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The Houseguest Diet


There are sensible diets, and then there’s drinking maple syrup and cayenne or having your colon irrigated. Which means people will do just about anything to try to lose weight. Or in other words, I figure there’s money in coming up with a hot new diet, so I’ve got my own contribution to make: the houseguest diet. It’s quite simple: you can eat anything you like. But only once a day. And it has to be food already in the house, you’re only allowed one paper towel to eat it with – no dishes, utensils or pots, and you have to eat over the sink. The rest of the time you can drink as much tap water as you like – but straight from the faucet please.
So yeah, we have had a full run of houseguests so far this summer. I’m glad; I like having visitors. But, you don’t really realize how much – and how often – your average citizen of a rich country eats until you’re responsible for supervising their three squares plus drinks and snacks.
I don’t begrudge any visitor a bite of food – please, eat, eat. And over the years, most of our guests have been great; some jump into cooking, or help out, or suggest eating out, or disappear for a few meals, or are just charmingly appreciative of whatever meals show up or restaurants we choose. But, let’s say you have a nice brunch at home. That’s great, but what’s for dinner? Or maybe you have a nice dinner out. Terrific…and tomorrow?
You see what I mean? People do eat, regularly. Sure, it’s kind of a basic thing to understand about humans, or most any other animal really, but every so often I go into denial about it and then the idea knocks me upside the head and takes me by surprise, say, just when the whole household starts to go into low blood sugar crankiness mode.
So for eating, you as the host have to – at the least – set the menu, guide the decision-making, give the directions to the grocery store, find the take-out menu. It’s sort of like the regular pain of trying to figure out what’s for dinner for a family each night, without the benefit of whatever your family’s pathetic, completely mindless, fallback “meal” is (cold cereal? tuna straight from the can?).
Apparently the toughest in hosting is yet to come. So far our guests have only included adults of various ages and small children. But an acquaintance here reports she had five of her teenaged daughter’s friends staying for a week, and she was basically making hourly runs to the grocery store to replenish the mountains of food these skinny, young things were putting away.
Okay, the real problem is not that my human visitors need to eat to survive, instead of, say, living on air and mist like those silly plants. It’s that I remember childhood visits to family when great meals for the whole crowd just appeared regularly. Of course, back then I wasn’t paying attention to the man behind the curtain. Or rather, to the amount of work of the women in the kitchen, making sure there was a picnic lunch that prevented hunger pangs on the beach. Or to the trip to pick up takeout while the kids bathed away the sand.
The only way I can figure these days to make entertaining appear as seamless to guests as it used to to me, is to have the staff and space of an English manor house. Like the kind in a mystery novel where everyone gathers for a country house party, and someone gets bumped off. Hmm. Thinking again, maybe my guests would prefer I just dig out another take-out menu instead.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 2:14 AM | Permalink

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