Back home at last yesterday and thrilled to be here after 11 days in England and Scotland, visiting daughter studying in London. The food was good, but terrible for me. The sights and evening entertainments were fun, but I had no time to play sports or exercise (one hour in a gym doesn’t count for me anymore…neither does 2-3 hours walking daily in the streets or up and down stairs at castles). I became very grumpy!

Today I played three hours of tennis and feel better already. Had a protein drink, ate less and healthier food, drank more water without fearing I couldn’t find a water closet (toilet)…

Here are some amusing food anecdotes that demonstrate why it is so hard to travel and eat right. I was dining in restaurants, where both countries offer big portions with much meat, fat, butter, cream and cheese. Also thrown in is a fourth meal—the afternoon “tea” with scones, clotted cream (1 oz has 15 grams of fat and 45 mg of cholesterol), sandwiches and all kinds of desserts and pastries. Scotland has the least healthy food in Europe and the highest incidence of heart attacks. Unfortunately, I like the way it all tastes. In the states, my system is to keep luscious, but unhealthy foods out of the house, so I am rarely tempted.

typical Scottish breakfast—Haggis, Orkney black pudding, organic Tamworth pig sausages, bacon and eggs.

As usual I made it a point to ask for my breakfast eggs WITHOUT yolks to minimize the cholesterol intake and blockage to my arteries. So imagine how startled I was to discover that the chef had added double cream to the egg whites to give them more flavor! Delicious. I forgot to say no cream the next time. The third time I ordered eggs, I remembered to say no yolks and NO CREAM. This time they arrived a pleasant yellow from all the butter that had been added. Hopeless. One of the meals I finally remembered to say: no yolks, just whites, no cream, no butter, just olive oil, please. Of course by that time I was in Scotland eating haggis and black pudding with the eggs. I felt like the obese man who has three desserts at one meal and then boasts that he takes his coffee without sugar to avoid calories.

What’s that? You don’t know what haggis is? One of life’s great treats that is illegal to import into America. I love it. Haggis is a dish containing sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours. Haggis was memorialized as the national dish of Scotland by Robert Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis in 1787. Since 1971 it has been illegal to import haggis into the USA from the UK due to a ban on food containing sheep lung, which constitutes 10 to 15% of the traditional recipe. So you have to go there to eat it…or seek out a homemade version at a Scottish festival in the states.

Black pudding is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. The dish exists in various cultures from Asia to America. Pig, cattle, sheep, duck and goat blood can be used depending on different countries. I suppose what I ate was made from sheep’s blood. Sound good enough to eat? I love this dish too. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I can’t believe either of these foods is low in cholesterol.

At the airport in Edinburgh, I ordered some vegetable soup with fish in it. It came completely white from solid cream. The waiter lied and claimed there was no cream in it. His boss said at least it wasn’t double cream. Before I had to watch my cholesterol intake, I lived on cheese for much of my protein. Those were the days. I probably tried all 200 varieties at the Fairway specialty food store in my Manhattan neighborhood. On this trip I went into two different cheese stores and smelled the aromas, drooled on some of the cheeses and had lots of regrets about this real negative of aging.

At least I am still alive and chasing tennis balls and skiing without too much pain. But what a sacrifice. I drowned my remorse with white chocolates after some meals and the free fudge squares offered at the hotel’s reception desk. If it’s in front of me or in the house…I eat it. No will power when I travel and can’t avoid the food thrown at me. I know, I know: “Life is short. You won’t die from two weeks of bad diet. Stop being neurotic.” My overweight friends who tell me that are correct. But after being used to 10 hours a week of cardio from active tennis playing, I was worse than a wild animal trapped in a cage…I was like an athlete in an iron maiden.

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