Saturday, May 29, 2010

An End of Diet Dream

Yesterday I came off a 4-week diet. Since the beginning of the month I'd been on my usual periodic modified eating plan: a bowl of cereal in the morning (my main source of complex carbohydrates), all the fruit I want, lean meat and seafood (mostly grilled), salads. I avoid most starches (no bread, rice or pasta), fried foods, and desserts. I keep it interesting by finding appropriate dishes I like at the types of restaurants that tend to use lighter cooking styles: Middle Eastern (e.g., chicken kebabs), Japanese (grilled fish, sashimi, hijiki), Thai (larb, squid salad), Vietnamese (hot and sour fish soup, shrimp salad). For a mid-afternoon snack (especially since I eat lighter lunches) I'll often have a Kashi TLC bar; they're satisfying, calorie-efficient, and help curb cravings for more dangerous sweets.

Anyway, Thursday was my last diet day, and I'd had a Thai seafood salad for dinner. In the middle of the night I had a dream.

It was still Thursday evening and I had a powerful desire to break my diet. I tried to reason with myself that it was the final day, and the next day I could have anything I wanted. Keeping to my decided-upon diet dates is a point of honor with me. But in the dream the devil got me. I desperately wanted something fried and starchy. So I started wandering around looking for a restaurant. Though I was going to break my own rules, my conscience nonetheless kept me away from really bad stuff, like fried chicken. I finally decided on a South Indian restaurant. I walked in and looked at the menu. I'd already had dinner, albeit a light one, and I decided that an appetizer should be enough to satisfy my craving.

I ordered medhu vada, a fried snack often described as "lentil donuts." Almost immediately, the waiter brought the plate of vada, but he didn't bring any condiments. South Indian snacks are ususally served with coconut chutney and sambar. Then two filthy little ragamuffins appeared at my table, one carrying sambar and one with coconut chutney. The kid with the chutney was Indian, but the one with the sambar was blond and blue-eyed. After they placed the condiments in front of me they both held out the palms of their hands, clearly asking for money. I knew from traveling in India that saying "no" or "go away" to street urchins has no effect. But I also learned that a shooing-away gesture works like a charm, and it did this time too.

As I was about to dig into my snack, I saw two other children, both Indian, both perfectly neat and clean, and dressed in black waiter jackets. One boy said to the other, regarding what had just transpired at my table, "What were they doing?"

"Asking for baksheesh, of course," the other said.

"I could never do that," the first boy replied.


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