Chick Wit: Going against the grain of good diet

The great thing about being an empty nester is that you can eat anything you want, anytime. You know what the worst thing is?

That you can eat anything you want, anytime.

We begin when I drive daughter Francesca to New York, because they don't allow dogs on the train, even in a carrier. It bugs me that Amtrak doesn't allow dogs, though they're allowed on airplanes. Especially since a train ticket costs only a billion dollars less than a plane ticket, and neither runs on time.

But that isn't the point.

The point is that I grab a quick lunch with Francesca in New York, and we go to our favorite Italian restaurant, where I take a chance on ordering something new. This is something I never do. I like to go to the same places and eat the same things, as you will see, but in this case I make an exception and order the farro.

The what?

I didn't know what it was either, but it came with tomatoes, cheese, and olive oil, which sounded like pizza, and pizza is so great that even things that sound like pizza are usually great. So they bring me a bowl of farro.

I taste it, and my life changes.

I love it. It's nutty and chewy and great, and I eat the whole bowl. I give Francesca a taste, but I refuse to share more. I hate to share in restaurants. I guard my plate like a wolf.

Or a corgi.

We leave the restaurant, and I go on the Internet, where I learn that farro is actually an ancient grain, grown near Rome, in the province of Abruzzo, which happens to be where Mother Mary is from. The motto of Abruzzo is strong and gentle.

Her motto is strong and violent.

To stay on point, I also learn online that farro isn't emmer or spelt, but you could have fooled me, because I never heard any of these words before.

But anyway, I go to the grocery store and buy three small bags of farro. Then I hurry home, soak half the bag for 15 minutes, boil it for 15 more, then add tomatoes, cheese, and olive oil. And devour.

I'm in food heaven.

I read the Nutrition Facts, and am happy to see that only 15 of the 170 calories are from fat, and farro is so filling that I'm not hungry all day or night, so I hardly snack at all. I try it with cheese and artichokes, then asparagus and all kinds of different veggies, and I love it so much I eat it for lunch and dinner.

Every day, for the next 10 days.

I know.

I become Queen of Farro.

Or better yet, Pharaoh of Farro.

Ten pounds later, I'm starting to wonder. Francesca comes home for a visit, and I make her a bowl. "Delicious, right?" I ask her.

"Awesome."

"I gained weight, but I never snack anymore. I don't understand. Do you?"

"Maybe. Did you see this?" Francesca shows me the Nutrition Facts. "One serving is 36 grams of carbs."

"I know, but it's only 170 calories."

"OK, but did you read the serving size?"

"No," I admit, nervous. "Most serving sizes are like two a bag, right?"

"This one says 10. There are 10 servings in one bag." Francesca gestures to our bowls, which are full. "This meal is probably five servings apiece. At 36 grams of carbs a serving."

I feel dizzy. I can't multiply that fast.

"In other words, your meal is 180 grams of carbs."

I blink.

"And if you eat it twice a day, that's 360 grams of carbs a day."

For a second, I can't speak. I know this can't be good. A low-carb diet like South Beach is 20 grams of carbs a day, but that's crazy low. We go online, where we learn that the average female, if she's not dieting, should consume 180 to 230 grams of carbs a day.

Uh-oh.

I can't subtract that fast, either. But I'm getting the gist: 360 grams of carbs minus 230 grams of carbs equals my jeans don't fit.

I decide it isn't the best time to reveal that I often have second helpings.

For a grand total of three billion grams of carbs.

For that, I could take the train.


Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's new collection of columns, "My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space," and the paperback of "Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog." To contact Lisa, visit www.scottoline.com.