My Quest for Healthy Food

It started in 1977. I was eleven. I was spending the summer in Jerusalem, visiting my mother’s family. I insisted on staying with my grandparents while the rest of my family rented a flat around the corner.

Back then, between 2-5pm, everything shut down for the afternoon siesta. Stores closed, curtains were drawn, and the streets became quiet so people could nap after the big meal of the day. As a kid, that was pretty tough. I never wanted to nap and I had to be quiet. I couldn’t play the radio or bang around the house because my grandparents were sleeping. So in order to entertain myself, I did what any other kid would do before the advent of “devices” – I read books. Real books for grown-ups. The library in my room had a collection of books in various languages. The English ones were precious to me.

So one day, during siesta, I picked up Adelle Davis’ book, Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit. I was already well versed in the evils of white bread and sweetened cereal. My father cared about health and passed an edict in 1973 forbidding white bread or sugary cereal in the house. Though we kids howled with disapproval at our father’s decree, his values must have made an impact on me because I became enthralled with Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit. I became inspired.

The book explained how modern ills could be prevented through a healthy diet, and that by eating well, all sorts of wonderful benefits would occur. For instance, the book promised I would have glowing skin and lustrous hair if I ingested corn oil. So with nothing better to do in the still, summer afternoon, I made a decision.

With great excitement, I moved through the house like a cat burglar so I wouldn’t wake up my grandmother who was dozing in the parlor. I snuck into the kitchen and found some corn oil under the kitchen sink. It was right there next to the dish soap and copper polish. Adelle said that if I ate two tablespoons of corn oil a day I would become beautiful and feel fabulous. So I poured some oil into a large metal spoon and ate it.

And you know what happened next? (Of course you do.) I gagged. “What the heck did I just eat!” I said to myself. “And who in tarnation is Adelle Davis!” I had to do something quickly to erase the disgusting taste and make me feel better. So I ate some cake. My grandmother’s delicious orange cake was meant for five o’clock tea, but I was cashing in early. Creeping carefully out of the kitchen, I hoped she wouldn’t notice that I ate two slices.

As I returned to my room, I felt defeated. If eating healthy was so good for us, why did healthy food taste so bad? At that time I had no way of knowing that the Spanish Mediterranean diet I was eating in my grandparents’ home was already full of optimal nourishment. Either way, that summer marked the first moment I took matters into my own hands to learn about nutrition and the impact of food on our health. It would be the beginning of a long and interesting journey…