Stephen King on dieting
We love our categories neat and clean in America; if you think it over, you almost have to agree that it’s guns, cheeseburgers, and categories that made this country great (okay, you can throw in the Louisiana Purchase, if you’re of a geographical bent). I realized years ago that I had been categorized as the Horror Guy. Had to happen. Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling were both dead, and Hitchcock was British, anyway.
I’m cool with it. It’s true that I get the occasional scolding (an old lady in a supermarket once asked me why I couldn’t write something uplifting ”like that Shawshank Redemption”), and I have resigned myself to being a meister (as in horrormeister, shockmeister, or even schlockmeister), but I’m supporting my family and generally having a good time. It’s true that I have to hide out on Halloween, but there are compensations; I have season tickets at Fenway Park…which sometimes has its horrifying aspects, now that I think of it.
Yet it’s human to wonder what life would have been like if we’d taken a slightly different path. Don’t you think Bruce Springsteen wonders what his would have been like if he’d gone the Prince route? If it had been ruffles instead of denim? Or suppose John Updike had been born in Montana and wound up writing Westerns? Vulture Feathers instead of Pigeon Feathers? Rabbit on the Range? And because I’m a pretty decent fry cook when I set my mind to it, I wonder from time to time (don’t you dare laugh) what my life would have been like if I’d decided to write about food instead of monsters.
I’ve considered cookbooks, but most are too disciplined for my culinary style; in my kitchen, the only hard-and-fast rules are wash your hands before you start and try not to sneeze once you get going. Cuppa dis, teaspoona dat? Fuhgeddaboudit. Do what you feel, honey.
Then, not long ago, I noticed that diet books are perennial best-sellers, and there’s always a new diet coming along as Americans — eating their way, often discontentedly, through the greatest bounty the world has ever seen — try to find a way to have their cake and gobble it, too. There’s high-fat and low-fat diets. South Beach and North Beach diets. Atkins and the Zone. Weight Watchers. Low-carb and no-carb. There’s a beer diet, a wine diet, and a diet for recovering alcoholics (chocolate allowed for emergency cravings). And two things occurred to me as I did my research (well…some people call it listening to the Blasters and surfing the Net). The first was that writers can never completely escape their natural inclinations.
The second was that I hadn’t found a single diet that tried to scare people thin. Can you imagine? In a society that’s currently going bugwit about anthrax and North Korean missiles? Not one. And that’s just wrong. It was a short jump from there to what follows. Here, then, are the high points of what I call (modestly) the Terror Diet.
Don’t eat the beef.
Those cows may tell you they’re ”just in therapy,” but don’t take their word for it. They could be as mad as hatters. As the British bumper sticker says, you don’t have to be able to spell Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in order to experience it. Also, some have linked beef to the Big C. Like everything but rocks. Which people don’t eat.