When your diet goes on vacation

To my credit, I did not have the walking tacos.

You may have encountered walking tacos. They are a bag of Fritos (or in this case, Doritos) that has been opened and topped with chili, shredded cheese and lettuce. The lettuce part is to make it healthy.

I did not have them. Oh, sure, I may have tried a bite or two. Maybe three. Certainly no more than four. But for the most part, I refrained from eating them.

And that is good, because on the vacation from which I’ve just returned I managed to eat pretty much everything else.

Surely, I am not the only person who does this. Surely, most people, when they are on vacation, decide that their diet is on vacation, too. We act as if our waistline is off for the week, as if going out of town somehow wraps a protective coating around our heart and arteries and our liver and our glycated hemoglobin (that’s a term I found on the internet; I really don’t know what it means).

I’m not even on a specific diet. I try to eat things that do not actively damage most of my internal organs. I’d like to lose 10 pounds. Fifteen would be better.

But after a five-day vacation, I know I must have gained weight. This morning, when my scale saw me it angrily snarled at me. I knew better than to try to step on it.

I brought exercise clothes along with me, too. When we first checked in, I went to the hotel’s fitness center, looked at the machines to see if they had the one I prefer (they did) and admired the view of the river that runs past the hotel. Then I went up to my room and never came near the fitness center again, despite the view.

It’s not just sensible eating that takes a vacation when I take a vacation, it is the desire to exercise, too.

Our trip took us to America’s Vacationland, Toledo, Ohio, which is much more hip and happening than it was when we left five years ago. We visited lots of old friends, and when you visit old friends in the town in which you used to live, that means one thing: trips to your favorite restaurants.

When we lived there and went to those restaurants, I’m sure I ate decently healthful food at least some of the time. But my favorite dishes, the ones that I would be likely to order when I return after a too-long absence, were obviously not going to be good for me.

There is one exception. At my favorite lunch joint, I had my favorite lunch. It is a salad. But it tastes so good there is no way that it could be healthful. Its name may be a clue to that. It’s called a garbage salad.

Also, the restaurant’s motto is “Eat here & diet home.”

Even so, I was feeling moderately virtuous until I went to pay my bill and I saw the cookies. I had forgotten about the cookies. I couldn’t leave Grumpy’s (that’s the name of the restaurant, Grumpy’s) without having a cookie. Just one.

Our biggest dinner, in more than one sense, was at one of my all-time favorite restaurants anywhere, a Lebanese restaurant called the Beirut. We had a boisterous table of six, and rather than ordering individual entrees, which are exceptional, we instead ordered endless appetizers, which are, if possible, even more exceptional.

It was a feast. We had foul mudammas (fava beans with olive oil and lemon juice, which they make better there than any I have ever had), ara-yes (grilled pita stuffed with lamb and spices, which I like even more than their foul mudammas), hummus, kibbeh (raw minced lamb and bulgur), salads and more.

It was too pleasant to be unpleasantly stuffed, but we were stuffed.

We spent all five days eating like that. If it wasn’t a pastrami sandwich, it was fried lake perch. If it wasn’t a breakfast of scrambled eggs and salami with pancakes, it was a late-night meal of pizza. Or a different late-night snack of chicken wings.

I came home (stopping off along the way for panko-crusted, fried crabcakes) feeling as if I had consumed my full allocation of calories for the entire year. Vacation was over; I had to stop eating like that.

But before we even got home we stopped off at Ted Drewes. That new Muddy Mississippi concrete is to die for.