Seven things you should never, ever, ever, everever eat. And seven things you should.

Nnnng. Ew. Blar.

Continuing on last week's food-themed posts (yes, I know it's a new week, but I work nights, so my sense of time is a little off), yours truly has compiled a list of things nobody in their right minds should ever, ever eat. This list, by the way, is totally arbitrary and subjective.

I'm not one of those people who hews hard to the idea that only natural foods should ever pass your lips. Nor do I believe in strictly raw-food eating, or Paleo lifestyles, or Breatharianism. Frankly, a good White Castle slider is one of the best things in life, if you time it right. But there are some things--and I call them "foods" in charity--that you should avoid.

Ready to dive in? (Disclaimer: some of these items are not found in your normal grocery store. Blame the vending machines at the hospital.) From the bottom up, then:

Number Seven: Anything that resembles plastic.

Seriously: you can make a perfectly good macaroni and cheese without Velveeta. Likewise, you can probably live without fruit roll-ups in neon colors, strangely flexible donuts, or oddly shiny foodstuffs that resemble the packaging that they came in more than what they claim to be. If it looks, smells, and acts like plastic, it'll probably taste like plastic. Life is too short for that.

Number Six: Anything that is neon.

Neon is not a color found in nature. Neon colors belong to that subgroup of foodstuffs that are overly processed, loudly packaged, highly caloric, and all taste the same. Again: life is too short. If you want a cereal that dyes your milk blue or pink, toss some blueberries or strawberries or raspberries on it. Even frozen works, by the way, and gives you a nicely-colored milk moustache at the end.

Number Five: Those funky sandwiches in the hospital vending machines (or pseudo Hot-Pockets or their ilk).

No matter how hungry you are, these are a bad idea. Trust Nurse Jo on this one; she's eaten more bizarrely flexible food from hospital vending machines than she cares to remember. The one exception that proves this rule is White Castle sliders (see above), as those taste and behave exactly the same whether you get them from the drive-through, the freezer case, a vending machine, or unearth them from a Pharoah's tomb.

Number Four: Neural tissue.

I will eat almost anything. I have consumed (and sometimes enjoyed) blood sausage, grubs, sheep's head, haggis, and various unnamed entrails. I have even had brain, back in the late 1980's. Hell, I've eaten raw beef in Europe. But I won't eat neural tissue any more, primarily because Nasty Stuff Lurks In Neural Tissue. It's not just variant CJD prions that can live there; it's all sorts of viruses and other prions and....well, suffice to say that, after seven years doing neuroscience nursing, I just won't go there any more. (I do understand that commuting eighty miles a day on one of the country's biggest highways and working in a crappy neighborhood are larger risks than the occasional brain sandwich, but the possibilities are squicky.)

Number Three: Anything that looks or smells "off".

You would be surprised how many people ignore this simple rule. Following it will protect you from almost every nasty food-borne illness save botulism, and careful attention to your canned goods will help keep you from that, too.

Number Two: The entirety of anything larger than your head in one sitting.

This is more portion-control than foodstuff-related, but it's important. If it's bigger than your head, whether it be bowl of popcorn, cantaloupe, or butter sculpture, it's more than one serving. Failure to follow this rule will result in your hating whatever food you've consumed too much of for months, if not years.

And the Number One Thing You Should Never (evereverever) Eat:

Dishonest food.

If it has more than ten unpronounceable words on the wrapper, it's dishonest. If it's chocolate mousse made with carob, tofu, agave nectar, and decaf chicory espresso, it's dishonest. (On that last: if you have the bad luck to be a lactose-intolerant vegan, there are plenty of good desserts out there that will taste good and be honest. I have a chocolate cake recipe for you.) If it's anything that's imitating anything else, avoid it. I eat real butter--in much smaller quantities than I used to--because I like the taste of real butter. I Can't Believe It's Not Toxic Waste just doesn't do it for me.

Again, life is too short to put things in your mouth that are pretending to be something else. (Good dating advice too, come to think of it.) Exceptions can be made for cute sculptured cupcakes and Japanese food.

Now for the Seven Things You Should Eat:

7. Fresh vegetables in season, plain.

There is no greater joy in life than picking up a sun-warmed tomato from the farmer's market (unless it's picking it off your own tomato vine) and biting into it like an apple.

6. Good bread.

Ditch the plastic-wrapped stuff once in a while and treat yourself to real, honest, home-made or good-bakery-made bread.

5. Real dark chocolate.

Even if you think you don't like it, try it. Not only is it chock-full of good antioxidants, it's tasty. I like Green & Black's 70%.

4. Things you can't pronounce/don't recognize from a good Chinese or other Asian restaurant.

One of the best meals I have ever had started with a bowl of what later turned out to be cold, marinated tripe. Man, was that good stuff. Try being adventurous once in a while, and see what it gets you.

3. Tiramisu.

'Nuff said.

2. Real maple syrup.

See comment on #3.

And the number-one thing you should eat at every opportunity?

Fresh fruit in season.

A good peach from the farmer's market (or a good apricot, which is like a religious experience) might even out-do the perfect tomato. If you live in an area where cherries come into season for ten days out of the year, try some cherries. If you're in the South like I am, grapefruit and oranges are marvelous in the winter. If you live in California, I envy you and will come visit to sit in the shade of your lemon tree.

That's *my* totally subjective list. What's on yours?

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