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A friend who is dieting recently wrote an e-mail lamenting the fact that she had fallen off the wagon by eating – gasp – a piece of toast with marmalade, and drinking – double gasp – a G & T.  I had to tell her that hers were but minor peccadillos…

THIS is how you really shoot a diet all to pieces ~  Get up too early, eat a sensible breakfast, drive 2+ hours to Sostegno in Piemonte, to the country house of Leo and Isa. Hang around waiting for Carlo and Reka to show up for lunch, eat bread while waiting. Then eat some more bread and drink some wine with it. That wine was good; have some more.

Carlo and Reka & Anna and Jacobo appear, go to the table. Eat polenta cuncia – usually eaten in winter but it’s cold and rainy today, so… it is made with lots and lots of cheese and butter and it is so good you must have just a little bit more. Then have some other anti-pasti, perhaps a brace of stuffed eggs, some more bread with egg yolk something on it, then some bagna cauda on half a broiled red pepper (bagna cauda is a sauce made of anchovies, garlic and oil.  Its name is sometimes written “bagna calda”, but it is a Piemontese dish, and the correct Piemontese word is “cauda”.  Thus sayeth Leo). The salami looks pretty good too, so try several slices of both kinds. But it’s all so salty! Drink more wine.

Then eat the main course, which is just plain old ordinary polenta and a cotechino, which is a sort of fatty, spicy mixed meat something stuffed in a casing and boiled for a while. Red wine. Feel like you’re going to die. But wait. L & I’s daughter Anna’s boyfriend’s mother has sent along a tiramisu, and it would be awful if word got back to her that someone didn’t like it. Eat tiramisu. Oh gosh, look at the time – it’s after 4 p.m. Go for a walk, a long walk, no matter the rain.

Prepare for dinner. Help by setting the table and testing to see if the bread is still good. It is. When asked say that you want the fish instead of the beef (because after all you are on a diet!). Commiserate with Louis that his pesto lasagna has had to sit too long before being served. Eat a big square so he won’t feel badly. Eat your whole fish after removing head and tail – it has been baked in tin foil with olive oil and has been stuffed with thyme. It is heavenly. Feel sorry for all the fatties eating meat. Eat a second portion of salad because it is good diet food. Wine? Yes! Some of each please, and 2 extra glasses of the Triminer because it is particularly good with the fish. Dessert? No thank you. Oh, that’s right, we brought it (purchased, not made: a light cakey thing called Dolce Varese)- the others might think it’s poison if you don’t eat it. Have a second piece to lay their worries completely to rest.

Go to bed hating yourself, but resolving to do better tomorrow.  That’s how we go off-diet in Italy! How do you do it?