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In An Act Of Extreme Self-Sacrifice, I’m Engaged In Some Unhealthy Eating During Coronavirus For The Public Good

Being stuck in the house is an excellent way to ruin a diet and get fat.  Or for me, get fat again. There is a risk that I could gain back the fifty pounds I’ve lost over the past eleven months.  Anyone else in quarantine is facing this same risk. This is why I’ve already written pieces about how to make sure you get enough exercise, eat to boost your immune system, and how to take care of yourself if you get sick.  But I must admit I’ve been violating a lot of these rules.  In order to save the economy and local business.

One group of businesses and workers that are in trouble are the people who work in food service.  Restaurateurs and waiters and cooks and so forth. They’re mostly shut down, and although many are offering take out, it still results in slower business.  So there’s a risk that some of my favorite restaurants may shut down if they don’t get enough business to get through the virus.

Now there are some things available in the CARES act which allow employers to stay in business.  The Paycheck Protection Program allows them to keep paying their employees and other provisions allow them to get deferrals and assistance on their small business loans, maybe even up to a year.  But restaurants in Florida have another problem.

March and April are the high tourist season in Florida.  Well, January and February are tourist season too, but mostly for Canadians and Scandinavians.  In those months, we have 60 degree weather. By the way, that’s 15 degrees in the temperature scale (Celsius) used by the heathens of the world.  And by heathens I mean…literally the entire rest of the world. Anyway, Canadians and Scandinavians consider this temperature to be “warm” so they come in the first months of the year.

But everyone who does not live on a block of ice comes in March and April.  And they tend to go to restaurants and bars and so forth.  And the beaches. And the theme parks. But nobody is traveling right now.  By the time this virus is over, the tourist industry (and especially the restaurant industry) in Florida will have missed its peak season.  So I’ve been getting takeout occasionally to support local restaurants through the tough times. 

I started doing this when I discovered that one of my local favorites, QT Crawfish, was shut down.  It was a Cajun place with extraordinary food. I love Cajun food. I agree with Jeff Foxworthy’s assessment of Cajun food, when he said “Louisiana has the best food on the planet if you don’t really ask too much about what you’re eating.”  They eat strange things, which you really should have guessed, since the word “crawfish” is in the name.  Cajuns eat things like frog’s legs and alligators. It’s strange, but good.  It’s totally worth it. Besides every alligator I eat is one less alligator harassing me on the golf course.

But sadly, my favorite Cajun place is gone for good. Strictly speaking, I don’t know that it was killed by the virus.  But the last thing I want to see happen is my other favorite restaurants going out of business because of COVID-19.  So my wife and I have been ordering takeout at least once a week.

Normally, eating out or ordering takeout is not a particularly good idea for someone on a diet.  The food I like is generally unhealthy (that’s probably why it tastes so good) and the portion sizes tend to be a bit much.  Portion size is probably the main reason dining out kills diets. Every time I eat out, I’ll put in what I ate into the Cronometer app and I’m always stunned at how many calories I ate compared to a normal night.  But even people who are losing weight need to occasionally live a little.  

Even when not experiencing extinction level events, I intermittently allow myself to indulge in a night out with my wife where we eat entirely too much.  I think that if we cut out too much fun, we increase our risk of completely falling off of the wagon and going back to our obesity inducing ways.  If the diet is too austere, it’s easier to get sick and tired of it. So occasional dietary sin is a good thing. And now that the restaurants we love are in trouble, I have another reason to order in.

Now, we’re not going to bother getting McDonald’s.  I think they’ll survive no matter what happens. This is the coronavirus, not Captain Trips, so things will eventually return to normal.  So I’m going to try to save the local restaurants that my wife and I would miss.  And I’m going to blatantly be a fanboy and name them by name, on the off chance that it gives them some meager boost.

So first on the list is a Thai-Mexican restaurant called Nitally’s.  You read that right.  Thai-Mexican. A peculiar sort of mix that can really only happen in a truly odd place.  Like Florida. It’s a Mom and Pop store owned by a Mexican guy and a Thai gal.  Hence the odd food. They serve Mexican mole in a Pad Thai dish. They put chorizo in fried rice.  It’s rather unusual. And it’s rather spicy. 

And when I mean spicy, I mean really spicy.  The kind of spicy that has serious digestive consequences the next day.  Effectively, a gastro-intestinal hangover. But like a real hangover, it’s usually worth it.

Unlike most of the places I like to eat, this place is reasonably healthy.  Mostly rice and noodle dishes with fairly lean cuts of meat.  I can finish off the entire meal and usually not ruin my diet.  Depending on how much beer I have.

Another favorite of mine is called Urban Brew and BBQ.  It’s a restaurant that was converted from a gas station which mostly serves beer, BBQ, and fried chicken.  This is generally not a healthy option.  This is also why I’m not full keto.  Full keto would require me to give up fried foods.  South of the Mason-Dixon line, this is considered to be the worst sort of apostasy.

Although not all of it is unhealthy.  To my great thankfulness, I found that pulled pork and brisket is not that unhealthy, at least in terms of calories.  Fried chicken is a different story. Sure, the good people at this restaurant serve it with a side of collard greens, but that minor gesture towards healthiness doesn’t really counteract the exquisite, artery hardening caloric carnality of their fried chicken.  Their 24-hour brined fried chicken. It probably takes a year off of your life. But one taste makes the thought of dying young actually seem not that bad.

We also get take out from Cappy’s, a pizza place.  Pizza actually isn’t quite so bad as people let on.  Especially if you get peppers and onions and veggie type things on it.  Of course, I also get pepperoni and sausage and bacon on it. Or those little slices of ham that we call Canadian bacon for some reason.  The point is, there’s meat involved. Of course there is. I’m not a weirdo. But the veggies let me get some key micronutrients out of it too.  I just don’t put anchovies or pineapple on it. That would make me a weirdo.  And I don’t eat the whole thing at once.  Two or three slices is a full meal.

Some of you might be wondering, Chicago-style or New York style?  I hesitate to answer. There’s an entirely unnecessary cultural war between lovers of Chicago and New York style pizza.  It’s a brutal conflict on the same level as the mob wars between the Irish and Italians, or rivalries between East Coast and West Coast rappers, or animosity between people who like anchovies or pineapple on pizza and people who are normal.  The bizarre thing is that the pizza conflict is Italians vs. Italians, so it’s more of a fratricidal civil war. But Italians have a long and storied history of that sort of thing, so I guess it’s not all that weird.

This place does both types of pizza.  Apparently, they’re attempting to make peace between the warring pizza factions.  So they’re the pizza equivalent of that friar who tried to forge a truce between the Montagues and the Capulets by marrying Romeo and Juliet.  As with the two star-crossed lovers, this effort to end the pizza violence will probably end badly. The owners will almost certainly be burned as heretics.  Fortunately, I like both kinds of pizza, and can’t help but hope (naively, I’m sure) that the owners succeed in achieving pizza peace. I do what I can to support them and wish the best for them.  I guess that makes me sort of the Benvolio of pizza.

Another place we like is Moon Under Water, a British place.  They serve fish and chips and bangers and mash and so forth.  And also pastries. Which the British call pasties. Something I can’t help but laugh out loud at every time I hear it.  If you don’t know why, just be careful when googling the word “pasties”.

I’ve recently become a fan of British food, which is often maligned in culinary circles.  I’m convinced that this is unfair criticism orchestrated by the French as revenge for the death of Joan of Arc.  Or to punish the British for putting ketchup on everything. Or because of Brexit. I dunno.  

Regardless of whatever underhanded intrigues the French have orchestrated to vilify this cuisine, British food is actually very good.  Especially at this place.  The bangers and mash are extraordinary.  The only problem I have with this dish is trying not to giggle.  The fact that the British describe a large sausage as a “banger” seems very…unfortunate to me.  And the fish and chips involve fish that I suspect have been fed some sort of mutant food. The dead critter fills up the whole plate.  You have to get the fries on the side. And I know this place is legit, because the actual British people I know here in the Tampa Bay area love it.

And it’s not just British food that they serve.  The menu also includes food from various places the British colonized.  So they also serve curry, for example. The food is so good I don’t feel any guilt about cultural appropriation.  This place also has crazy good cocktails, which is consistent with the ancient British tradition of rampant alcoholism.

Not all things British are represented here, though. There’s no haggis on the menu.  Which is probably for the best. The Scottish are great at inventing things, but their contribution to the culinary arts is mostly…wanting.

The last place we aim to save is Dairy Inn, a takeout place that serves proper ‘Merica food.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, and ice cream. Basically a Mom and Pop Dairy Queen.  It’s less healthy than Dairy Queen, though, which is probably why we like it so much.  

Any good American gets a hankering for a hamburger every now and then.  And these hamburgers have a much higher heart attack per patty ratio than any major burger chain.  Which is why they’re bad. Which is why they’re good.  Burgers to die for.  Sometimes literally. Although not right away.  It’ll cause a myocardial infarction, but it probably won’t happen for a few decades.

Anyway, those are the restaurants I’m supporting through the crisis.  I realize it’s a little odd to push not-that-healthy food on a blog dedicated to health and fitness.  But the truth is there’s really no such thing as bad food.  There are certain things that are better than others, and we need a balanced diet.  But even hamburgers, pizza, BBQ, fried things, British things, and way too spicy food have some essential nutrients.  Besides, occasionally indulging in more calorie rich foods is okay.  We’re allowed to splurge every now and then. And right now, this is for the public good.  We can save small businesses from the virally induced recession.

And I realize this seems like I’m just pimping my favorite restaurants, and the chances that anyone who lives near me will see this blog post is fairly limited.  But you probably have your own favorites near you. So think about your five favorite small, family owned restaurants and help keep them in business if you can.  Tell your friends and spread the word. And frequent your other local businesses too, if they’re open. If you can afford it. My wife and I are currently able to make money from home, but not everyone can.  If you have cash to spare, spend a little to keep your neighbors in business.

Now, there is a risk you might get fat with all of this takeout, so keep doing the exercise.  And when you order in, I guess you could only eat half and save the rest for later.  When I was, growing up leaving food on the plate would be a crime against humanity.  I was raised to eat everything in front of me. But doing that as an adult produced a large gut in front of me.  Which I’ve worked hard to get rid of. So saving some food for later is allowed now.

So patronize your local restaurants, spread that food out, keep them in business, and try to keep yourself healthy and stay active.  And try not to drink so much. That’s another way people are packing on pounds in quarantine. And it doesn’t help me that Three Daughters microbrewery is selling two for one six-packs.

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Published by drilldowndiet

Formerly obese CPA/health humorist using Cronometer and FitBod to lose weight. Sharing assorted life hacks to squeeze nutrition and exercise into a busy schedule. Also on Twitter at @drilldowndiet and Facebook.

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