wine is made from grapes).

Wine, in its infinite variety, is a fascinating blend of art and chemistry. Consumed in the right dosage, it can take the edge off a difficult day, or make other people seem more interesting.

It can be incredibly complex or beautifully simple. Whether it is sparkling or still, sweet or dry, light or robust, wine can provide a perfect match to almost any occasion.

Wine can add a fuzzy, warm glow to our lives. It has sometimes been taken over by snobs, but we must remember that wine has its origin among common people.

Even today, a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, a bit of good cheese, and a pleasant companion are all one needs to make a memorable evening.

The coffee branch helps us to start our days in style.

Whether one chooses to enjoy coffee black, as nature intended, or desecrate it with artificial or natural additives, coffee can put a spring in our step and open our eyes to help us welcome each new morning.

It can also provide a festive afternoon pick-me-up, or help us grind through a late-night meeting or study session.

Coffee may be served hot or cold, according to one’s mood or preference.

Those noble baristas who greet us each morning with a bright smile and steaming cup are angels of mercy, and deserve our admiration and respect. They are doing God’s work. It is much easier to love one’s neighbor after one has had a cup of Joe.

Just as the nut branch in some family trees provides that little touch of piquance that makes all the difference at family gatherings, the nut branch in the Curmudgeon’s food tree adds a touch of pleasant interest to the daily diet.

A few cashews, peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or macadamias can add a burst of nutrition and appealing texture to one’s menu.

These are, of course, nuts in a culinary sense, while not necessarily meeting the definition of true nuts in a botanical sense. We find it useful to adopt the broader interpretation for our purposes in order to include the widest variety.

There are many other foods that are needed to make up a healthy diet, but these branches represent the fundamentals.

Picking selections from the branches of the Curmudgeon’s food tree each day may make a person healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Of course, it may not do those things, but there is no guarantee that the government’s recommended plate du jour will do what it says, either. As long as there is an element of uncertainty, we might as well choose the foods we enjoy the most.


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