Immortality gruel

I had to start eating better. My doctor said so; Tracy said so; many newspaper articles said so. Eating better correlates with living longer. Living longer sounds like a good plan.

On the other hand, I hate vegetables. Well, not entirely. I like spinach and corn and tomatoes; I sort of like asparagus and green beans. The rest: Not at all. The only question I ask salad is about its dressing. If it’s good, I’ll suck some lettuce leaves and get the dressing.

Then I will discard the lettuce leaves.

Because, really, it’s extruded gruel. And don’t tell me about the subtle taste of radicchio or romaine. Kleenex has a subtle taste, too, but years have gone by since a tissue passed my lips.

My habits formed early. I grew up in a meat-centric culture. Also: potatoes, which are technically a vegetable, but too many people like them.  There was also a vegetable on the long-ago plate, but no one took it seriously. Chopped parsley on top of a baked potato, sure. Just mix it well with the sour cream and the Bac-O-Bits. Butter, too,  if necessary. But peas? If you must, for color or something. Just be sure they don’t touch anything else, because that fetid pea taste is hard to wash away.

My feelings about vegetables make me a heretic among my people, the Bay Area white community. My bio-region believes that eating kale and whole grains will allow everyone to live to 250. I might occasionally whisper “even vegetarians die,” but only to myself, in a closet, at midnight

I mustn’t say bad things about vegetables, because think of the children. I live in a place where giving a kid a Cheeto is like feeding him arsenic. Buying a kid a Big Mac is like consigning her to death by stroke at 45. Gluten or GMO foods? Might as well start covering the mirrors.

I find myself in the position of having to eat vegetables. I find this to be a cruel cosmic joke. Nevertheless, I somehow have to eat vegetables that don’t taste like vegetables. So someone suggested the Vitamix. I bought one (ruinously expensive). It came. It loomed.



This baby stands 25 inches tall; note how it dwarfs the coffee maker. The instruction booklet comes with 21 separate “safeguards and warnings.” Several of them discuss how sharp the blades are. “Rotating blade can cause severe injury. Do not reach into the container when machine is running.”

I would not reach into the container if it were disassembled and bathed in Listerine.

But still, I want to live to be 400 so I can sit around a hospital for the terminally stupid with my other drooling friends. Because old age: Very relaxing.

I got a Vitamix recipe book. (It cost extra. Of course it did. ) I decided to make a Fruit Salad Smoothie. I assembled the required ingredients.

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Some peeling and chopping required

Technically, I suppose, there are vegetables in there. Carrots are a vegetable; so are cucumbers. But it’s mostly fruit; fruits are my favorite type of vegetable. My smoothie is a lot healthier than a croissant or a piece of peach pie. Oh man, peach pie. Let’s have some right now. Ala mode. With a cookie.

No, I’m making a smoothie. I put all the ingredients in and started at 1 on the variable speed dial. “Never start on speeds above 1.” And the bloody thing started churning. It was hypnotic. It was like a lava lamp. The mush slowly rotated; the dark particulate matter gradually disappeared. It was primal; it may very well be how God made the oceans.

It was vegan television.

I poured it into a glass.

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Looks just gorgeous, doesn’t it? Morning light will do that.

I tasted it. I handed it to Tracy. She sipped it. “Needs a banana,” I said. She agreed. If you’re going to eat your vegetables, it’s good to have a banana with them. Bananas are the best fruit, unless peaches are. Or figs; I can’t wait for figs to be back in season. Or melons. Apricots. Those are certified by healthy by the National Board of Immortality. But they ain’t vegetables.

I put the banana in:

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I did not risk finger damage due to heedless behavior

Better. I took the glass to my office and sipped as I worked. It grew on me.  Tasty, even. I sipped it slowly; then I poured the rest of the pitcher into my glass. When I’d finished that, I made another batch, except I didn’t have any more apples, so I threw a plum in instead. (We have a long ton of plums, the result of someone’s unwise buying decisions. I am not at liberty to say who. Or whom. Andy would know.)

Oh boy, good vegetables again!

This morning I made another recipe, spinach and pineapple and mint. I’m not sure that was mint I put in there. Didn’t smell like mint. On the other hand, it had a square stem. Plus, I’m still breathing, so I guess it wasn’t a mushroom.

Four cups of spinach! I’m drinking four cups of spinach. I’ve probably destroyed all sorts of useful minerals. On the other hand, I’m one step closer to eternal life.

What will I do with all that time?



Beauty shots by Tracy Johnston

Marketing and tech usefulness by Michelle Mizera

68 thoughts on “Immortality gruel

  1. Buy a case of “All Day Energy Greens” at – all the veggies and fruit you need for a day with one scoop in a cup/glass of water. Stir well, (or shake or blend) – you have it. Perfect! Sell (or keep the big machine as decor). Quote from label: “one tablespoon exceeds equivalent of 5 servings of vegetables and fruits.” It works.
    From an old time SF fan now in Oregon – Barbara Lewis. Glad to find your Blog! Hi to wife and hug the kitty.


  2. What to do with all that time? I’d say explore vegetables. Seriously: From the age of 1 to 60, I detested Brussels sprouts. I can send you a recipe that’ll make you want to eat them every other night. It’s actually a pasta sauce, and it could be that pasta is not allowed in your new regime, but with a little less olive oil, it’s a side-dish. Or broccoli: man, do I have stuff to do with broccoli. One started out as a pasta sauce that in the winter I ate at least once a week. It, too, can be repurposed. Peas? You mean fresh spring time green peas cooked gently in a little white wine, shallot, and prosciutto? Again, a pasta sauce or a side dish. Main courses? Ever had ratatouille? Great stuff. The things you can do with eggplant — see your local Indian cookbook (I can recommend some) is mind-boggling. All those tomatoes in summer? Grab some cucumbers and a green pepper and a red or torpedo onion and make some gazpacho. Even in 140-degree Texas heat, it makes you glad it’s summer. Don’t want to cook? Try an Indian restaurant, but stay on the vegetarian side of the menu. Or go to a South Indian joint; I know there’s one near you. Extra fun: they’re cheap. Real cheap. And once a week, grab some meat. You’ll find you want less of it, but you’ll enjoy what you want more. Dang, now I’m hungry.


  3. In my experience canned peas have a fetid flavor. Frozen ones and fresh ones taste fine. Dried peas have a different flavor that I like.


    1. Frozen peas right out of the freezer are great. Just break off a chunk, and sprinkle a little salt on it. Ummm.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. one apple, one banana, fresh orange juice, two diferent yogurts, handful of granola… and a shot of honey. every morning!!!
        when i was a kid, i’d finish my baked potato and put the peas in it, and close it up. i actuallly thought i was fooling my mother…


  4. Doesn’t all that concentrated fruit spike your blood sugar? I had a smoothie once, with protein powder and everything, and a half hour later I was trembling. But thanks for the hat tip. I’d say “whose.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Jon. If it gets you to eat veggies and fruit instead of croissants, it was cheap for the $900 you spent. (Hopefully cost less than that but kitchen gadgets don’t come cheap).

    Sent from phone. Please ignore errors. Thanks, Scott.



  6. I try to eat and drink whatever is supposed to be bad for you. Butter, cokes, things with lots of gluten. I agree with half of what TP Weiss, M.D., said–eat what you want to eat. However, I don’t think the blog is silly. It’s a delightful break from what I’m reading in the newspaper and seeing on the TV news.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My reactions are just like yours, except completely different. I love veggies! Meat is ok, but I don’t put it in my spinach strawberry smoothies. Just be sure to steam your kale a bit first, or else it causes cancer, or something (I read it on the internet.)

    But this is just the beginning, Jon. Come over to my studio for a visit and I’ll let you hang upside down on my inversion table! Just got it last weekend and I’ve already gained back one of the two inches I’ve shrunk since college (I haven’t measured it, actually, but it feels like it. Good enough.)

    Now I’m off for 9 days of Sierra backpacking.

    See ya!


    1. Try soup recipes. Borscht (beets, cabbage); vegetable soup; carrot soup, tomato soup, cream of broccoli soup. And who doesn’t love chicken soup with–you guessed it–vegetables. Then there are all the Chinese and Vietnamese soups, full of veggies. And meat. Yum, yum. Oh, and borscht and vegetable soup can be full of–beef! Go for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Soup from garden tomatoes, late in the season. Yum! We call the Vitamix the boy blender and I leave it to my husband; the soup goes through the food mill.


  8. I love this column, and it reminds me of a colleague of mine at The Chicago Tribune who, in his mid-40s, had an extensive medical evaluation. After two days of pokes, prods, smearing, needle sticks and assorted other indignities, the testing physician came to my friend with the results. “For a man your age, in a sedentary occupation, the results are not all that terrible,” the doc said. “Now,” he went on, “if you will just eliminate red meat from your diet, eat far more fruits and vegetables, be sure to sleep well and exercise five times a week for at least 40 minutes, the chances are quite good that you can be among the 57 percent of the population who die of something other than heart disease.” Come play poker one of these months, Dan Date: Wed, 3 Aug 2016 22:18:23 +0000 To:


  9. In the words of Meatloaf…with full respect to the name and the noun…”You took the words right out of my mouth”…but I’m avoiding smoothies for as long as possible…


  10. You don’t need a blender or fruit or vegetables for a healthy snack. Here is my recipe. Combine two heaping tablespoons of creamy style peanut butter with three tablespoons of honey. Stir until smoothly blended and the consistency of butter at room temperature. Spread on a slice of wheat bread. If the peanut butter and honey spread is not at least one-half inch thick, mix up some more and layer it on. I frequently prepare this snack and I am healthy as a horse, as the saying goes.


  11. I’ve hated asparagus all my life (let’s just say 60+years), finding it useful only as a mayonnaise delivery device. But a few months ago, my neighbors invited me over for a steak dinner accompanied by… asparagus — and it was great. Seriously. (The asparagus, I mean — steak is always great.) The trick, it seems, was to drizzle olive oil over the asparagus, then bake it for twenty minutes in a 400 degree oven. Nothing fancier than that — and after decades of suffering through sodden, limp, steamed asparagus that tasted like an old, moldy sponge (an experience made tolerable only by a heavy larding of mayonnaise), I’m now a convert.

    Trouble is, it’s too hot in the summer where I live these days to cook with a hot oven. Time to retire and move, methinks.

    As for living a long time… having watched my father do a slow spiral into the grave wrapped in Depends, his brain riddled with all manner of personality-altering dementia, I’m not so sure a long life is a worthy goal. “Die young, stay pretty” sang the lovely Blondie back in the day, and maybe she had the right idea. Of course, she’s still alive and getting old, unable to follow her own sage advice. As for me, it’s much too late to die young or stay pretty.

    Guess I’ll just have to soldier on.

    A juicer, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Even though Jon and I grew up at the same time in Southern California, we seem to have different tastes. I bet we both despised frozen asparagus, but I did get to eat the real thing in season (remember seasons?). Loved it, with mayo of course. But mayo made me love broccoli, and my children had it at least once a week. For one of those reasons that I might need a marriage counselor to explain, my wife and I agree that hamburger absolutely demands broccoli as a vegetable.

    But you don’t mention artichokes. Another mayonnaise delivery vegetable but I loved them from day one. OTOH, green beans were horrible frozen as they always were when I was young. Only when I started cooking dead fresh green beans did I learn to love them by themselves, though a visit to Spain convinced me at age 21 that ‘judias con jamon” (green beans with ham) were God’s gift to Madrid.

    We both like spinach, but I could easily go weeks without eating it — except of course as a vital ingredient in any lasagna.

    Corn? Now Jon and I remember how amazing it used to be to have it in August or September, fresh from the San Fernando Valley. Vast amounts of sweet corn grew in the flood control basin up there.


  13. You will live forever, just like my old boss, a 100 yr. old physicist who proudly eschewed vegetables. “No salad, please, just the steak and potatoes.

    And don’t forget the kale. Yuk!!! I thought I was out of the woods at 83 but “cut way down on the salt”. So I do. I will live forever.


  14. ah yes….and…figs are in season…Berkeley Bowl and other places have two kinds….go get em while they last and I will contact you when mine are ripe and you can share the bounty…if it keeps you writing it is the least I can do..


  15. I think kale is a product of the devil. Thank you, Jon, for telling the truth. As much as I love Hunter Pence, kale is simply inedible.


  16. I will cook kale for you. You can put odd things it it (caramelized shallots, balsamic, a few chopped dates, red pepper jelly) that make it taste very very good. Or collards the way my friend from Arkansas taught me to make em, except w smoked turkey instead of hamhocks, so better for the living- to-150 plan. In any case, strong work in the vitamins dept! Abrazos.


  17. Also: grilled vegetables! Put some cherry tomatoes, zucchini, red/orange/yellow peppers, and red onion on skewers, brush with a little olive oil, and grill. They get sweeter than they taste raw… Still vegetables, but more like fruit. Of course, you can grill fruit too!
    And another way to eat kale is homemade kale chips. After tossing the kale with some olive oil, you can sprinkle whatever powdered seasoning appeals to you, then bake until crispy (which doesn’t take long).


  18. There is definitely a use for all that extra time. You will need it to keep prepping all those damned vegetables.


  19. 10 000 light years away to the East. Marseille.
    I walk or ride my bike with my Eastpak to the 6/7 days open air street market. I buy from two different fruit and veggies “costermongers” (in fact they are two brothers) , actually they don’t have a cart but battered transit vans behind their stand. 90% of the stuff they sell comes from 50 km around the city (except bananas and pineapples). I buy crisp salads (choice of 3 varieties) from the day, picked at 5am with ground still stuck to the bottom leaves, I buy weird shaped cucumbers and zucchinis (green, sweet yellow and also round ones), dark purple eggplants and a couple of pink and white striped ones, fresh onions, fresh garlic, fresh parsley, fresh basil, 2 pounds of oval shaped Roma tomatoes and 4 or 5 big fat mamma tomatoes, irregular primitive ones, red yellow and green with scars, open ground planted not hydroponic greenhouse grown, add one melon, some apricots, a few white peaches and a few small flat vineyard peaches… I come back loaded with fresh stuff for 20$.
    On the way back I stop at one of the 4 fishmongers see what they have I often like to bring home fresh anchovies or fresh sardines that I prepare in my own ceviche way. Thin marinated slices of monkfish are cool too. I like fresh veggies and olive oil. And apple vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
    We do also have somewhere some kind of big bulky German blender similar to your Vitamix. That thing is brutal and noisy. It quashes and destroys live stuff.
    I am not really a blending fan. Even in whisky, I prefer single malt.
    Am I gonna die stupidly too young ?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh my goodness how I’m loving your blog, unfettered by editors or corporate media constraints or other BS. I look forward to every post and often laugh out loud. So just a shoutout for you; no input or advice on smoothies or other macerated food groups. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I started writing a rebuttal to the vegetable [deprived] but this confounded update on my computer makes it easier for some monster from somebody’s id to usurp the window. And I lost all my efforts. But this is important to me because I appreciate healthy living and certain columnists/bloggers who make life more healthy for their readers through their creative output. Please, Jon Carroll, continue w/ the smoothies. I know I need to eat leaves — because Michael Pollan tells us so. But it is hard to get them into the diet in any quantity. I mean, how much lettuce can one pile onto a BLT? So smoothies are my salvation. Also more vegetables — and I got a good answer from a woman at the pool at the gym (so many of us are there for rehab of backs and other abused bodily parts and we are pretty gregarious): Make soup. Paw through the fridge for that piece of bell pepper, the leftover cooked broccoli, half an onion perhaps, zucchini, mushrooms, and about 2.5 c organic chicken stock sold in cartons. You do NOT have to cut them up into little pieces, but wash and maybe quarter a bell pepper, etc. After 5 minutes and 45 seconds at 10 (you DO wear some sort of headset to protect your hearing, don’t you?) your soup will be steaming and vegetables liquified. Tonight I added some cut-up roasted chicken breast after it was emulsified and poured nice and hot from Vitamix jar into soup bowls. Very tasty! Quick, easy. Keep up slogging through habit obstacles toward a healthier Jon, and take note that there are teachers from Northern California, including Benicia, who are still grateful that you made the trip to UCDavis on a Saturday to speak to Transition-to College English students from our high schools way back last Millennium, in the ’90s.


    1. I remember that! I did it because I was curious — plus, I always liked the town of Davis, one of those sleepy college towns you see in 30s movies. And it was great fun. I have no actual memory of it, but the “great fun” characterization is very strong.


  22. I am on my second VitaMix already. Make my breakfast smoothie every day in it. First thing that goes in is a banana.

    Wish I could transplant some of my love of veggies to you. I am in Andalusia at the moment and enjoying wonderful artichokes. And figs. I have a great recipe for fig ice cream if you are interested.


  23. it’s scary to realize what brainiac readers you have. they must all eat superfood to come up with those comments. maybe you yourself are a stimulating superfood.


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