Once upon a time, butter, eggs, and bacon were considered health food. Our grandparents’ generation believed them to be the Holy Breakfast Trinity.
Old-timers believed that farm eggs, pork bellies, and hand-churned butter were the keys to longevity and happiness. And I don’t mean this ironically. I mean that these men and women actually believed this. So did their medical professionals.
Long ago, I remember when my grandfather visited his longtime family doctor—a cross between Fred Mertz and Methuselah. The old doc would finish each exam by shining a light into my grandfather’s ear canal and saying, “Hey, I can see daylight on the other side.”
Then they would laugh, fire up a couple Lucky Strikes, and tell dirty jokes.
You had to love these men. They were from another generation. They worked hard, polished their car engines, wore extremely high-waisted pants, used Old Spice, and ate bacon.
As a younger man, my grandfather would visit the butcher on payday and buy a huge pork slab. Bacon was so vital back then that he would buy it before he spent money on anything else important, such as the mortgage, or beer.
Keep in mind, this was before the days of standardized testing and cellphones. Back when kids were still walking to school, uphill, forty miles, both ways, crossing rivers full of alligators, and doing their homework on the backs of shovel blades with charcoal.
So just to briefly recap what our grandparents believed:
Bacon, butter, and eggs; good. Communism and rock ‘n’ roll; evil. High-waisted men’s pants; sexy.
But somewhere along the way, nutrition experts changed their tune. They started claiming that bacon, butter, egg yolks, and pretty much anything that tasted good would kill you. This was in every magazine, newspaper, and morning talk show.
Soon, food companies were manufacturing bland, fat-free products that weren’t fit for thinning paint.
We had fat-free American cheese slices that tasted like single-ply Charmin. We had liquid cholesterol-free egg substitute that resembled putrefied snot. And don’t forget turkey bacon.
If the Good Lord would have wanted a turkey to become bacon, he wouldn’t have given us Jimmy Dean.
Regular people everywhere were changing to fat-free diets. People like my father-in-law stopped eating real butter. He began using low-cholesterol butter substitute that came in a spray bottle.
At each family supper, after the prayer, dinner guests would be forced to butter their biscuits by spraying yellow hairspray all over their food.
Around every corner was another expert telling us not to eat eggs, but to eat some exotic “superfood,” even though the superfood happened to look like a pile of beetle larva. Quinoa, I’m looking at you.
Pretty soon the only permissible things to eat were peanuts, chicken, and Pez. But even that belief didn’t last.
Because it wasn’t long before the experts said PEANUTS were bad for you because they were high in phytic acid—which strips your body of minerals. So no more peanuts.
But oh well. At least we still had chicken. Good old chicken. Nothing could ever be wrong with chicken.
WAIT! SCRATCH THAT!
Suddenly, news channels were telling us about salmonella outbreaks in the poultry industry every few days. It was such a big deal that nightly news anchors ended their broadcasts by saying things like:
“I’m Dan Rather, and whatever you do don’t eat chicken or you will go blind.”
Today, things haven’t gotten much better. It doesn’t seem like experts can agree on what to eat.
Once, at a dinner party I saw three doctors get into a heated disagreement over the subject of diet and nutrition. Keep in mind, these were actual practicing doctors who drove actual Lexuses.
One doctor claimed that a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet with low carbohydrates was best. Another recommended low-fat vegetarianism. The third doctor was actually a chiropractor and went around trying to crack everyone’s neck. But he drove a Chevette.
My cousin’s family just converted to veganism. His wife believes that the human body should not consume animal products. Also she has recently joined a multilevel marketing company and holds meetings in her den every Friday. Bring a casserole.
Another friend (a sports physician) believes the “paleo diet” is the way to go. He explains that Paleo is based on the carnivorous diet that stone-age humans ate during the Paleolithic era, back when the average life expectancy of a male was 22 years.
My friend Tyler went gluten free last month. He says he feels great and has more energy. We visited his house for dinner. His wife served us pasta made of mung bean curds.
And I’ll be honest, sometimes I get so confused. Should I eat bacon or not? Are egg yolks going to kill me? What’s the word on potted meat?
For answers, I turned to an old retired doctor. He is a sweet edlerly man with deep lines in his face. I trust him because he smells like Old Spice, and he wears his pants a little high on the waist.
I asked him what his opinion was about everything.
“Oh,” he said, “I’ve seen lots of trends, but I’m old, I’ve seen a lot. Do you know what I’ve found the best health practice to be?
“Be happy, be nice, use moderation, and eat whatever the hell you want.”
Then he shined a light in my ear canal and said, “Hey, I can see daylight on the other side.”
Naomi - September 22, 2019 10:09 am
My husband’ three aunts grew up on a farm and they never had what anyone would call a health diet. They had home-made biscuits made lard for breakfast every morning. They raised pigs so they ate a lot of pork. Two of his aunts lived to be almost 100 and one of his aunts lived to be almost 101. My uncle was an Orthodox Jew who never ate pork. He also didn’t eat vegetables, except for potatoes, corn and peas. He drank whole milk, ate popcorn and ice cream every day and he lived to be 92 years old.
Mark - September 23, 2019 12:39 pm
This was absolutely fabulous. What a way to start my day. Bacon and eggs! Made my day, made my day ooo ya made my day.
Karen - September 22, 2019 11:50 am
My grandfather ate 2 eggs and two strips of bacon every morning with buttered toast. He also smoked unfiltered cigarettes every day. He was out dancing when he had a stroke at age 92, which led to his death. My son-in-law never smoked, ate all organic food, watched his cholesterol and exercised regularly. He died of a heart attack when he was 44. Go figure.
I know that smoking is terrible for your heart and lungs, and cholesterol leads to heart disease. Some things happen because of genetics and heredity, or just can’t be explained.
I have never smoked and eat fairly healthy, and my heart and lungs are healthy. I am 65.
God bless you for your writing and for your good heart, Sean.
Marilyn - September 22, 2019 12:07 pm
It is sure confusing if one listens to the food “experts”! I just recently saw an article that claims bacon and fat are really good for us, just keep the carbs at a bare minimum. So guess what. I’m eating what I doggone well please within reason. It got my mother to 90, and I am two weeks shy of 82. I have arthritis , but for the most part.am healthy, though over weight. My sister watched her diet, is very thin, but has many health issues. Draw your own conclusions, but be happy and read Sean Dietrich every day. Now that is good advice!
Joe Patterson - September 22, 2019 12:08 pm
So true thanks again
rickey harris - September 22, 2019 12:46 pm
Best one yet Sean. I like this one and agree with the old Doc. “Old” docs are best because all the others are “just practicing.” Lol
Caleb Halstead - September 22, 2019 1:21 pm
Yep, in our little two-doctor town we had one of each; Methuselah and Fred Mertz. Both were great, small-town docs. The story goes that a man hobbled in to the office of one of our doctors, pulled up his pants leg and showed the kindly doctor an ugly, oozing sore on his leg. “Doc,” he said, “What would you do if that was on your leg?” The doctor looked him in eye and said, “Well, Fred, if it was on my leg, I’d cut the damn thing off!” The patient jerked down his pants leg, hobbled out of the office and, according to local lore, hobbled the rest of his life. I’ve tried to practice your doctor’s advice most of my life, but, Lord help me, I do LOVE bacon!
Myra G. - September 22, 2019 1:41 pm
I love this so much … Why, you’ve painted my dad! But I’ll never forget my mother’s words after his sudden death: “If your father was told to give up his cigars, his bacon-and-eggs, he wouldn’t have much wanted to live.” Apart from cigars, I, too, consider my supper plate a sacrament. Give me quality over quantity any day.
That's jack - September 22, 2019 1:50 pm
Eat ityouaregonna die Then Iffen you don’t eat it you are gonna die. I like the last doctor’s advice. I’m beginning to believe he did see light on the other side.
Oh well I love ham n eggs myownself. Health food is Molasses from the sand mt area and butter.
Sherry and jack, married 63 years today!
theholtgirls - September 26, 2019 6:03 am
<3 Happy 63rd Anniversary, Sherry and Jack! <3
Emily Gravitt - September 22, 2019 2:32 pm
I love this, Sean! Keep writing and i’ll Keep reading and laughing!!
Connie Havard Ryland - September 22, 2019 3:15 pm
I cook like my momma cooked and my grandma before her. My parents both lived to be in their 80’s. I make biscuits. Use real butter and cream. Eat real cheese on real bread. I don’t fry much maybe but you have to make some concessions. My point is eat what makes you happy within reason. Take a walk. If I have to eat cardboard food, there’s not much point. Thanks for another good morning.
Mary T. - September 22, 2019 3:25 pm
Congratulations, Sherry and Jack. When I was a child someone told me the world was going to end in 1960. I worried so much about it, it ruined my childhood. When 1961 came I decided to never listen to doomsayers anymore. I hate that climate change activists, bacon haters, cholesterol phobes are making our children fearful. I had convinced myself that I would die young, never marry or have children. Now I’m 73, healthy, with eight grandchildren. My philosophy is to exercise some, eat whatever I want in moderation, smile a lot, and be charitable.
Chasity Davis Ritter - September 22, 2019 6:19 pm
Mary, we read a scripture at church a few weeks ago that o wish I’d have set to heart years ago. Matthew 6:34 it says “don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself and today has enough worries if it’s own”. I spent lots of time worrying what tomorrow might bring and it definitely interferes with today’s happiness. I’m glad you found yours and have been blessed with life and grand children. I’m gonna enjoy today. Eat what I want within reason and enjoy my own grandkids!! Be blessed!!
Judy - September 22, 2019 3:34 pm
Besides moderation the best health advice I got was that if you are happy you can digest a rock.
Camille - September 22, 2019 3:41 pm
My grandmother lived her final years, until she was 96, blaming herself for killing my grandfather with fried chicken and cornbread. He only made it to 86~My husband’s only comment was “what a way to go!”
Steve - September 22, 2019 4:29 pm
I once cooked hand cut bacon, a half inch thick – in a black iron skillet filled with LARD! It was a bucket list thing and made for a great bacon and egg sandwich!
GaryD - September 22, 2019 4:56 pm
Everything in moderation. Except bacon. Eat all the bacon you want! And peanuts , too.
Linda Moon - September 22, 2019 5:46 pm
One of my favorite doctors told me after a potentially scary diagnosis, “Don’t worry about it. You could be hit by a bus on Interstate 459 on the way home before this disease takes your life.” That was 12 years ago. I’ve neither been hit by a bus nor succumbed to disease. So, I’m glad you found the best health practice from “Dr. Mertz/Methusalah . Don’t worry – Be happy! There is always light somewhere on the other side!!
Shelton A. - September 22, 2019 7:36 pm
Thanks for that, Sean. I trust the old doc myself. Sounds like a good man. Good commentary.
Jan Hilton - September 22, 2019 7:56 pm
My friend says that the saddest place on earth is the gluten-free aisle at Publix.
DebC - September 24, 2019 1:44 am
I eat a gluten-free diet since gluten gives me major intestinal issues, but that gives me plenty of room for bacon and buttered eggs! Yum.
Patricia Gibson - September 22, 2019 8:43 pm
sholmes53 - September 22, 2019 9:58 pm
Love this. I struggle with what’s good for us and what’s not! I think our grandparents had it right! 🥰
Ann Bird - September 22, 2019 11:05 pm
Frankie B May - September 23, 2019 1:29 am
I agree with you, Sean.
Nancy - September 23, 2019 1:36 am
When I saw the word “Bacon” on my email this morning I got up from my comfy chair on the screen porch, walked into the kitchen and treated Ken and I to scrambled eggs and bacon…thanks for the inspiration. I have never given butter up, how could anything sooo delicious be bad? I start to hyperventilate if there isn’t at least four pounds of butter in my freezer!
Joy T Lane - September 23, 2019 3:52 am
My great- grandmother ate at least one egg every day of her life. When “they” came out and said coffee was bad for you she agreed. She said , I drink it every day, it’s definitely a slow poison. 🤣 She lived to be 96.
Celia - September 23, 2019 1:56 pm
I thoroughly enjoyed your article on bacon. I think most things taste better with bacon. Yum Yum. I like eggs, too and I love peanuts.
I’m still laughing over Dr. Mertz-Methusalah.
Cathy Moss - September 23, 2019 7:12 pm
I can’t imagine a life without bacon. While I don’t eat it everyday, I do make it to Gilchrist Drug store often and abt once a month I have to have a BLT. They nail it. Crisp bacon and great tomatoes all year round. I don’t know where they find them. The last time I got one I heard the sweet waitress put in an order for a BLT and the customer specified that it not be cut in half . I asked her why and she said that was always the way this fellow ordered it bc when cut it half , it all fell apart. He is right! From now on order a whole BLT. Devine👍
Kathryn Purnell - October 15, 2019 5:30 am
I love my bacon and country ham!
Patsy Body - October 15, 2019 8:54 am
Happy Anniversary, Sherry and Jack♥️♥️
Mary Berryman - October 15, 2019 2:17 pm
Great one, Sean! My daddy ate eggs and bacon (and grits) every day of his life.
Martha Black - October 15, 2019 4:08 pm
I am completely sure claiming that “bacon, butter, egg yolks, and pretty much anything that tasted good would kill you” is a dark vicious lie of the devil! He just wants us so skinny & frail we’re too slow to outrun him.
“Be happy, be nice, use moderation, and eat whatever the hell you want,” I believe could be pretty close to a direct quote from God who does also warn of gluttony: but, keep in mind, gluttony can be practiced with & in a variety of things, not just food.
Here’s what I think. When sitting down to partake of a wonderful meal that has been prepared, and as my daddy practiced, pray over and make a point to include a plea for the food to be sanctified for the nourishment of our bodies, Amen. When Jesus was performing the miraculous feeding of the multitude, he included loaves of “bread”. And he kept on diving up & multiplying until everybody was full & satisfied.
Everybody knows sanctified “bacon, butter, egg yolks, and pretty much anything” is better than vile “health food” such as tofu & yogurt, as some would lead us to believe & be deceived.
Steve W. - October 16, 2019 2:24 am
Bacon, eggs, bread, (all kinds), grits, (with tons of butter & salt), BOURBON!, steak, baked potatoes, (loaded with butter, sour cream, cheese & BACON!) Live happy whether you live to 65 or 105. It won’t matter a bit when you’re gone.
Ken Baker - June 12, 2021 2:37 pm
I noted your question about potted meat. It still adorns my salting crackers. When contents were first added to the manufacturer’s label I stopped reading them. It tastes much better that way…..ignorance makes potted meat and crackers blissful.