Coming home after my emergency heart bypass surgery, I knew I had to make changes. Specifically, exercise and diet. I started a workout regime in the hospital’s cardiac center that I’ve continued to this day, and I have no intention of ever quitting. I always feel better after working out, and I can feel my strength and stamina improving every day.
Still, without changing my diet, all the exercise in the world wouldn’t be enough, and my heart would be a ticking time bomb. So it is that I set upon a low fat, low sodium diet.
I became obsessed with labels, silently dividing grams of fat per serving by serving size to arrive at a base number of the grams of fat per the base unit of measure, and then comparing my result to other brands of the same product. I now eat only fresh or frozen vegetables and never canned to manage my sodium levels. I don’t use table salt any more, using pepper as a low sodium alternative.
But none of this quieted my red blooded, red meat, all-American lust for a cheeseburger. Simply put, I love burgers, always have. But now they are forbidden to me. One day, while I was deep in mourning for my loss, my wife had an inspiration.
“You should try those Boca burgers,” she said.
“They’re meatless hamburgers. They substitute vegetables for ground beef, and season them to taste like meat.”
A couple of days later, I opened up our freezer and took out the box with the frozen veggie burgers inside, “black bean burgers,” to be precise. It turns out they have different flavored veggie burgers, each made with the same core ingredients, and each featuring a highlighted flavor. I was intrigued and open minded as I took one of the frozen rock hard patties out and put it in my George Forman grill. I was eager to experience the taste of a burger again, even if it was a watered down, synthetic burger.
As it lay sizzling in the little grill, I got down to work on preparing the fixings. I cut up pieces of tomato and onion and green, leafy lettuce, when it struck me that I was preparing vegetables to put on top of vegetables. I noted this as potentially ironic, and went forward with getting out the condiments of ketchup, mustard and fat free Hellman’s mayonnaise. I toasted a multi grain hamburger bun and I was ready to go.
I lifted the top of the grill and was greeted by a distantly familiar scent. I was unable to name where or when I’d experienced the odor before but it was there, acrid and bitter. I put the patty on the bun. It was black with chunks of corn and bean visible in it. Again, it looked familiar, like something, I couldn’t think of what, but something else black and soft with chunks of yellow corn in it. Undaunted, I applied the toppings and condiments and took a big bite, when it came to me, what the pungent smelling and semi firm dark blob with bright yellow chunks of corn embedded in it reminded me of.
I let the mouthful I was chewing fall loosely out of my mouth and flushed the rest of my first ever black bean burger down the sink. After drinking about a gallon of water I was finally able to remove the taste from my mouth, and at least soften the memory of the images and odors the black bean burger had planted in my mind.
Afterwards, something unexpected happened – I found that my mind now associates hamburgers with the memory of my encounter with the black bean burger, that the sound of the word “burger” conjures up its image and odor, and I am confident that I’ll be able to give up my addiction to burgers without ever being tempted to eat one again. They call this technique to fight addiction going “cold turkey.”
Whatever it is, I try not to think too much about it. It’s lunch time, and there are some slices of cold turkey waiting for me.