Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Summer in the city

Looking towards the hazy Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park. 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Summer in the city. Temperatures in the high 80s, lots of sunshine and occasional weather reports about a thunder shower.

The cleanse. Cynthia Lufkin was talking about it at a small luncheon at Doubles that Wendy Carduner had given. I don’t how we got on it. Maybe she was eating just her vegetables and someone asked if she were a vegetarian. Or vegan.

No, was her reply, but she had done this “juice cleanse” after she’d finished her all of her treatments for breast cancer. It had been recommended for cleaning out her system, the toxins, etc. relaxing her digestive tract. It was a five day diet of just juices (mainly vegetable). What caught my ear was she said she felt SO much better on completion. She slept well every night and woke up with a lot of energy. She felt more energized every day.

New Yorkers tend to push it to the limit. Stress and sleep deprivation are often part of the life. You can argue about it and say it’s not necessary, it’s not worth it but the city is demanding. People visiting invariably say they love the city because they love “the energy.”

When I first moved back here from Los Angeles in the early 90s, I was amused by the rushing. I’d see friends get into a cab and immediately start yelling destination and directions at the poor driver. I watched people running for the bus or the subway as if it was their last chance for happiness.

In the years I’ve been here, it’s got worse. Now a lot of the pedestrians are rushing and often ignoring oncoming traffic or anything else outside of what’s in front of them if that. I don’t do that, but I’ve come close to running for a bus or shouting directions at cab drivers. I have to monitor myself. But now it comes naturally.

I don’t have a problem sleeping, partly I’m sure because I go to bed so late (after going up online). But I’m often running to make appointments or dates, and even running to get out of the house to keep them. And I eat all the time. I try to eat well, and I eat a lot: with good portion of fruits and vegetables. Chicken, fish, pasta, little red meat. I try to watch my alcohol intake and my sugar. I often don’t succeed. And I like breads and pastries and cookies, although I buy them sparingly as if to keep them away from myself because I often get up from the table feeling stuffed.

One of the main courses from our 3 days of life foods (life foods have not been heated above 118 degrees F).
So hearing Cynthia talk about this “clean” diet of just juices and “feeling so energetic and rested” I couldn’t help asking more.

JH, was at this luncheon and, as it turned out, was curious too. He was interested in the idea of cleaning up his eating habits and maybe slimming off some of that extra that’s been accumulating. He too eats in volume and has the same self—complaints. Eating too much of the stuff that adds the weight.

Cynthia’s program/diet came from woman named Jill Pettijohn. JH and I both signed up to see what it would be like. The “Nutritional Cleanse” is intended to “rest the digestive tract, detoxify and cleanse the body and to boost your immune system.” Cleansing removes toxins. Not everyone is impressed by the “presence” of toxins.

The foods are delivered daily. We began last Friday with a three day vegan diet. This was a challenge because weekends are when I treat myself to stuff like smoked salmon and whitefish salad and cheese Danish (from Eli’s), and cheeses and crackers, and bagels and you name it. I look forward to my weekly trip to Zabars and Fairway where I entertain myself with the notion that I’m eating well while picking out everything I like to eat to pig out on. That does include a lot of the good stuff, but it’s still a lot.

The Vegan diet is all vegetables and many uncooked, in various combinations. The salads are delicious, in good part because the dressings are heavenly. Yum. Wow. The “snacks” are ... different. But good. And the main course is also ... different. And kinda good. And there were green drinks, combinations like avocado, broccoli, celery, lemon, onions. Not bad at all.

None of it bad. And almost none of it as good (taste-wise) as what I pig out on every weekend (the salads being the exception). And ... I miss the sugar, oh yes I do.
Three of the six shakes on day 1 of our Jill Pettijohn Nutritional Cleanse: Green Smoothie (green vegetables, apple, lemon, avocado, and more); Lemonade (apple, lemon, flax seed, flax oil, agave, lecithin, himalayan sea salt, filtered water); Spinach & Dill (spinach, dill, celery, zucchini, red onion, avocado, olive oil, himalayan sea salt, filtered water).
Last night I went to a birthday dinner that Brooke Hayward and Peter Duchin and Lou Miano give every year for themselves. It’s a dinner for about thirty at a long table on the terrace of Lou’s penthouse apartment off Sutton Place. The hosts are the birthday boys and girl.

It’s casual and folksy for New York. A lot of the guests are in the arts in one way or another. There’s lots of conversation and lots of food and a great buffet of down home stuff.

I thought about not going because I wasn’t going to be eating. I thought of people who’d come to my dinner table in the past with similar situations. I thought they were nuts. At the time.
Guests gathering at Lou Miano's Sutton Place penthouse for the annual triple birthday celebration.
I wanted to go to this dinner, however, because it’s a nice way to spend a warm summer evening in New York, with good company and a view of the 59th Street Bridge and the fourth day of a big orange moon over the East River. Furthermore it was still very warm which gave this total New York setting a real-life quality.

So I didn’t drink and I didn’t eat. I didn’t take many pictures of the food because it seemed like a way of torturing myself. I’m not hungry, per se, but I’ve been without that feeling of having had a really great meal (or a really filling meal — or a bagel slathered with cream cheese and scallions) for four whole days. And that’s a lot for this glutton.

Several guests including my hostess thought I was nuts. “Are you sure you want to do this ...?” Was the question I heard more than once. Brooke had done a “cleanse” years ago when she lived in Los Angeles. She did it with a friend of hers who wanted to drop ten pounds so that he could fit into a suit he’d bought and immediately fattened out of. Part of her program was that they also walked ten miles a day or something like that, and then returned to the center and did exercises.
The birthday cake.
“It didn’t do a damn thing,” she said. Except her friend dropped the ten pounds and left the program early, having got what he’d come for.

She’s eating her pasta and salad and veal marsala while telling me this. I’m not really hungry but I keep thinking the pasta looks really tasty.

So why am I doing this? The idea of cleaning up my eating habits and losing some of the gut maybe is the motivation. Restoration, rehabilitation. However, there is another element I hadn’t considered: enduring it. Or discipline, as some suggested.

Both JH and I felt after one day of this diet that it was hard to take. It doesn’t leave you with that feeling of having sated yourself at the table – which, as anyone knows, has its pleasures. It doesn’t leave you hungry although it leaves you wishing ... it tasted better, sweeter, spicier, etc. So the question we ask ourselves is: can I go for five days like this?

Visit www.jillpettijohn.com or email info@jillpettijohn.com for more information, and check back with us at the end of the week to see how we fared.

CLICK here to subscribe to our mailing list.