Omnivore - First, Paula Deen; now Frank Bruni

The disease of dining criticism


  • www.everydayhealth.com
  • Frank Bruni

First, Paula Deen announced that she has diabetes. Now, Frank Bruni, former New York Times' dining critic, writes that he has gout. Bruni, now an op-ed columnist for the Times, blames his diet, especially red meat and alcohol.

Bruni's announcement prompted Scott Simon, host of NPR's "Weekend Edition," to comment more generally Saturday about the unhealthy diets of dining critics. I found this tidbit particularly unpleasant:

Susan Levin, a dietician for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says, "I feel for food critics. Who knows when that one dietary hit will push them into a blocked artery, a stroke or insulin shutdown?"

I've written many times about the inevitable bouts of food poisoning that critics experience. It's an occupational hazard that one can rarely blame on a particular restaurant unless (angry) dining companions call in the middle of night to report the same experience.

I've not blocked an artery or stroked out yet, but I did have emergency gallbladder surgery a few years back. And I have chronic GI problems. I know it sounds weird, but I can walk into a restaurant, look at the food on someone's table, sniff the air and usually instantly deduce how the food is going to affect me.

Fortunately, I've been addicted to gyms most of my adult life — it's the best antidepressant available — and that's somewhat helped counteract the effects of eating more than any human should. Income tax time always reminds me of the absurd amount of (deductible) food I've eaten annually for 30 years. The cutback of my "Grazing" column to monthly means significant loss of income, but the silver lining is liberation from necessary gluttony.

Interestingly, too, I have often wondered if I'd inherit my grandfather's really bad gout. He was a violinist whose performance career was cut short by the disease. I remember the huge calcium deposits on his fingers. He had an assortment of canes, one of which was hollowed out to contain a flask of liquor. Was the booze making things worse?