Harry, my current flame, thought the whole thing was ridiculous. His theory was that a direct confrontation with Goliath, even one backed up by nutrition, was a bad idea. Cut and run was his advice. Harry never has had any particular interest in the martial arts, but he loves to eat, and he didn't like the sound of some of the recipes I was proposing as replacements for the Blimpies he was fond of and other hardy fare usually served when he came to dinner. The thought of lung-bean stew and brain-sweetbread salad left him cold. "There's a recipe here for leftover brains," I remarked, browsing through a new cookbook. Harry said I had none to begin with.
"Many athletes are hip to health foods," I pointed out. Harry has a general admiration for athletes. " Gary Player, for example, won't go anywhere without his raisins, nuts and wheat germ."
"You've got to expect an eccentric here and there," said Harry.
"Many football coaches have taken steak off their training tables, replacing meat with glasses of pregame glucose," I said. This news sent Harry into such a fit of depression he went home.
I shopped for the proper groceries the following day. My first stop was Vic Boff's Health & Fitness Aids on upper Broadway in Manhattan. Mr. Boff was unpacking a crate of cold-pressed soybean oil. He was an amiable man with a sturdy build and ruddy complexion. He was dedicated to the proposition that natural foods are better than processed foods. "Take this, for instance," he said, handing me an egg out of the refrigerator. It looked like an ordinary egg.
"Organic," he said. I looked blank. "These are all fertilized eggs," he said. I was still blank. "Roosters," prompted Mr. Boff softly. Ah! "Many farms now deal only in organic eggs." I dropped half a dozen into my shopping bag.
"Goat's milk," said Mr. Boff, pulling a carton out of the other side of the refrigerator. "Some people like it, some don't." Into the shopping bag. We paused next at a shelf of teas. Alfalfa, rose hip, peppermint, camomile, comfrey leaves, fenugreek, fennel, buckthorn, senna, huckleberry leaf, licorice, red clover, papaya....
"Many people believe in treating ailments with herbs," said Mr. Boff. He handed me a book by Jethro Kloss called Back to Eden. I opened it at random to a page devoted to cures for hiccups. There were seven in all, including the suggestions that one suck an orange, which seemed pleasant enough, or eat a piece of chalk, which didn't. My mother, who had never read Mr. Kloss, used to jump out of closets and go Araagh!, a cure the book didn't mention.
Mr. Boff was dropping samples of tea in my shopping bag, mostly products of West Germany with indecipherable labels, such as Aufgussbutel, Hagebutten mit Karkade—rose hips, said Mr. Boff—and something called Fixfenchel that was reputed to be good for gas, acid stomach, gout, cramps, colic and in a pinch could be used as an eyewash.
By the time I left I had acquired a sack of unbleached, unmilled, whole-grain flour, Biblical honey—so named because it comes from the manna plant, which I thought was very cute—and organic cookies, carob candy bars for instant stamina, dried apricots and a snack of toasted tiddley-winks.