Photo from NYTimes

As we age, many of us begin hearing from doctors, family and friends that we should adopt a healthier diet.  “Gone are the little joys that make existence worthwhile — béarnaise sauce, pancetta, cake batter — all subsumed under a banner reading, “Doctor’s Orders,” writes the New York Times.”  The diet that we know will have to come to an end with old age as we reduce our salt, fat and other intakes.   An article on yesterday’s New York Times shows that this is not always the case.

The article which explores some of the “transgressions” of some older gourmands in the United States and, more importantly, why the choose to eat what they do. For some, their diet is “a way to keep traditions alive.”  As an examples, the article highlights the story of Mary Pyland, a 92-year old from Texas.  Mary explains that: “[w]e had a fried chicken dinner every Sunday.”  She adds that “I lost my husband 16 years ago, and I try to keep up everything we always did.  Honey, I just had fried chicken with cream gravy and biscuits and mashed potatoes for dinner last night. And I made a caramel pie that was just about the best thing you ever put your lips around.”

For others, “eating what they want is, at their age, a right or privilege.” Despite having diabetes, Larry Garfield, a 95-year old from Florida “recently ate a rare calf’s liver with mashed potatoes at Joe Allen’s restaurant in Miami Beach.” The article quotes Mr. Garfield as saying: “You ever walked down the street and seen a pretty girl and thought, ‘Mm! That’s for me!’? Well, I looked at the menu and thought, ‘Mm! That’s for me!’ ”  Simliarly,79-year old Barbara Hillary, the first African-American woman on record to stand on both poles, said that “she ate too much milk chocolate during the trip. “If I had frozen to death down there, wouldn’t it be sad if I’d gone to hell without getting what I want?” she said to the reporters.  82-year old Nancy Cardozo also says that she eats what she likes: “Any kinds of eggs, blini, any good red or beluga caviar with crème fraîche, cheesecake, chocolote soufflé with whipped cream, crème brûlée, filet mignon, pasta with pesto … We drink as much as we can.” She then notes that “We deserve it because it’s the way we’ve always lived, and we don’t want to change.”

Despite these great stories, the article does emphasize the fact that most adults over 60 do alter the way that they eat.  The reporters note that Ms. Hillary said: “I read more labels now, and try to reduce the foods that are chemistry sets.”  Similarly, Bobby Seale, a founder of the Black Panthers, who wrote a barbecue cookbook in 1988, is now 75 and only cooks and eats “Bobbyque” 10 times a year.”  “In the end, older gourmands — their doctors’ orders and their bodies’ demands ringing in their ears — are each responsible for themselves,” concludes the article.

Take some time to read this story and share your thoughts with IAHSA.  Is this trend common in your country?  What are the suggested dietary changes in your community? Do you know someone who had to change their diet as they aged?  Is there a type of food that you would never give up?

Read the full article here.

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