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Jan Marshall

Living A La Carte

By Jan Marshall

It had been three long years, and I was dining with an ole beau. 

The menu had changed a bit and read like a situation comedy:

Liver Come Back To Me
Ike and Tina Tuna Steak (split and probably stale) and more.

Feeling extravagant, we settled on caviar with chilled white wine. Luxurious though simple. We gave the order to our waiter.

“So what do you want as your main course?” he asked.

“That’s it.” 

“But that’s just an appetizer."

“That’s it. Please bring us a few slices of thin pumpernickel with…”

“An appetizer comes with crackers. Order the complete meal and you’ll get bread like french, rye or parker rolls," he pleaded. 

“Do you not have pumpernickel bread?” I asked sweetly.

“Yes. But not with the dinner or the caviar.”

“Do you serve corned beef sandwiches?”

Déjà vu. I flashed to Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces.


“Are they served on pumpernickel bread if requested?”

“Yes, they are, but…"

"So, listen. Instead of putting the pumpernickel on a corned beef sandwich we do not want, bring us a few slices of pumpernickel and hold the corned beef. Okay?”

“Okay, but I’ll have to charge you,” he said.

“This will probably cost just as much.”

"That depends on what you mean by cost," I thought.

We had an exquisite dinner. True, it did cost as much as complete meals. That’s not the point. We ate a la carte. 

We did not have to have the basket of assorted breads or choose a salad. We did not ingest the sinful dessert. Oh, how virtuous we felt! We were not obliged to accept anything!

We ate only what we wanted with much satisfaction. No more, “I don’t need the calories, but it is already paid for” guilt.

That’s when it happened — a genuine “AHA” experience.

Eating a la carte.. Loving, living a la carte. Parallels sprang forth. Isn’t it true that we tend to accept life’s “complete dinners” for the one or two items we really want while letting someone else put together the rest? 

We can choose all or anything in between. Order Marlon Brandy, Kahlua Bankhead or a Beef Encounter with a new acquaintance. 

Accepting whatever whole meal is offered may leave us full, though not nourished. Living a la carte means filling our days only with ”stuff” that is good and satisfying, according to ONLY us whenever possible and it often is. ENJOY!

— Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall’s life’s work is devoted to humor and healing through books, columns and consulting. A humorist and television host, she is a Certified Master Hypnotherapist. In 1986 she founded the International Humor & Healing Institute. Her board members included Norman Cousins, Steve Allen, Dr. Bernie Siegel and John Cleese, plus other physicians and entertainers. She wrote the satirical survival book, Dancin’ Schmancin’ with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What! As a survivor, she donates a percentage of book profits to the American Cancer Society, American Brain Tumor Association, Wounded Warriors and The Laguna Woods Village Foundation. She's also written two children's books, The Littlest Hero and The Toothbush Who Tried To Get Away.

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