(Mostly) About Food…
By Diane Pohl Minott
Resolutions (Nothing about Food)
I’ve long since given up making New Years resolutions. There is no way I’m going to lose 20 lbs. by Easter. But given that it’s a new year and a new decade, there’s something to be said for taking stock. Some thoughts have been swirling around my head, and it’s time to sort them out and write them down.
I have known some great people, including a few in my extended family. You know some, too. They are those who are comfortable in their skin, have an inner peace and joy which radiates, and are always glad to see you. Quite a few great people are children, who may not like what you do, but they like who you are. Great people have figured out how to live in this crazy world, and they understand that we’re all in the same boat—making the best of the situation in which we find ourselves. No judgment involved.
Three of the great people I have known have faced personal tragedies that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. One man lost his pregnant wife, his two children, and his mother in the same plane crash. I knew him in his old age, decades after the accident, and found him to be in his element in social situations. He was a joy to be around.
In a previous professional life, I was a writer/editor at a medical college. Each spring I would look forward to the list of people who would be receiving honorary degrees from the college. My happy task was to write the citations, which distilled their accomplishments in about ten sentences, to be read at commencement. I loved this challenge, and I always asked for a short interview to get that person’s take on their own achievements.
In this capacity, I interviewed a great person who was also an important person. He was a giant in his field, although I suspect few have heard of him. Allan J. Erslev, M.D., discovered erythropoietin (now called EPO), a hormone produced by kidneys which regulates red blood cell production. The synthetic version is used to treat anemia caused by cancer, renal disease, and dialysis. If you think you’ve heard of EPO, then you probably followed the doping scandals in cycling. This is one powerful drug.
Dr. Erslev never made a penny from it. It wasn’t as common to patent medical discoveries at that time, although I suspect riches would not have meant much to him. In addition to that discovery, Dr. Erslev headed up a research lab, taught, wrote a textbook, and produced papers for medical journals, He was an activist and an outdoor enthusiast. Despite being almost blind in his later years, he continued with his work. Among those who studied in his lab was Robert Gallo, M.D., who co-discovered the AIDS virus.
There is no doubt that Dr. Erslev was an important person. His interview showed me that he was a great one as well. Meeting him for the first time, I was immediately at ease. There was no self-importance on display, and he was warm and accommodating. Did he have better things to do than to talk to me? For sure. But I never sensed that, and of course, I kept the meeting short out of respect for his time. I often saw Dr. Erslev after that—usually in a tweed jacket with books under his arm rushing to get to his class. He always responded warmly to my greeting.
There are great people and important people, and some who are both. Most of us will never be as accomplished as Dr. Erslev. But the rest of us can just be great, and 2020 is an important year for that.
I've been traveling ever since I got my first bonus check, and a lot of that was solo, which allowed me better access to what some call the deep culture within the countries I visited. I married a man who lived in four countries before he started high school, and together we've lived in five countries on three continents. Through it all, I've searched out good food and have developed a respect and affinity for those who particulate in its production. Call me a good-food appreciator.