11 Thoughts On Ringing In a New Year

As 2013 has come to a close, it leaves behind, as every year does, many memories. Many are good. Many are not. 365 days tends to cover a lot of ground. Here are a few thoughts, not just about food, about the year left behind and the one just beginning. I apologize if some of them sound “preachy.”

  1. Every year loses its share of important people, whether they be important on a global stage like Nelson Mandela, a niche community like Charlie Trotter or on a very personal level, like my father-in-law, James White. It is always sad to think of what has been lost, and looking forward, what will be lost in 2014, however, it is far too early to know on a global or a niche level what has been gained by the world in the year that has just passed or who will be born in 2014. Congratulations to those who have gained or will gain people important to them! Hopefully, the world will become a better place because of people born in 2013!
  2. I am very happy to have a good job and health insurance, though that health insurance continues to get more and more expensive and covers less and less. Universal health coverage is a laudable goal for the United States. It would be great to see everyone covered, however, that will be easier said than actually accomplished, especially without destroying the admittedly imperfect, but still functioning system in place. As a physician, I wholeheartedly agree that we badly need health care reform, but we need real reform, not just lip service and a jumbled approach in order to claim that health care reform was “accomplished.” Real progress needs to be made on some of the major issues effecting cost such as futile end-of-life care, tort reform, bloated bureaucracy and the exorbitant cost of medical education. I and many of my physician colleagues have talked our own children and others out of going to Medical School today, because, other than for the very wealthy and the very poor, it is an unsustainable financial situation to incur the extraordinary cost/debt of that education; the lost opportunity cost of 8+ years of developing another career with actual income beyond the meager one of a Resident over the last four or more years of that time; the increased burden of paperwork; the decreasing level of actual patient contact and care; and the declining respect, both from self and others regarding the profession. Unfortunately, I expect things to only get worse in 2014, even though more people may have some degree of insurance “coverage.” The question is whether that coverage will actually be meaningful or will it cause the system to completely implode. I hope for the former, but I fear the latter.
  3. Speaking of health, on a personal level, 2013 was an important year for me. Diabetes has been on the rise for some time and not just for those who fit the typical profile for diabetes. I am one of those people. At a relatively young age and slim profile, I was first diagnosed with it in 1999. I have dealt with the disease ever since, for most of that time resisting even the idea of using insulin injections. I was able to reasonably control the problem and maintain my eating habits for some time, but in recent years, it was becoming more and more difficult to do so. Something had to give and the first thing that did was that in 2012 I started using insulin. This was not nearly as bad or as much of a nuisance as I had feared, and my control improved. This past year, however, I graduated to two pieces of equipment that have changed my life. The first is an insulin pump (I use one made by Omnipod). It is so much easier, better and faster than injections. The second and even more valuable addition was a continuous blood glucose monitor (Dexcomm). This has not only allowed me to adjust insulin dosages, it has altered my behavior by providing me with rapid feedback. I still eat what I want when I want to, but it has changed what I want. Now, I severely limit carbs to those times when they are truly worthwhile. I used to eat a lot of pasta and bread. Much to my youngest son’s chagrin, that is now an unusual situation as I only prepare them or seek them out infrequently. With this combination, I feel much more in control of my situation. I have always felt that quality of life is more important than quantity of life and now I can, so to speak, have my cake and eat it too.
  4. I’m not generally one for making New Year’s resolutions nor have I been one for exercising for its own sake, though I have always been active. In 2013, after delaying for some time, I took a colleague’s advice and tried working out with a personal trainer – Scott from Spartan Fitness. Eight months later, though I would never have predicted it, I am still at it and in the best shape that I have been in a very long time. I credit Scott with not trying to bury me. He worked with me to improve at my own pace and to achieve my own goals, which were improved blood glucose levels so that I could continue to eat well and in reasonable quantity. The added benefit has been increased strength and a better physique. If something like this is on your New Year’s resolution list, make sure you find the right trainer for you and do it!
  5. Technology – I have a love/hate relationship with it. I’ve always been an early adopter (I still have my original 512K Mac and printer and an original Newton), but for some reason, bugs continue to plague me, most of all, a very frustrating internet connection (I’m looking at you, Time Warner). It’s supposed to be high speed, but has been very frustrating. Same holds for all of my Apple products. Hopefully 2014 will see an improvement.
  6. I’m honored and thankful for the opportunities, the attention and the recognition that came my way in 2013 including a sponsored trip to Chile via Foods From Chile, a profile piece on me and my blog in my local paper and the year-end Top 15 Meals of the Year featured on Eater.com. I’m grateful to those who have made this blog, my facebook page, twitter account and Instagram feed so personally fulfilling for me – you the readers! I look forward to continuing in 2014 and hopefully making it even better.
  7. 2013 was a very good year for restaurant food with many interesting restaurant openings around the United States and the world with a stronger and stronger emphasis on top quality ingredients. I like the fact that real fine dining seems to be making a comeback. I also like the fact that high quality casual dining continues to be going strong. The combination of the two as seen in restaurants like Saison and Atera amongst others, to me presents the best of both worlds. It is a large world and there is room for so many different approaches to food and cooking. May that always be the case!
  8. As for ingredients for the rest of us, 2013 saw a mixed bag of activity. Interest in quality product, small farms and farmers markets continued to grow, but the federal government continued to make it harder and harder for these same small farms to thrive. An example is in cheese making, where the FDA has apparently been making life and the ability to continue more difficult for at least one artisanal cheese maker in NY and with potential new rules in the works, they could be sounding the death knell of small scale artisanal cheese making in the US. I still don’t understand why we don’t have labeling of GMO products in this country.
  9. Looking ahead, I urge everyone o support those businesses, charities and artisans that you particularly appreciate to the extent that you can. Support quality. If not, it might not be around come 2015.
  10. I would like to wish a particularly happy and delicious birthday to one of my very best friends and frequent dining partner, Joe Bavuso, who turns 50 today!
  11. Last, but not least, I wish you and yours the healthiest, tastiest, most successful and happiest of New Years!


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2 Responses to 11 Thoughts On Ringing In a New Year

  1. mygingerpig says:

    John, this is a thoughtful and well written post. My son has diabetes, and I sent him a copy of your comments. Thank you.

    Joel

  2. Pingback: 11 Thoughts On Ringing In a New Year | CookingPlanet

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