Case of Mayonnaise

When I joined Columbia University in 1985, I worked with a nurse who was, to put it mildly, overweight. One afternoon, I stopped by her desk to ask her a question and found her preparing for a well-deserved lunch. First, she brought out an enormous bowl of salad, full of greens, a few carrots thrown in for color. The gargantuan portion didn't faze me, because I had already been in the United States for five years and had become quite familiar with American eating habits. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by her rigor in selecting such a healthy salad with essentially no fat in it. For a moment, I began to wonder why she was so bulky when her diet was so exemplary. But not for long. From another plastic bowl that she had brought from home, she unleashed several heaping spoonfuls of a thick, yellow-white salad dressing that looked like pure mayonnaise. I casually chatted with her about a patient we were treating, but I couldn't keep my eyes off the salad bowl. Rest assured, I had no interest whatsoever in sharing her meal; rather, it was the incongruity between the over-grown, leafy salad and the heavy, viscous dressing that struck me.

For years, I have watched such odd maneuvers with the distant curiosity of a physician who includes dietary advice as a prime component in his repertoire. But a few years ago, one of these newfangled culinary approaches struck a raw nerve in me.

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