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Publicists who get my e-mail address send me pitches for all kinds of stories, and occasionally a worthwhile story does show up. Last week, though, a couple of pitches for dumb diet books led me to set my spam detector on Purple Prose Alert, but also moved me to contemplate a marketing opportunity.
You see, I've learned from the e-mail onslaught that diets should not be so obvious as to kill the profits of those who devise them. Faithful WORLD readers may recall my recommendation last year of the Lord's Prayer diet: Chew slowly and thank God for each bite of our daily bread. But the commercial problem with such a diet is that, like grace, it's free, and this magazine made no money from that excellent proposal.
So, how to devise something that WORLD can package and sell for $14.95 at amazon.com? Hmm. Don't diet-book gurus often start with their own tastes and cogitate reasons later? Ergo, three questions: What do I like to eat? How can I package my preferences for mass appeal? And, in a grudging bow to facts, could my brilliant diet be reasonably healthy?
Hmm. My favorite dinner food is salmon, preferably Alaskan. I admired the Anchorage Daily News for its willingness this past May to have a "salmon haiku" contest. Readers contributed haikus such as this one from Elizabeth Towers: "Courageous salmon/ Did you swim all this way/ To land on my grill?"
I also like nuts and berries of various kinds, and my eating tendency while writing or editing during the day is not to sit down for a standard lunch, but to forage every couple of hours. So, how about proposing a diet with salmon and berries through the day, with some grain in the morning for breakfast and a big salad for dinner?
Now, to the marketing of the concept. Locations (South Beach? Scarsdale?) are passé. How about naming a diet after an animal-yes, the Bear Diet! Bears love salmon when they have access to it: A 200-pound bear likes to eat 30 pounds of salmon a day, and orphaned cubs have learned how to catch and eat salmon on their own.
And berries? The Idaho public television website reported that in summer bears "will eat throughout the day as they search for nutritious food such as berries." A website of the College of Environmental Science and Foraging (oops, I mean Forestry) of the State University of New York notes that bears are "eating machines because foraging for food is a near constant activity except in winter."
The SUNY website put it this way: "It is not uncommon for bears to gorge themselves on a particular berry species for several days, or even weeks, eating virtually nothing else before moving on to another location or a different food resource." I could do that-and Adirondack black bears particularly like raspberries, as do I. (Hmm-I know I'm not descended from monkeys, though you may be fooled at first glance, but how about bears?)
What about the health aspects? Aha! Salmon is a good source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, while berries are low in calories but rich in antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. (Not sure what they are, except that in my early-1970s days I hung out with them.) And, new studies published in the Archives of Ophthalmology suggest that a fish-rich diet helps fight the leading cause of blindness in old age. (Not spiritual blindness, though, or Jesus would have told Peter to be a fisher of fish.)
Two cautions. First, Oregon salmon expert Charley Dewberry says we should be careful about farmed salmon; wild salmon, although more expensive, tastes better and is healthier for us. Second, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that some bears "eat so much their stomachs drag on the ground." We'll need beautiful models to demonstrate the wonders of the Bear Diet, so we need either to sacrifice some accuracy, or change the name to the Bare Diet. Anyone for a cookbook?