Gut Instinct: Heart of the Matter

Written by Joshua M. Bernstein on . Posted in Opinion and Column, Posts.


A recent visit to the doctor’s office provided both the best of news and the worst of news. “Your blood pressure and weight are completely normal,” the doctor said, reading a chart filled with numbers and her hieroglyphic scrawl. “But your cholesterol…” She trailed off, shaking her head like a disappointed mom. “Your cholesterol is too high. What do you do for a living?” I explained that I write about food and drink, and not necessarily in that order. “Oh,” she said, perking up, “having a glass or two of wine a day is good for you.” “Uh, I write about cheap eats, beer and spirits, mainly whiskey and bourbon,” I replied. Her brow crinkled like an accordion. “I think it’s time for you to start watching what you eat and exercise.”

Dear reader, I do exercise! At least I did, till New York City was gobsmacked with black ice, thunder snow and subfreezing weather. Over the last month and a half, my 50-mile-a-week bike-riding regimen has slumped to zip. My mileslong walks with my mutt have dwindled to rapid-fire jaunts around the block, with me muttering, “Come on and poop already, little buddy. Daddy’s feet are frozen.” It’s a cold, slothful time to be a New Yorker.

I could head to the gym, but I’m allergic to Spandex and exercise classes. There’s something about a fitness instructor barking orders to touch my toes and streeeetch that stokes my teenage antiauthoritarian streak. It’s the same bile that bubbles when a TSA official makes me explain why there’s a burrito-like Caribbean roti in my carry-on. “Because I’m hungry,” I mumble, wondering when my mouth will land me on a no-fly list. But I digress. Point is, my internal chemistry is out of whack. I need to rectify my cholesterol-filled lifestyle lest I end up like my father, whose lifetime of second helpings and a love of flank steak led to a heart attack in his mid-fifties. “You don’t want your arteries to start hardening now,” the doctor said, striking fear in my, well, heart.

The simple answer is no. But I find it tough to utter that word when such as an appealing invite lights up my inbox. “Join us for a preview of the first Loreley Williamsburg Sausage Festival,” the note read. In total, a dozen sausages would be rilled, paired with plenty of hot, tangy sauerkraut. “With your cholesterol, I don’t think you should go,” my girlfriend tsk-tsked. Ever since I told her about the results of my blood work, she’s been harping on me about my diet, not satisfied unless I’m subsisting on whole-grain oatmeal paired with steamed kale and wheatgrass juice—a fate that seems far crueler than a clogged artery.

“It’s for the column,” I said. “I need to eat to work.” “You can’t make excuses for your health,” she said. “I guess that means you’re not joining me for dinner?” She left the conversation, perhaps to hunt down some fat-free Greek yogurt. In search of an enabler, I called my meat-crazed friend Julie. She’s a fan of pork in all its tubeshape glory. “Eeeeeeeeeeee!” she replied. It was a date.

That night, we met beneath the BQE at Loreley Williamsburg (64 Frost St., at Meeker Ave., Brooklyn, 718-599-0025), the Brooklyn branch of the Lower East Side’s German beer garden. The former gas station is a beaut, all brick walls, sunstrewn windows, wooden ceilings and, come spring, a patio packed with picnic tables. Julie and I slid into a corner table, selected a dark, refreshing Kstritzer Schwarzbier and a malty-bitter Einbecker Winter Bock and gasped as a platter was presented: a dozen sausages hailing from the local Meat Hook and legendary Upper East Side purveyor Schaller & Weber.

“It’s much too much,” I told Julie, gulping my black-toned Kstritzer. “No such thing,” she said, spearing a cylinder of something glistening and black pepper–flecked. I followed her lead. “Make sure you eat that one,” she said, pointing out a shriveled reddish nib. It was intense porcine pleasure. We ate sausage after sausage, revealing more white plate with each passing bite. The end was in sight. The greasy meats slid down as easy as summertime lemonade. Normally, I’d keep munching till every morsel was mine. But that elusive quality, common sense, kicked in. I dropped my fork. Dabbed my lips with a napkin. “What’s wrong?” Julie wondered, snagging another sausage.

“I… I’m full,” I lied, faking it for the very the very first time.


What’s your favorite sausage in the city?
Tell me at jbernstein@nypress.com.
Follow me on Twitter @JoshMBernstein.

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