Pop Of King (53) – The Terror Diet – (4 sierpnia 2006)

We love our categories neat and clean in America; if you think it over, you almost have to agree that it’s guns, cheeseburgers, and categories that made this country great (okay, you can throw in the Louisiana Purchase, if you’re of a geographical bent). I realized years ago that I had been categorized as the Horror Guy. Had to happen. Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling were both dead, and Hitchcock was British, anyway.

I’m cool with it. It’s true that I get the occasional scolding (an old lady in a supermarket once asked me why I couldn’t write something uplifting ”like that Shawshank Redemption”), and I have resigned myself to being a meister (as in horrormeister, shockmeister, or even schlockmeister), but I’m supporting my family and generally having a good time. It’s true that I have to hide out on Halloween, but there are compensations; I have season tickets at Fenway Park… which sometimes has its horrifying aspects, now that I think of it.

Yet it’s human to wonder what life would have been like if we’d taken a slightly different path. Don’t you think Bruce Springsteen wonders what his would have been like if he’d gone the Prince route? If it had been ruffles instead of denim? Or suppose John Updike had been born in Montana and wound up writing Westerns? Vulture Feathers instead of Pigeon Feathers? Rabbit on the Range? And because I’m a pretty decent fry cook when I set my mind to it, I wonder from time to time (don’t you dare laugh) what my life would have been like if I’d decided to write about food instead of monsters.

I’ve considered cookbooks, but most are too disciplined for my culinary style; in my kitchen, the only hard-and-fast rules are wash your hands before you start and try not to sneeze once you get going. Cuppa dis, teaspoona dat? Fuhgeddaboudit. Do what you feel, honey.

Then, not long ago, I noticed that diet books are perennial best-sellers, and there’s always a new diet coming along as Americans – eating their way, often discontentedly, through the greatest bounty the world has ever seen – try to find a way to have their cake and gobble it, too. There’s high-fat and low-fat diets. South Beach and North Beach diets. Atkins and the Zone. Weight Watchers. Low-carb and no-carb. There’s a beer diet, a wine diet, and a diet for recovering alcoholics (chocolate allowed for emergency cravings). And two things occurred to me as I did my research (well…some people call it listening to the Blasters and surfing the Net). The first was that writers can never completely escape their natural inclinations.

The second was that I hadn’t found a single diet that tried to scare people thin. Can you imagine? In a society that’s currently going bugwit about anthrax and North Korean missiles? Not one. And that’s just wrong. It was a short jump from there to what follows. Here, then, are the high points of what I call (modestly) the Terror Diet.

Don’t eat the beef.
Those cows may tell you they’re ”just in therapy,” but don’t take their word for it. They could be as mad as hatters. As the British bumper sticker says, you don’t have to be able to spell Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in order to experience it. Also, some have linked beef to the Big C. Like everything but rocks. Which people don’t eat.

Don’t eat the pork.
It’s probably okay, and it tastes great, but who really knows when it’s cooked enough? Very likely you can’t spell trichinosis, but I bet you can spell ”little tiny worms falling out of your nose.” I got that myth from my grampy. Gosh, aren’t old folks great?

Don’t eat the chicken.
Poultry farmers are in the habit of dosing their flocks with antibiotics. The antibiotics cure things like E. coli, which is good for the chickens and turkeys. They may cause other kinds of bacteria to build up resistant strains in the birds, however – think of bugs bulking up in a kind of antibiotic Gold’s Gym – and this could cause serious problems for humans. The kind where you don’t want to be more than a five-yard dash from the bathroom for, say, three weeks.

Don’t eat the salad.
At least not until you wash it a zillion times…and even then…gee…pesticides… contaminated water supplies (maybe used on the prewashed kind of salad you see bagged up neatly in the supermarket)…plus who knows who handled it? Or how much they were coughing when they did it? Not saying those healthy-looking greens are a ticking time bomb, just – you know – asking.

Don’t drink the milk.
Cow’s milk can be full of allergens, fat, cholesterol, antibiotics, and hormones. Various writers on the Web get all steamed up about the dangers of cow’s milk. One of them (Dave Rietz, at Notmilk.com) actually suggested milk is a ”fuel cell” for cancer. EEEK!

Don’t drink the water.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, ”as many as 7 million Americans get sick every year from drinking or swimming in water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites.” My diet book will ask the simple question ”Do you feel lucky, punk?”

I can hear America dropping calories by the cartload already, slimming on the aerobic values of pure fear. It’s a great sound. Plus, it’s nice to think of playing to strengths I already have while carving my own slice of a brand-new market.

Speaking of slices, have we talked about the dangers of bread?