Pica burns off calories running up a hefty tab Commentary: Svelte senator's taste for politics, and prime rib, should get dieters' notice.


To: Harry Evans, Random House

From: Laura Lippman and Arthur Hirsch

Re: A senator's diet plan (Not Ted Kennedy)

We all agree that the key to a best-selling diet book is an author who talks the talk and walks the walk, without a lot of jiggling. And who is a better spokesman than a man who has spent much of his life in a sedentary job, eating lavishly at expensive restaurants, while remaining a greyhound-slim 190 pounds?

Yes, we are talking about the diet popularized here in Maryland by Sen. John A. Pica Jr. (D-Tio Pepe's).

Parts of the Pica plan were recently leaked in the local press, which reported that the senator has spent $25,000 of his campaign funds in bars and restaurants over the past four years.

The response was, frankly, terrific. Our client -- well, the senator technically isn't our client yet, but we're sure he'll be on board soon -- was besieged with questions. Questions like:

"How do you stay so svelte eating at a steakhouse like McCafferty's?"

"Can you get me the recipe for Maria's Veal Piccata a la Pica?"

"How did you run up a bill of $750 at Maria's in Annapolis, anyway?"

And, "Pica? Isn't that a disorder where you eat dirt and stuff?"

In fact, we think the Pica plan has the potential to be the Scarsdale diet of the 1990s. We even considered calling it the Rosedale Diet, but that's apparently the one neighborhood in Baltimore where the senator doesn't dine out regularly. No matter. "THE JOHN A. PICA JR. EAT MORE, DO LESS 90-DAY WONDER DIET" is an even better title, in our humble opinion.

The plan, like all successful diets, does involve significant lifestyle changes. The first step is non-negotiable: Get elected to public office. With its emphasis on restaurant eating, the Pica diet can cost as much as $1,600 per dinner, so it helps to be able to write meals off as "field expenses" on your campaign finance reports.

The second, perhaps even tougher requirement, is that you must discuss politics/campaign business at every meal. Talk about an appetite killer! But it's really not hard. For example, you might begin your lunch at the Prime Rib with this question: "So is Election Day always on the first Tuesday of November? Or is it the first Tuesday after the first Monday?" Let the IRS audit away. You're covered!

What would a day of menus look like on the Pica plan? Well, for lunch, you might go to the Polo Grill and order anything you like -- fried lobster tail, American woodland mushroom tartlet, roast breast of pheasant, even the flourless chocolate cake. Because on the Pica plan, you don't count calories, you don't count fat, you don't even count carbohydrates. The only thing you count are votes and campaign contributions!

Dinner could be at Maria's, Tio Pepe's, Ruth's Chris Steak House, the Center Club, just about any place with a wine list. Remember to take home the leftovers, for breakfast on the Pica plan begins with last night's doggie bag, blenderized into a delicious, slimming shake. (Alas, you cannot write this meal off. The Pica plan, lenient as it is, does not allow double-dipping.)

How, you may wonder, can someone eat like this and still lose weight? The secret, as in any good diet plan, is a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training. Again, however, the regimen is quite specific: Sweating out a 43-vote margin of victory in a primary, even though you're the incumbent, burns an incredible 350 calories! Twisting arms for Senate President Mike Miller, 750 calories. Greasing liquor board appointments, a staggering 1,000 calories.

Most important of all: Carrying water for Peter Angelos, the Orioles owner who just happens to be Pica's boss, consumes 3,500 calories, the equivalent of a whole pound of ugly fat!

We know you may be skeptical about whether this plan can be "fleshed" out to book length, but with an extended Pica $l biography, an Oprah-like diary, and his father's plan for older, more sedentary dieters, the Pica 90-Day plan should have at least a few more pages than the senator has pounds.

nTC Anyhoo, Harry, if you can dig up $2 million for a toe-sucker like Dick Morris, we think you should have a few hundred thousand to throw Pica's way. And we anticipate a lot of interest, so please get back to us while he's still in office. The sooner, the better.

Pub Date: 12/11/96

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