Monday, 12 March 2007

Women are Muesli, Men are Bacon Sandwiches

"I'll have the full British breakfast," the man tells me eagerly as I stand there, pen and order pad in hand. "What does that include, again?"

The man is somewhere between 50 and 60. He has a bulging waistband and a bar-code comb-over -- and more worryingly, a wheeze and obvious shortness of breath. I try not to be judgmental, but I find myself wishing my first aid training were more recent; this fellow looks like a heart attack just waiting to happen. And when I asked him what he wanted for breakfast, I could not help but notice that his wife winced.

I try not to look at her now as I answer him. "Eggs any way you like them, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, and beans. Toast of course, either white or wholemeal, and coffee or tea. Orange, grapefruit, or apple juice, and fresh fruit salad. And it really is fresh, too, and not out of a tin."

"Lovely. Great. I'll have fried eggs, please, white bread for the toast, and --" (ignoring wife's expression of exasperation)-- "the bacon and sausages, of course, but could you hold the beans and tomatoes? I don't want those."

"What about the fresh fruit salad?"

"Oh -- no thank you, I don't need that."

The wife might be a few pounds overweight, but she is Twiggy next to her husband. Her voice is terse with strained patience. "I'll just have an egg," she says in clipped tones. "Poached, please. On wholemeal toast." The 'wholemeal' is pointedly stressed.

"Fresh fruit salad?"

"Yes, please. I'll have a small bowl of that too.' She eyes her husband before adding an ironical aside: 'I might as well indulge; after all, we're on holiday."

As I serve the couple their breakfasts, the wife glances at the husband's plate as he tucks in and I can see her jaw set, a look of dismay settling over her features. I feel awful: like the enabler I know I am.

"Excuse me,' the husband asks, avoiding his wife's eyes, 'could we get a bit more butter here?"

I do my best to avoid the wife's eyes as I place the dish of butter on the table.

Later, walking past the table I hear snatches of conversation:

"Don't think you're going to have this again tomorrow!" hisses the wife. "I don't even want to think about what your cholesterol count is going to be when we get home!" I try not to eavesdrop, but I hear her mention the words 'salt' and 'butter' in an aggrieved way -- more than once. No doubt about it, she's made her views on the subject known before.

In the entire time we ran our B & B, I can only recall one wife who ate more -- or more unwisely -- than her husband.

We served up to eighteen people breakfast every day for the better part of two years, and I am here to tell you that if it weren't for their wives, a lot of men would be in really bad shape. I don't think it is the least bit surprising that married men live longer than their single counterparts. Knowing what I know now, the wonder is that so many single men live as long as they do.

I'll bet that a lot of men might assume from this that their wives are spoilsports who don't want them to have any fun. The truth is that we just want our guys to live as long as possible. If I were a man, I'd be a lot more worried about a woman who encouraged me to have fried bread and sausages, who didn't clear her throat when I grabbed the salt shaker before tasting my food, or spread extra butter on my bread.

If I'd had my way, I'd have served heart-healthy breakfasts. Poached or boiled eggs; muffins made with canola oil instead of butter and with plenty of fiber and wheat germ; porridge made with skimmed milk; muesli, fresh fruit, and assorted cereals. Bacon and sausages on occasion perhaps, but leaner, less salty versions whenever possible. I'd have made a big point of advertising our healthy breakfast fare and I'll bet that women everywhere would have been queuing up to make reservations.

My husband, naturally, would not hear of it.


Kim Ayres said...

I want to have the healthy breakfast, I really do - in fact at home I have muesli with soya milk every morning - but when I'm in a B&B a different part of my brain kicks in and I go crazy for bacon, sausages & eggs. I can't do it.

It's like standing in a sweet shop a being told I should eat the carrot sticks.

Mary Witzl said...

Yes, I suspect that is the case for a lot of us. Even I find it a struggle; I just tell myself 'less is more' and most of the time that works -- if I'm at home.

Whenever I'm in a situation where I can either have a little bit or a lot for the same amount of money, however, that's different. Then my instinctive tendency to eat a healthy diet does heavy combat with my instinctive tendency to get as much as I possibly can, and it's a long, tough battle.

For my husband, however, there is no battle at all. Sausages, bacon and eggs all the way, and bring on the fried bread while you're at it.

Brian said...

Hopping from city to city at short intervals during my sabbatical in Europe in 1979 led to precisedly that food problem . Breakfast in particular had to lay the foundation for the rest of the day-- it might not have been healthy but it was filling and saved us a lot of money from having to eat out expensively later in the day !

Never knock the bacon buttie , Mary !

We did have the odd splurge -- ask me some day about Le Ranch in Paris !

Maybe that's why I needed a by-pass on return to Australia .

Mary Witzl said...

Hello, Brian. When we ran our B & B, my husband and I could never agree on portions (as a general rule, if he's cooking for six, we end up with enough food for twelve), so at the end of the day there was always a lot of bacon and bread left over. Many of our guests had free bacon sandwiches pushed on them as a result, and our bird table finally broke down because the crows kept crashing the party what with all those leftovers. . .

My husband and I also tried to make breakfast last all day when we were traveling around Japan.

When you stay at Japanese inns, the breakfast is always very substantial: soup, rice (with or without a raw egg), broiled fish, pickles, and green tea. We ate heartily, and managed to do without lunch very nicely.

And by the time we got back, we would have paid just about any price for coffee and croissants.

Chocolatesa said...

Lol at my place it's my husband that's telling me off for putting extra butter on my toast and making Bearnaise sauce two days in a row to put on my dinner :P Although I have tried to cut down on my portions though. He on the other hand can eat huge platefuls of food all the time and he always stays normal weight, he's blessed with a high metabolism.

Mary Witzl said...

Chocoletesa -- It's usually the men who are gung ho for extra calories, but I've seen couples like you too: someone has to be the hard guy; when no one is, things get out of hand.

Tell your husband that his fast metabolism is like money and parents: it will not necessarily be there all his life. But if he's warning you off the Bearnaise sauce, he's already halfway there.