If the last quarter century has taught us anything it is that we are no longer “creatures of habit,” the well-turned phrase of older generations. Growing up in my Italian household, I knew exactly what meal we were having on each night of the week–every week, every year. I knew that every Sunday afternoon, after the traditional dinner, my parents would shepherd my siblings and I into the family car for our Sunday drive.
My, how I’ve evolved. Now I am a creature of ever-changing habits. Technology, the media and mega consumer marketing companies have become agents of constant change. Today, change is considered the norm, not the exception. For most of us, change has been creeping up on us. Over the last quarter century I’ve been weaned off public pay phones, hand written checks, the library, Rand McNally travel maps and music CDs. I’ve read that in the last 25 years our lives have been impacted more than in all of human history. Today a creature of habit is at risk of extinction.
This brings me to the change that has affected me most in the last 25 years: my lifestyle and eating habits.
Over time, I’ve learned that eating red meat three to four times a week–and processed foods on a few of the other nights–is a certain formula for compromising my health. At first I resisted change. The mantra of my early adult life was: “It must be good for me if my parents ate it, especially if it tastes so good.” Unfortunately, too many in my parents’ generation died in the “prime of their lives” from clogged arteries and mutant cells.
I had rationalized my unhealthy diet by developing a compensating habit for consuming a glass of red wine with evening meals. Resveratrol in red wine has been shown to be one of the factors behind the healthy Mediterranean diet. Surely this insurance policy would allow me to continue my dietary habits. Wrong. I stumbled upon an article that described the ideal diet for modern man–the Stone Age diet.
The theory: human genetics have evolved very little over the last 10,000 years. Therefore, our bodies thrive best with a diet suitable to our genetic profile. This diet consists of fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and an occasional Mastodon steak. No significant amount of saturated fats, refined sugars or highly processed (or genetically modified) foods.
What about red wine? Early traces have been discovered and dated to 6,000 years ago. Not quite cave man times, but well before the life-changing era of the Industrial Age. I’ve rationalized that natural wines are a direct product of nature and contain healthy compounds that are complimentary to a healthy diet.
In the late ’90s, studies were emerging that urged consumers to change their lifelong, deleterious diets by reducing the consumption of red meat and processed foods. So I changed my diet. (I still miss Italian bread and sandwich meats.)
When a niece adopted a vegetarian diet, I changed again and inched a bit closer to the Cave Man diet. Then another niece began adhering to vegetarian precepts. Then my daughter-in-law. Again I changed my dietary habits. Today, I’m eating more fish and organic foods. Coupled with frequent visits to the gym and a few 5k races, I now schedule my annual physicals with confidence rather than anxiety (and my physician endorses my wine consumption regimen).
I now consider myself an educated omnivore, a balance between childhood upbringing and 21st century sensibility. I haven’t progressed to strict vegetarianism; I enjoy the occasional steak or dairy product. An incidental benefit of my newly focused diet: organic products now play a major role in my dietary choices.
The one constant in my ever-changing dietary habits is red wine. Thankfully, some things haven’t changed in the last quarter century.
Nick Antonaccio is a 30-year Pleasantville resident. For over 10 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. He is co-host of “Glass Up, Glass Down,” a local cable television series on wine and food; he also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.