Over the years I have on occasion proposed to dinner parties when conversation lags the following question:  What ten foods would you choose if you could only have ten forever?  The following rules apply:

a.  You may assume you have water and salt and should not count them as part of your ten;

b.  You may include as a ‘food’ things that can be further derived as modifications of it. For example, grapes can be eaten immediately, but also can be modified to make grape juice or to form vinegar, wine, brandy, and grape jelly.  Likewise, ‘milk’ includes milk products such as cream, butter, yoghurt, cheese, and whey;

c.  You should not include every possible product from an animal. For example, while milk in modified form makes milk-products, a chicken cannot be modified to form eggs.  Or again, a beef cow does not include milk products or gelatin from hooves, but only beef as a meat.  This restriction is somewhat arbitrary, perhaps, but then it’s my game and I get to make the rules!

While not a rule, an important consideration certainly is that if the limit of ten is to suffice me forever, the resulting diet surely should provide adequate nutrition.

Here then are my ten:

            I’m a priest, so the Eucharist must continue to the end of the human ages.  Therefore, my first two foods must be wheat and grapes:

  1. Wheat, and thus bread, flour, wheat germ, pasta
  2. Eating grapes, grape juice, raisins, vinegar, wine, grape wine brandy, grape jelly
  3. Whole tomatoes for salads and slicing, but they also allow for tomato sauce, tomato paste, sundried tomatoes, fried green and ripe tomatoes, green tomato pickle, tomato juice
  4. Grapes are nice, but not my favorite eating fruit.  Oranges provide a second and better whole fruit, and in addition provide a nice juice with much vitamin C.  Also, as many Mediterranean cuisines show, oranges can be used as an ingredient much as lemons and limes if food choices are unlimited.  Finally, oranges can be a source of fructose for use as a sweetener in the absence of other sugars
  5. A good diet requires a leafy green vegetable.  I like spinach, which is nice both raw for salad but also cooked in many ways
  6. A good diet and Lent require a plant-based source of protein.  Peanuts are a possibility, and they certainly are versatile.  I really prefer lima beans to chickpeas in a direct, legume-to-legume competition.  All in all, however, I think chickpeas provide the best combination of taste and versatility of the bean choices, particularly since chickpea flour could do duty as an alternative starch
  7. Milk.  Fairly obvious because of its versatility, as noted in the rules, and because it can provide needed protein.  With butter from milk, other oils are less important.  Cheese is itself extremely versatile

At this point some hard choices need to be made.  I am not a vegan or vegetarian, so I am going to want a meat or fish.  I suspect that if limited to these ten foods forever, I also would like either corn or rice or some such supplement to wheat to provide variety.  But I will pass on rice, corn, other grains, and also potatoes, versatile as they all are, because I already have wheat and the fairly starchy chickpea.

I will, however, certainly want a meat.  For that I could imagine choosing pork, particularly if one considers not only the excellent fresh meats (pork roast, loin, and tenderloin) but also bacon and country ham, without which some could hardly stand to live.  Nonetheless, I am going to choose,

  1.   Beef.  With beef one gets beef steaks and roasts and ground beef, but also suet and the organ meats – brains, liver, tongue, sweet breads, and kidneys.  Chicken certainly is healthier, but it seems less versatile than either beef or pork – or, for that matter, than lamb.

Some would use one of their last two choices for another favored fruit or vegetable.  I can imagine choosing sweet potatoes, broccoli, or peppers in their variety (for seasoning, stuffing, adding to salads).  Or perhaps one might choose almonds, which also can be fairly versatile.  Or I can see adding a second meat (pork, lamb, or chicken) or a favorite fish or shellfish (salmon, halibut, cod, or perhaps shrimp).  Choices now are tough!  I am going to choose,

  1. Salmon.  A nice, fatty fish that will help undo the harm done to my heart by choosing beef and milk products.  In addition, smoked salmon seems to be almost another food entirely and will be wonderful with the cream cheese and crackers I have allowed with wheat and dairy.  While salmon is less versatile than most of the previous items, it is both a personal favorite and also a very nutritious item.

With the availability of oranges for sweetening, I can pass on sugar or honey, nice as both of them are.  One of them would have made it into my top 15, but not into my top ten.  With beef, salmon, and dairy products, I feel no need to add another meat.  For me, the last choice is between olives and eggs.  With olives you gain a snacking food and olive oil, both of which I love.  Olives would allow for a Mediterranean diet.

  1. But eggs seem more versatile.  If one has to choose between diet north or south of the French ‘butter line’, with cream and eggs I’m choosing the north.  Eggs allow for a variety of breakfast foods.  With flour and butter and a sweetener, they open the door to many desserts.  Cakes and souffles and all manner of good things now are possible.

So, there you have the ten I have chosen.  Now go, and pick yours, if the game appeals….

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