Every few years I make a personal pledge to maintain better health. In the old days this usually followed a week-long bender of mammoth proportions. Now, it comes after a ten-minute walk that leaves me gasping by the side of the road. First on my list of big changes is always breakfast, a.k.a. the Most Important Meal of the Day, except if you're a chicken intent on protecting your eggs. (I believe that all meals are created equal, and the breakfast myth is perpetuated by Big Egg.)
For decades I ate the true Breakfast of Champions—a cigarette and coffee—but have recently acknowledged the error of my ways. Medical investigation is an extensive undertaking with tons of fancy words and phrases such as "nutrient timing" and "hunger hormones." Exercise is alleged to be beneficial, but I'm not convinced that the physical act of eating counts. (My idea of exercise is playing a video game in a strenuous fashion, battling pixilated opponents for hours on end.) After extensive research, my layman's understanding of health is that smoking is bad and fruit is good!
Consuming fruit feels like a necessary task, a resentful chore, a dutiful burden like gathering sticks from the yard. To begin with, eating an apple is not only time-consuming but very loud. There's simply no way to take a bite in a gentlemanly fashion. Juice squirts in long arcs. The biting sound amplifies in one's mouth like the hole in a guitar, and the skin of an apple can wedge itself between your teeth and stay there for hours. The only cure is digging it out with a toothpick, which prolongs the entire fiasco. Worse, the toothpick can splinter, and you wind up swallowing pieces of birch. (No doctor recommends eating tree.)
Pears are pretty but way too soft to fool with. The innards will flow down your chin, plus the skin can be gritty and bitter. To top it off, both apples and pears carry stickers that must be peeled off, furthering the time involved in preparation. (Although I hear that the stickers are actually edible). A peach is a cunning little traitor—lurking inside is a stone hard enough to chip teeth. The soft banana offers an illusion of simplicity until the crucial decision: method of peeling. Humans typically break the tapered end off a banana, then peel the first section midway down, a process that mashes the interior fruit and makes your hands sticky. Online videos depict the monkey style of peeling, which is the opposite: They gently compress the blunt end of a banana, and the peel practically falls away. Although I possess great admiration for the intelligence of our simian cousins, I refuse to take culinary lessons from a monkey.
Citrus fruit is out of the question. Not only do they squirt like the dickens but the tart juice unerringly targets the eyes. Grapefruit is too heavy to handle easily except as a weapon. Many people add sugar to grapefruit, defeating the purpose of a healthy meal. The orange, though quite lovely in appearance, is an unpredictable rascal. Its skin might be very thin and full of mush, like sheetrock damaged by water. Or the skin might be three-quarters of an inch thick, requiring supreme effort for a highly disappointing amount of inner meat. Each individual orange has white thready stuff in the middle, which, though edible, is likely to get caught halfway down your throat. I find the name off-putting as well. Surely it should be called something other than its color! Don't even get me started on the tangelo, the Prius of the citrus family.
This leaves berries, which have their own inherent perils: seeds. Grapes are the worst of the lot. Some have seeds and some don't, and the only way to learn is by nibbling delicately, using your tongue to root around in the tiny oval. Not worth the trouble. Strawberries and raspberries are adorned with exterior seeds, a desperate act of procreation, which invariably lodge between my molars and gumline. An extra complicating step is the rigorous cleaning procedure beforehand. If you wash the berries with sufficient force to eradicate the herbicides, there's nothing left but stained hands and a sink full of mush.
In my headlong pursuit of a healthy breakfast I latched onto the idea of making a week's worth of Fruit Formula. My technique is to throw everything in a colander, then rinse the contents while I play video games. I then dump the "clean" fruit into a standard blender. A banana adds a certain froth to the mix, and I developed a method of removing the recalcitrant skin with two hands, a technique I call "squeeze-and-squirt" (patent pending). Then I simply place a lid on the blender and let it run while I finish a few quests in my video game. Afterward, I pour the liquified mess into a large container in the refrigerator. Every morning I drank a glass full. Voilà! All that fruit enters my system with no mess or wasted effort.
I was intensely proud of my creation until my sons pointed out that a product idiotically called a fruit smoothie has been on the market for years. They implied that if I ever left the house, I'd know about this.
My family actually liked my Fruit Formula and began eating it on the sly, which I didn't notice until measuring the contents at night and comparing the figures at midday when I rose from bed. My sons vehemently claimed that the loss was due to natural evaporation. My wife implied that I stayed in bed too long to fully understand the process. According to her, all the water in the world just runs around in a big circle of evaporation and return. That makes no sense to me. What happens to the salt in seawater? You never hear of salty rain! Science aside, my family ate my breakfast but I couldn't prove they did. The prospect of rising early enough to guard my breakfast was pretty much off the table. I needed another plan to foil their greediness.
As a young man I lived in a rooming house and shared a refrigerator with three other guys. I worked in a restaurant that offset my lousy pay by giving me food to take home. Unfortunately, the other boarders had the habit of eating everything available. My solution was pragmatic: I threw everything in a large, lidded container, added a combination of red and green food coloring to make the contents brown, and affixed a label to the side saying BRAIN SOUP. No one ate my food. In fact, my roomies treated me with a certain respect and trepidation, undoubtedly believing that my diet made me smarter than them. Unfortunately my family already knows I'm a buckethead so I had to actually be smart, not merely create the illusion.
I made a rare trip out of the house and purchased several packets of unsweetened black cherry Kool-Aid. I added it to the blender. The result was a very dark, nearly black mess. I labeled the tupperware container PLATYPUS OIL and told my family it was for high blood pressure. They were extremely grateful that I was trying to take care of myself, thinking maybe I'd live long enough to provide an inheritance. At this point my will consists of a short list that includes books, taxidermy, video games, and recipes. Here's my latest:
- Yields: 1 smoothie
- Total Time: 40 minutes
Core the apple and pear swiftly.
Remove banana from skin using the squeeze-and-squirt method (patent pending).
Place all fruit in a colander in a sink beneath running faucet for 5 to 40 minutes, depending on video game involvement.
Place fruit in a blender.
Add packet of dry Kool-Aid to darken.
Run blender for 5 to 40 minutes (see above).
Label container with Sharpie.
Fill container with blended fruit.
Sleep late, drink breakfast, play video games.
Chris Offutt is the author of several books, including, most recently, My Father, the Pornographer.