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  • Writer's pictureJerry Della Femina


In 1973 I sat on a dais next to Adelle Davis at a client luncheon. Davis was, at the time, the High Priestess of Nutrition in the world.

We talked. She was a very nice woman until our food arrived and she spotted me shaking a ton of salt on my food.

“Young man,” she said. “All that salt will kill you in a few years.”

A year later she was dead. Cancer.

46 years later I’m still shaking a ton of salt on my food.

A few weeks ago the comedian Bill Maher did a hilarious bit on his HBO show about the secrets of a long life, where he pointed out that many of these health honchos who have written books about nutrition that made them millions didn’t even live to an average life span:

Euell Gibbons - dead at age 64.

Adelle Davis - 70.

Nathan Pritikin - 69.

Clive McCay - 69.

Michel Montignac, who wrote “Eat Yourself Slim” - dead at 66.

I don’t hate vegetarians. I pity them.

But on the other hand I must confess that I may kind of hate vegans, but that’s because of their “I’m healthier than you” eyes. And the fact that they make choosing a restaurant where one can find vegan foods that they can eat pure hell for their friends.

The last time I ate anything from one of those health food temples resulted in a disaster.

Here’s a column I wrote about it a few years ago:


“I’m going to throw up on the dog!”

“Judy, please don’t. I think I'm having a heart attack!”

It started off as a simple trip back to New York City from the Hamptons. I was driving, my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, was sitting in the passenger seat with our wonderful little pooch Shlomo stretched out dozing on her lap.

Now let me explain that earlier in the day we stopped at a store in Sag Harbor that features only organic health foods and has a wonderful reputation. The store shall go nameless because I have no desire to hurt anyone’s business. I ran in and bought a container of guacamole and a container of tuna fish salad, which we took to our house for lunch.

“Mmmmmmm, this is delicious,” I said as I went for a second helping of tuna fish.

“This is so good,” said Judy, “I’ll have some more, too.”

We ate every bit of food, packed up the car and left for the city.

We had a book on tape, “The Life of Thomas Jefferson.” Jefferson, it turns out, was a bit of a sex maniac. It seems Jefferson’s poor wife Martha, who was called “Patty,” was dying of exhaustion as they had six children in eight years.

Every chapter of the book started with, “Once again Patty was pregnant.”

Upon hearing this Judy would say out loud, “The pig – he didn’t give that poor woman a moment’s rest.”

The book gives us some wonderful insights as to what went on in the colonies in those days.

I think the main problem was that they didn’t have television, so their idea of entertainment was to jump on each other every five minutes.

James Madison, who was Jefferson’s best friend, was broken-hearted at age 37 because his 15-year-old girlfriend left him.

Patty Jefferson’s half-sister was Sally Hemings, a slave who Thomas Jefferson took up with after Patty died, and she bore him God knows how many more kids. It must have been pretty confusing, and some of these kids’ brothers were their own uncles, too.

Politicians never change. I’m seeing Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer in a new light.

As our car left Manorville and we went on the LIE, we both suddenly got very quiet.

By Exit 68 I had a pain in my chest that felt like a heart attack. Judy, who is usually the model of feminine decorum, was making these horrible belching sounds.

For the next hour Judy was moaning and making the worst sounds I’ve ever heard coming out of a human. I switched to the Northern State, then to the Grand Central Parkway.

The pain in my chest was horrible.

Then Judy said, “Onions! It’s the onions … the onions in the tuna fish.”

This was good news for me because maybe I wasn’t having a heart attack – maybe I was having a good old-fashioned onion attack.

Judy and I are used to eating food filled with plenty of chemicals. It dawned on me that natural organic foods may be poison to us.

Then Judy let out a bloodcurdling scream and said, “SHLOMO! NOOOOO!”

I almost lost control of the wheel.

“WHAT’S WRONG?” I screamed as I watched Judy’s passenger seat sliding forward.

It seems that in his sleep Shlomo’s paw had slipped down on the side of the passenger door and hit the lever that moved Judy’s seat forward. This made Judy even sicker.

When she finally pulled the dog’s paw away from the door Judy uttered those words that one never wants to hear while speeding 70 miles an hour in a car on a crowded highway.

“Jerry, I’m going to throw up.”

“Judy, no … please …”

“Jerry, I’m going to throw up on Shlomo.”

“No … no … please …”

And so it went until we got near LaGuardia Airport.

“Jerry,” Judy said, and then she started gagging.

“Hold it one more minute,” I begged. Then, cutting off cars, driving like a maniac, I pulled into a gas station on the parkway that houses a Dunkin’ Donuts.

I ran in and screamed, “Do you have Pepto-Bismol?”

The kid behind the counter, who was clearly in a life-and-death struggle with the English language, gave me a vacant look that said: “We have jelly donuts … chocolate donuts … sugar donuts … cinnamon donuts … what the hell is a Pepto-Bismol donut?”

“Never mind,” I said, answering my own stupid question.

I ran back to the car, opened the trunk and ransacked every bag we had packed.

The very bottom of the very last bag yielded a pack of Pepto-Bismol Chewables.

With shaking hands I fed four tablets to Judy.

If Pepto-Bismol needs a testimonial, I can say that in five minutes Judy said she felt better.

Some day, when Shlomo is old enough to understand, I will tell him about the close call he had while he was sleeping on what started as a simple trip back from the Hamptons.

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