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Brussels sprouts? Bummer

patty ryan
GRAND CENTRAL
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By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 3, 2002


IT IS ENTIRELY possible, if I budget wisely, to drink four Mia's sour apple martinis in a single day and still not exceed my Weight Watchers point allotment. I have not tried this. But hunger breeds wild ideas.

I should fill myself with Brussels sprouts (0 points).

Carrots? I could eat 27 cups. Air-popped popcorn? Eighty-one cups.

That is not how my weekend went.

THE DAY: Last Saturday. The time: a few hours before the start of the Best of Tampa Bay, a tasting event that will pack the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center with chefs and their emissaries -- and we, the weak of will.

At home I ponder the approaching evening. With 5 lost pounds behind me, I feel newly slim and consider wearing the little black dress.

I flip on CNN and flop onto the couch a millisecond before the floorboard cracks and breaks in two. Heart pine. A couch leg disappears into the crawl space of my 1920s bungalow. A dog pants at eye level.

I know what you are thinking: over-sanded floors.

I am thinking: Brussels sprouts.

MY MOTHERSHIP is the Weight Watchers branch on Henderson Boulevard, conveniently located between a Wendy's and a Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Big Bacon Classic, 14 points; Chunky Chicken Pot Pie, 18 points.)

My daily point allotment: 22-27.

Each point is roughly 50 calories. Exercise adds bonus points.

I SHINE a flashlight down into the crawl space, as if to search for the perpetrator. A nameless, timeless carpenter whose dust I now breathe has left behind a 7-inch scrap of loose wood on a joist below. The perfect patch. Out comes the drill.

Tiny piles of sawdust accumulate.

I wonder how they would taste with skim milk.

I know what you are thinking: Mrs. Bob Vila.

I am thinking: bonus points.

MY COHORT for the night is Amy Scherzer, social butterfly. Her dietary strategy is simple. Once inside the Performing Arts Center, we take a few steps toward food until she sees someone she knows.

In this manner, we shake hands with scores of people, the flexing of wrist muscles earning me bonus points. By evening's end, I am certain to be two dress sizes smaller.

I HAVE A BET with a fellow editor, my counterpart in Carrollwood. Her idea, not mine. (I'm not competitive, I protested, before upping the ante to $20.) She coaxed a photographer to send me a picture of a cake. I looked in the phone book for pizza delivery companies near her bureau.

SO SERIOUS is this diet that the Steak n Shake near Plant High School was forced to close in my absence, no matter what else you may have heard.

SATURDAY'S DEFENSE: Bite-sized portions.

THE CONFESSION and approximate point values: eggplant Parmesan (42nd Street), 2 points; sashimi (Oystercatcher's), 1.5 points; pan-seared scallops (Big City Tavern), 1.5 points; crab cakes and salsa (Mia's), 2 points; malanga root chips and chopped pork (Chandler's), 2 points; seared tuna over beluga lentils (Luna di Mare), 1.5 points; pistachio-crusted duck (Armani's), 2 points; stuffed grape leaf (Louis Pappas), 1.5 points; tiramisu (Donatello), 3 points.

Plus, Mia's sour apple martini, one-fourth its usual (triple-shot, 6-point) size, weighing in at 1.5 points.

MEANWHILE, my friends respond with support for my diet. One offers to buy me dinner at Sidebern's. Another leads me to Miguel's. A third suggests Le Bordeaux.

But why bother, when on any given day, I could eat 2.7 chili dogs or four orders of fries. I could empty the bank on 54 rice cakes. Brussels sprouts? The sky's the limit.

- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or pryan@sptimes.com.

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