"No one wakes up in the morning and says, "I want to gain 150 pounds and I will start right now!" -- Tricia Cunningham

"What's for dinner?"

Those three words make up one of the most frequently asked questions in our English language.

Recalling from my past, I marvel at how my mother managed to cook day after day to feed her husband and three growing boys after working all day in the family grocery store.

Most of her meals were prepared from scratch and the vegetables she selected were always fresh and plentiful. Even more remarkable was the fact she had no training on how to cook, but used her judgment on what was most nourishing for the family.

Those were the days when appliances like refrigerators and freezers were unavailable except for families who could afford them. The rest of us relied on ice boxes and pantries to store our perishable foods. It was also the reason we seldom had leftovers.

If you've never heard the term icebox, it was an insulated fixture that had a compartment on top to hold a block of ice which did a fairly good job keeping foods fresh as long as the ice held out. Call it old school. I still refer to our refrigerator as an icebox.

Fast foods? I never heard that term used until the late '40s. Mel's Drive-In, Casper's Hot Dogs, and Fenton's were the favorite hangouts for those of us who grew up in the East Bay.


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Paraphrasing a line from an old song: "We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go."

We have equipment now that do the work which once required our physical effort to complete. All-you-can-eat and fast food restaurants have replaced home-cooked meals in many households. Walkers walk nowadays primarily for exercise. Those who own treadmills do it in the comfort of their homes. There was a time when people walked out of necessity to get where they were going.

Computers are slowly consuming our lives, and those who know how to manipulate them will do well, particularly in the business world.

Thanks to modern technology, we know more about the human body and are able to duplicate organs and body parts that at one time were deemed impossible to recreate. And we've got pills that control and cure almost every imaginable ailment. Or so it's claimed.

On the dark side, we are a nation beset with overweight, emotionally disturbed and chemically dependent citizens, and their number is continuing to swell as we speak.

So who is to blame?

Despite the price of gasoline, people will drive two blocks for a quart of milk or six-pack of beer. We used to walk a mile to school, even in inclement weather. We rarely rode in cars.

Television, the computer and cellular phones take up the bulk of free time of today's young people. We listened to the radio while indoors but preferred going outside to play capture the flag, red rover, and kick the can.

More than half of our young people indulge in fast foods and carbonated drinks. That wasn't a problem back then. We neither had such eateries or the money, if we did.

I don't propose reliving the past as an answer to today's dilemma. After all, our generation also had more than it's share of problems.

I don't profess to have an answer, although one thing is for certain. I have a vested interest in my grandson's future and will do everything I can to preserve it.

My wife and I are currently enrolled in a four-week course, "Healthy Food, Healthy You Cooking Class" sponsored by Fresh Approach at the Concord Senior Center. The program is designed to teach us how to prepare meals using fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts, the nutritional values of the meals, and how to shop on a budget.

When I first heard of the class, I was reluctant to sign up. After all, my wife does most of the cooking and I didn't care to sit and listen to someone speak on a topic that was of little interest to me. In deference to my wife, I accompanied her to the senior center for the first session.

I didn't realize the course was limited to 10 adults, and all 10 showed up. With such a small group, I had no choice but to focus my undivided attention on the presentation.

Three food experts, farmers market chefs Anna Buss and Mario Hernandez, and dietitian Alana Hendrikson, share the platform. I will spare the details of how the first hour went, but will say the time passed too quickly.

We have now concluded our third meeting. For someone who hadn't planned on attending, I've learned a new way to eat using such staples as kale, quinoa, and fennel in salads, soups and even main courses.

Doesn't sound exciting to you meat-and-potato lovers? It didn't to me either ... that is, until I tried it and found the dishes surprisingly tasty and enjoyable, but more importantly, totally healthy.

I understand from Chef Buss that ours is the last training course for the year, but her company will begin scheduling new classes at different locations in the spring. There is a nominal registration fee. Contact Anna Buss at annabusspcfma.com.

Learning to eat healthy is one sure way to avoid most ailments and will pay off as you grow older. I will attest to that.

A valuable tip: Your freshest and cheapest produce comes from your local farmers market.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at transcript@bayareanewsgroup.com.