The Big Fast

The idea of fasting had been swirling around in our heads ever since we read Walter Isaacson’s  biography of Steve Jobs.  According to the biography, one of the things that made Steve rather difficult to bear by his surroundings was his varied and often fickle insistence on various, seemingly crazy nutritional eccentricities: apples only, carrots only, apples with ginger etc. apparently for weeks at a time.  His parents, and later his spouse and children, would roll their eyes as Steve jumped on yet another self-conceived trip of nutritional self-flagellation.  When I first read these passages, I did not think much of them, being fascinated more by Steve’s even less ordinary exploits.

Interestingly enough, however, both MB and I had been exposed to the dieting craze bug through our friends and co-workers; indeed, I first heard about the whole thing about three years ago, where an assistant colleague of mine reported of only drinking juices for a whole week; I dismissed it as hogwash, not having had read Isaacson’s tome yet and thus having “seen the light”.  The next mention was when two colleagues on my team embarked on the challenge: one made it, the other fainted half way through, and decided, ironically out of  concern for his own well-being, not to pursue the matter further.  Being susceptible to such fads and fashions, and anyway being a curious type for whom the promise of regenerative cleansing has a sort of (but really only sort of) mystical veneer, I decided in my subliminal to try to give it a try. However, I was not sure whether MB felt like it and thus flagged it as a more long-term project, once we had gotten settled enough to try such alternative sources of entertainment and self-discovery.

Remarkably, however (and who knows if Steve Jobs had a hand in creating this whole fad?) MB also had colleagues who mentioned the juicing-fasting cure, (at least a ‘light’ version, lasting one week) and floated the idea of trying it.  I didn’t need much encouragement, and so lo and behold, a few days later, we were proud owners of (only somewhat overpriced) BIOTTA brand juicing kits, courtesy of a local Pharmacy.

We looked for an ideal opportunity to do the fasting, knowing that it would wear on our energy and nerves.  Luckily, we found an ideal slot before the start of our London trip — the fasting itinerary seemed to mesh like a charm: the first, most difficult days falling on a lazy weekend and the whole “experience” ending before we flew to London, and all the delicious multi-cultural culinary possibilities waiting to entice us there.

It was on thursday that MB had her last real  dinner with colleagues in Basel, I myself, not having been invited to any event, spent the night at home with bread and canned tuna, admittedly not exactly a worthy “last supper”, but then I didn’t think a BigMac would be appropriate, but also didn’t feel like cooking for one.

Friday was already a “transition day”, where we were only allowed a light lunch and started down the road of that cruel joke that is the “solid” part of the BIOTTA diet: Lin seeds swallowed whole.  Now, before I had opened the kit, I never even knew that such seeds existed, much less that you could swallow them whole (you can’t really without water — it’s like swallowing a spoon of uncooked lentils).  To be fair, we did have a final final dinner: potatoes and magerquark (curd cheese), which we were looking forward to eagerly, after an only-salad lunch. The baked potato, however, was much baked potato-like and thus a bit disappointing; the magerquark itself turned out to be much like sour cream, so we devoured it with much elan – the only bad thing about it is that it has practically no fat, and was thus a bit harder to swallow (that seems to be the typical thing all of these absolute health foods have in common)…

Now, I have to note at this point that even the BIOTTA manual we will be using to receive our dietary orders each day makes no secret out of the fact that this regimen is torture — indeed, for the various days, it writes “one day down, see it wasn’t that bad…””only five more days to go…” “hand in there…”
and indeed, once one starts the real “treatment”, one often wonders  why in the world one has decided to do this.

Saturday was already all abstinence, a collection of drinking various vegetable, plum and vitamin juices, and swallowing the Lin seed…  we tried to make time pass by by organizing our wardrobes, going to the Beyeler, and watching Borgen.  We were hungry, especially when, on the tram, certain delicious aromas wafted by.  We wondered whether we had become more sensitive to these smells since the beginning of our diet; we hardly noticed some of them before!  All in all however, our hunger was manageable, and the first day passed with less drama than expected: we still haven’t argued, or sleepwalked to the refrigerator and consumed a whole glass of jam.  Now onto the second day, and further down the spiral of our culinary asceticism…

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