Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cracked Teeth

I’d like to blame AARP for my cracked tooth, but I can’t.

Let me explain. Thursday evening I was leafing through the December 2011/January 2012 issue of AARP The Magazine and came across a nutrition article entitled, “Go Nuts!.” It extolled the virtues of eating various nuts to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Almonds, in particular, also were said to reduce insulin resistance, a quality important to someone with borderline high blood sugar levels, as I am.

Friday morning I cracked my tooth on an almond. I can’t blame AARP, however, because almonds have been part of my breakfast regimen for more than 15 years. Almonds, cashews, raisins, red grapes, an apple, a banana, some cheese or Trader Joe’s O’s, with an ample helping of whipped cream—ambrosia of the gods, I call it—have nourished me most mornings.

So you see, it’s not as if I can blame AARP for turning me on to almonds. AARP should have be a little more circumspect in its suggestions, though, considering its age-based membership of 50-plus adults is prone to deteriorating dental work. Perhaps I should have taken a clue from the table of contents teaser copy for the story. It read, “Get Cracking.”

The first time I cracked a tooth on some food was slightly more than 20 years ago. I went to Los Angeles to meet with the president of Vons Supermarkets early one morning at a new concept store, Tiengas, targeted toward the expanding Hispanic community. It was a beautiful store, with lots of food preparation stations, including a tortilla maker in the middle of the store and more fresh food and meat cuts than I’d ever seen (you wouldn’t believe parts of a pig I saw displayed there that I’d never imagined people ate).

Anyway, at the conclusion of the store tour, I was invited upstairs to the manager’s office for some breakfast. As my cholesterol was pretty high back then, I deferred the offer of rancho huevos, essentially scrambled eggs. My host persisted, however, saying it would insult the cook who had come in early just to prepare the breakfast.

On my first bite I felt a crunch. I jumped back asking if the cook had left egg shells in the mix, only to realize I had cracked my tooth on the softest of foods. How embarrassing! How upsetting that I might incur a $550 dental bill for a crown, the going rate at the time.

Talking over my predicament several days later with a friend who headed our company’s human resources department, we agreed I would submit a worker’s compensation claim. After all, the only reason I put the eggs into my mouth was because the Vons president insisted. It was clearly a work-related claim, I reasoned.

The compensation board agreed. I received full reimbursement for the crown.

The same happy result cannot be related about the fate of the Tiengas experiment. Management closed the stores after determining Hispanics preferred shopping in traditional stores with enlarged ethnic offerings rather than their own supermarkets.