My nutritional building blocks, or my foundation per se, was designed by uninformed engineers—the head engineer … me. Being a child of the 70s, I, like most Gen Xers, have Baby Boomer parents. Vietnam was wrapping up, the Beatles broke up, TV dinners were all the rage,and access to quick, easy, affordable food replaced the home-cooked meal—to this day, I remember the grey water-like substance (powdered milk) being poured over a bowl of tasteless cornflakes, with two or three large spoons of sugar. Mmmm yummy.
“WHO BOTHERS TO COOK TV DINNERS? I SUCK THEM FROZEN.” ~ WOODY ALLEN
The meals I recall from my youth were far from nutritionally dense. My family had three goto dishes: my dad’s fried rice with scrambled eggs and cubed SPAM (which oddly I always devoured); the fried chicken my mom would make (I can still hear the pop of grease splattering); and liver and onions. Need I say more? Cheap, but filled with protein and iron. As I reflect, it’s probably good that my family didn’t have a whole lot of extra money—back then, “poor” people food was basic and had to be cooked. But, after my folks divorced (in the late 70s) it was no longer “poor” people food but single, working-parent food. Being a latchkey kid had become a thing. Mom would get home and there was always a box of Banquet fried chicken in the freezer and a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese in the pantry. Even though the food wasn’t the best for us, it was what we had.
Not having much money in the 70s was a blessing now that I look back. Going to McDonalds was something you did only a few times a year and you splurged on a cheeseburger rather than the regular hamburger.
Getting a Coke or Pepsi was a rare occasion too, but I do recall maybe twice a year we would go to A&W and the carhop would rollerskate up to the car window and we all got our own rootbeer floats. As messy and confusing as the 70s were for me, those were the good times.
In the 80s, I was a
long and lanky teenage boy and like most boys had most of my focus on sports. I hit the gym and was introduced to “protein powder” and muscle magazines. It was confusing, no one really knew what they were doing and how the whole thing was supposed to work. I was diligent, I worked out a lot and drank protein and took amino acid supplements when I could afford them. I suppose they worked for the most part. But, at 6’2, 185 pounds, I couldn’t play football at the high level I wanted. The skills were there but not the size. So, after high school I played a year of football at a junior college and then enlisted into the USAF and became a medic. While serving my country I was privy to three square meals a day and lots of it, plus I had great gym time. In two years I increased my weight by 60 pounds—was great, because I was hell bent on going back to school and playing football after my enlistment was up. My active duty time was spent in the deep south and it’s there that I fell in love with real fried foods. Real fried chicken, fried river catfish, hush puppies and most importantly fried turkey. Which, thanks to my Cajun boss, I learned how to “safely” fry, and to this day, I still think it’s one of the absolute most delicious things on the planet.
“KNOWING YOURSELF IS THE BEGINNING OF ALL WISDOM.” ~ ARISTOTLE
The 90s were a blur, but there are experiences that opened my eyes to a completely new world on so many different levels. I ended up in Europe for three years and was introduced to rugby, which I play and coach today. Community eating, fresh produce, good beer and wine, and shopping for food based upon what I was going to make that night and or the next night. I was so used to going to the grocery store and buying food for the next two to four weeks, and then much of it going to waste or just sitting in the freezer for months and even years at a time. I remember early Saturday mornings walking to the Stadtmitte (city center), its cold and wet, but just enough of the sun trying to peer through the grey sky to point the way to the farmers market. When I would hit the market it was like when Dorothy first opens the door from her house after landing in OZ. The vibrant colors of the fresh-cut flowers and the vegetables and the smells of the little fried donuts being sprinkled with powdered sugar remind you that you definitely are not in Kansas anymore. While in Europe, I learned that I have an absolute love for the outdoors, adventure, different culture, history and that I have a pallet for exotic foods.
For my life up to this point, was very vanilla and not very adventurous … Europe changed that.
Leaving Europe was a bit surreal. I came back to the states a changed man on many different levels. I had begun seeing the world, its cultures, and its foods and it all felt right. It’s as if I’d been wired for those experiences all along and I finally had an awakening … I realized my world would no longer be just black and white but rather many shades of grey. At least fifty of them I would think, which would traverse me and my world throughout the Southwest U.S. for the next seven or so years. Eventually, I landed in Phoenix and remained in healthcare at a prestigious health organization, finished my bachelor’s degree and my MBA. All while helping run an adventure travel company … eh, we were really more of a drinking club with a hiking and camping problem.
During those years, adventures, food, and drink were always on the itinerary. Everything from hiking into the remote and picturesque Havasupai Falls, to 12-day white water rafting trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, skydiving, ski trips to Telluride and beyond, the numerous hikes Arizona has to offer, and bi-annual trips down to Puerto Penasco, Mexico (Rocky Point). Once I finished my MBA I was ready for a different adventure. I had a good grasp on healthcare administration, I loved ski towns, I now had my MBA and wasn’t afraid of going it alone somewhere where I knew no one. Being an introverted-extrovert I think allows for such capabilities. I landed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. WOW! My mind was blown. I had a good gig running an internal medicine practice, became the president of the local rugby club and was quickly becoming a local, which is not easy to do in a small, tight-knit resort town like Jackson. Within three years, oddly it was time to keep walking and looking for whatever it was I thought I might be looking for. My feet stopped in all places, Pendleton, Oregon.
The high desert of Eastern Oregon has its own beauty that not all folks appreciate, but I found an interesting love of the place. The original idea was to be here for a year, but as some things do happen, I am now a father and have been here for 13 years. No regrets. Being a father is my favorite job of all time. I’ve been able to bring my enjoyment and passion for rugby to the area by starting a youth program.
“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.” ~ Anthony Bourdain
What else … I have been fanatical about fitness my whole life but had always ignored (arguably) the most important part of being and becoming fit, nutrition. About five years ago I ventured out and began my nutrition adventure, which included cleanses, adding more greens to my diet, less alcohol, becoming more Paleo, etc. On many levels I have truly benefited from making these choices but became more confused the deeper I got into what I thought were the right things to do. I have always thought of myself as a student of what I want to become good at and if I wanted to “walk the talk” I would need (in my mind) some sort of street cred so I went through an integrative nutritional health coaching program. And my eyes were opened for sure. So I’m now on this incredible path and adventure of quality health through a number of things … fitness, mindfulness, nutrition and the partnership of an incredible and sexy ass woman.
That’s my story, Eric.
Ohhhh snap! … just had to weigh in, if anyone is still reading. I mean right? He. Is. So. Long. Winded! Like the man can turn a three sentence “story” into a dissertation. Like for reals. But, eh, I love him and his stamina too (if you know what I mean) so there’s that.