A funny thing happened on the way to my weekly column.
I was sitting at Whole Foods enjoying my new morning ritual of tea, gathering my thoughts and jotting down some notes to tell you all about my first eight days as a hardcore vegan. My personal consumption of food and drink has been voluntarily and drastically altered. I no longer drink coffee. I don't eat meat, chicken, fish, dairy, beans, nuts, grains, rice, potatoes — oh heck, it'll just be easier to say that I'm eating nothing but fruits and vegetables.
My single-malt Scotch, martinis with bleu-cheese-stuffed olives and perfect Manhattans? They're all gone, too.
I feel healthier and more alert than I have in recent memory. My girlfriend found out about a new movement called “Roboot Your Life,” which helps people change their eating habits by simply adding more fruits and vegetables into their diets with a 15-day detox.
The expectation is that this extreme form of vegan torture will help me to establish a pattern of eating more fruits and vegetables. After my 15-day march through the Valley of Denial, I'll start reintroducing beans and nuts, and eventually some of the other things I love.
Let me clarify: Before agreeing to this gastronomic water boarding, I told my girlfriend that I had no intention of making this a permanent lifestyle choice. Frankly, I enjoy sushi, the occasional pizza and steak far too much to spend my remaining days convincing myself that kale is better.
Alas, the notion of changing the majority of what goes into my body did seem like a tremendous idea, considering that one of my New Year's resolutions was to be healthier. If I could reacquaint myself with an abundance of healthy choices, then the occasional splurge would be that much more rewarding, and far less damaging.
Over time, my eating habits had become more accidentally ingrained than intentionally insidious. Instead of reaching for a crisp apple, I'd grab a warm scone. This first week of detoxing has been surprisingly easy, aside from the Sunday night impulse to bite into something that once said “Moo.”
What I cannot deny is how truly good I feel. No. I haven't miraculously lost three inches off my waist. I don't look 30. But things do feel different. I sleep through the night. I'm more alert at work. I don't need Prilosec to control my heartburn. I am happier.
Of course, in order to keep my idle hands from doing the devil's work at Mario's deli, I've made Whole Foods my new entertainment destination. It's now become a place to source out what few remaining items on Earth I can still ingest. Yesterday it was dried Goji berries from the Himalayas. Today, coconut water from Fiji. Tomorrow, who knows?
Which brings me back to that funny thing that happened on the way to my column. Much like the Robert Rodriguez film, “From Dusk Until Dawn,” which begins as a bank heist and ends up, seemingly out of nowhere, as a vampire movie, this week's tale takes a similar random twist.
As I sat at my table at Whole Foods dreaming of Peking duck, my attention focused, much like a camera does, on five people standing on the other side of the window.
Four employees had stopped an older woman. One of the men asked her to open her bag, which she seemed reluctant to do. After a brief discussion, the woman relented and one of the men pulled out two boxes of blackberries, two mangoes, and interestingly enough, a bag of Goji berries from the Himalayas.
Interesting, I thought. What are the odds that a woman would be caught right in front of me shoplifting Goji berries? A day earlier, I wouldn't have known what they were. Now I can identify them on sight.
From the other items she had taken, I wondered if, by chance, she was rebooting her life.
As I watched the little drama unfold a few feet away, I couldn't help but wonder what was going through the old woman's mind as she stood there waiting for the police to arrive. But what happened next truly surprised me, and gave me much more to chew on than the fruits and veggies of which I had recently become accustomed.
This is the first in a two-part series.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at email@example.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun