Make lunch the biggest meal of your day. Eat at least one meal a day with a companion. And if you can't cook, barter your way into a meal with friends. In return for being fed, do something the cook needs done around the house, like repairing broken light fixture.
These bits of eating advice come from Jane Weston Wilson, author of "Eating Well" (Workman, $12.95), a cookbook aimed at older Americans. When Ms. Wilson, 65, a former New York caterer, breezed into Baltimore last week she didn't mince words.
Like many older folks, she discovered that she can't eat the way she used to. A big meat and potatoes meal at the end of the day often makes her feel sluggish, she said. But Ms. Wilson said she has found that getting older doesn't require radical reconstruction of her diet.
Rather, she said, using a few tactics -- like keeping a ratio of one-third meat to two-thirds vegetables on her plate, eating smaller portions, and eating with others -- enables her to continue to eat happily.
A trim, lively woman who once ran the Party Box catering business in Manhattan, Ms. Wilson had good things to say about lunch.
The midday meal, she said, is an excellent time to satisfy hunger both for food and companionship. Stoking up on calories in the middle of the day gives her the energy to be out and about in the afternoon. And, since our metabolism is higher at the middle of the day than toward the end, she eats foods that take longer to digest, such as meat and dairy products, at lunch.
Lunch is also an excellent time to see people, she said. She invites working friends to lunch at her New York apartment. "Sometimes it is just 30 minutes over a plate of pasta," she said. "My friend gets lunch. I get caught up with her."
With friends who aren't on a tight schedule, she arranges luncheon get-togethers with the meal linked to another event, like seeing a midday movie, or taking a trip to a museum.
Ms. Wilson is a member of an informal eating group, a collection of acquaintances who meet for a potluck meal. She offered tips on how to start such a group. First of all, keep the meal casual, she said. The more involved you make the occasion, the less likely you will be to have the event. Secondly, have everybody bring a component or two of the meal. Maybe the appetizer, or a salad. Thirdly, if somebody doesn't cook or is pressed for time, let them "buy into" the meal in other ways. In return for meals, one fellow in Ms. Wilson's eating group fixes radios and lamps that belong to members of the group.
In her cookbook she lists low-fat cooking techniques, including dousing foods in marinades and then baking them in parchment paper, a thick paper found in cooking specialty shops. These techniques, she says, are ways to keep flavor in low-fat foods.
As for desserts, her strategy is to eat the real thing, only in smaller portions. "I can't stand carob. So I eat chocolate-dipped apricots . . . only two of them. But Oh! how they make you feel alive."
Serves six to eight.
2 broiling chickens (about 2 1/2 pounds each) quartered, rinsed, patted dry.
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped, peeled ginger root
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons snipped fresh dill or 3 teaspoons dried dillweed
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted.
Place chicken pieces in large rectangular stainless steel or glass container.
Combine lemon and lime juices, the ginger root, the garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken and marinate, covered, for 4 hours in refrigerator.
Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Arrange the chicken in a layer, skin side up, and sprinkle with half the parsley, dill and tarragon, and brush with the melted butter. Turn the chicken skin side down, sprinkle with remaining parsley, dill and tarragon, brush with the melted butter.
Bake chicken in a 450-degree oven for 20 minutes, turning once. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook 30 to 35 minutes until the juice runs clear when thigh joint is pricked with fork. (If skin is not crisp, put the chicken under broiler until browned, about 8 minutes.) Transfer the chicken to a platter and serve, or you may cool and serve chilled. (You may also freeze and serve later).
(From "Eating Well" by Jane Weston Wilson.)