If my mother is the model, we need to eat more doughnuts and bananas. My mother Enid McElroy lived to be 93 averaging a banana a day, plenty of high-test coffee and pastries by the box. Her favorite: doughnuts, or “doughnies.” She would eat them religiously. She would buy them glazed, powdered or jelly-filled and feign dismay that the rest of us wouldn’t join her sweet-toothed binges.
“Aren’t you going to eat these? They’re going to waste.” Then she’d reach into the doughnie package for seconds.
My mother was chubby but never obese. Maybe that was because of the bananas. As children my brother and I turned our mother’s banana fixation into a math problem. With the average length of a banana eight inches, there are 7,290 bananas in a mile. Assuming 365 bananas eaten per year, she would have finished her first mile in a little over 21 years. By age 50, she would have eaten two miles of the yellow fruit. By 93, assuming one banana per day, she could have easily eaten four miles’ worth. Few people consider such food quantities in life, and I suppose that’s for the best.
Bananas weren’t Mom’s only favorite snack. For a while she became obsessed with Archway date-oatmeal cookies. “Can I interest you in a cookie?” she’d say, munching on the chewy brown treat. And of course she couldn’t. Store-bought cookies never topped my most-wanted list.
Except for a period of Jack LaLanne calisthenics, Mom never exercised in any formal way. She never jogged, swam, danced or played sports. She didn’t garden or walk the dog. She watched TV a lot.
My parents fussed over my mother’s lopsided diet. Ironically, Dad, who didn’t drink coffee and ate few sweets, wound up a diabetic. My mother, though older, outlived him by four years and never took insulin. Go figure.
By today’s healthy living standards, my mother was a time bomb. She consumed mass quantities of refined sugar, fat, salt and other preservatives. She preferred her meat fried, her coffee creamed and her potatoes mashed. She consumed plenty of bread and butter. She never met tofu or green tea, disliked foreign foods (including all forms of rice) and considered fish dangerous. “Watch out for the bones!”
Statistically my mother should have succumbed well before 93, which leads me to wonder if the stress we put on ourselves to be healthy might cause more harm than good. My mother was not overly stressed. She took the time to enjoy her doughnies and bananas and whatever else she wanted. Maybe that’s the secret.