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Weight Loss The Bert Balladine Way
Gladys Harrison aka Al Qahira

First of all, let me state that I am not obsessed with food, but I do believe in eating three meals a day in a timely fashion. I like to start out with breakfast to fuel up for the day, then have a light lunch around midday to keep me going and then dinner somewhere around six. This combined with an occasional special treat of ice cream keeps my stomach and me content and non-demanding of my thoughts. The schedule has worked for me for years;

little did I know that by traveling with Bert my stomach would be put to an endurance test. As you can tell, we survived (me, my stomach and Bert) – I am here to tell you about it.

A couple of years ago while traveling in Europe I had arranged to meet Bert in Vienna to attend one of his workshops. I took the train from Budapest to Vienna and met the workshop sponsor at her house. She and her husband offered me early supper, which I accepted (I had traveled with Bert before!) That evening Bert and I went out around ten to eat and to see one of Bert’s dancers perform; unfortunately, the club we visited didn’t serve food at that hour, but – hey, what the hell – I’d eaten five hours before. So much for Friday!

Saturday morning I had continental breakfast – bread, butter, jam and tea. Bert had some smoked sausage, but I don’t eat that sort of thing. At noon I had a sandwich or something light. After class Bert went off with someone, saying that he would be back soon and that we were going to dinner with the sponsor and her husband. I had half a roll left which I had brought from Budapest so I ate that, thinking it might be all I’d get for some time – little did I know! When Bert returned after about an hour he told me all about the ice cream he had while he was out. Ice cream is my favorite food and he knew that! I asked, “Did you bring me some?” He responded, “No, it wasn’t very good.” I’d like to have come to that conclusion myself. “Well”, he said, “we’re going to eat as soon as Renate (the sponsor) gets here.” Some hours later Renate and husband and daughter arrived. I was faint with hunger.

We went racing off with Janos driving like a madman. I swear we were doing 60 MPH in the city, but that was okay since we were racing to get food.

We made a couple of stops to pick up dancers until we were packed into the car like sardines; probably it was a good thing I hadn’t eaten! Making our way up into the mountains above Vienna we stopped at a hofbrau house and found a lovely spot outside overlooking the city lights. To our dismay we were told we couldn’t sit there – no waiters or something – so we moved to a not-so-scenic spot. When we finally got the attention of someone and wanted to give our food orders we were told they had stopped serving food at 9:00 or 9:30 – was is that late already? So off we went again, this time at 90 MPH, to another place that was still serving food. The smell of food cooking was almost too much to bear given my starving state. We finally ate at about 10:30 p.m. that night.

Show with Bert, Glenn, Gladys and friend at a Rakkasah Festival

That was not the first time I had nearly starved to death “on the road with Bert”. I visited him at his ranch for a couple of days a few years ago. Breakfast comes late there, about 10:30, and usually consists of eggs from the ranch (to which I am allergic), bacon if I’m lucky, otherwise some kind of wurst or sausage which I can’t eat, and some form of bread, which I do eat in quantity. One day we left for San Jose after breakfast. Bert was scheduled to teach a private lesson in the late afternoon and a class in the evening. It’s about a 2-1/2 to 3-hour trip by auto and we planned to stop for lunch on the way.

As we drove through San Francisco, Bert began telling me about the wonderful Fantasia Bakery, which had all kinds of goodies, including absolutely sinful chocolate cake. Next to chocolate ice cream chocolate cake is my favorite food! I asked, “Are you just going tell me about it or are we going to stop there?” We stopped. The slices of cake were about 2”x2-1/2”x1/2”; however, in that small space there were about 3000 calories, most of them from fat, all marvelously delicious! YUM!!

Off we went to San Jose, no lunch stop. I should have known. To Bert the piece of cake was lunch; to me it was a snack – now where’s lunch? It was not to be. We arrived at the studio; Bert started the private lesson, and before it was over the students were arriving for the evening class. So much for supper, on top of no lunch. After class, about 9:30 p.m., the sponsor served meatballs with something (I don’t remember what; I think my memory cells had died from starvation.). Since this same sort of thing had happened before, I mentioned it to Bert on the way home.

He said I should have told him I was hungry, that even his cat told him by getting up on the dining room table and walking around when she was hungry. Somehow I didn’t think the dining room table would withstand my parading around on it!

Then there was the time Glenn (Bert’s cousin) was away from the ranch. For those of you who don’t know him, Glenn is an excellent cook. Bert does not cook, so when Glenn is not there it’s catch-as-catch-can when it comes to eating. I was in the kitchen about 9:00 a.m. fixing my tea and toast when Bert came in and said, “You should eat some of the cake Glenn left for you.” I opined that it wasn’t a good idea to start the day with something that sweet and that bread would be more substantial. He assured me we would be eating an early lunch. WRONG AGAIN! I should have known by then, but I ate the cake in anticipation of an early lunch. We left about noon, taking a goat to drop off at a friend’s farm, but stopping by at the feed store (unfortunately, only animal feed). Then, when we arrived to drop off the goat, we had to wait and see all of the animals this person had. Also, the lady was concerned about Bert and had to give him some frozen food so he wouldn’t starve in Glenn’s absence. Eventually we were off to Novato to drop off some chickens.

Where the hell had they come from? I knew about the goat because it was in the cab of the truck with us, but the chickens were in the back. They were destined for some “gentlemen farmers”; that meant they knew little about farming and even less about chickens.

So “Bert as Teacher” offered to show them how to tell if the chicken was about to lay an egg. One guy demurred; he wasn’t about to do that, which amused Bert because the young man was a medical student. The other one at least tried. All the while I nearly wet myself laughing at their discomfiture. When the egg-laying class was over they asked Bert to translate a letter they had received. We were offered something to drink, but having a glass of something alcoholic on top of one piece of cake five hours earlier – no, not possible. I settled for water. About 3:00 p.m. we were finally ordering our “early” lunch.

An important thing to remember when traveling with Bert: he does not feel hunger. Perhaps this is a leftover from his early days of going hungry during the food shortages of ’45-’46 which followed the war in Europe. I think he may have learned then to ignore his feelings of hunger.

Rules of the road when traveling with Bert:

  1. Always carry something to “nosh”on.
  2. Anything eaten between breakfast at 10:00 a.m. and supper at 9:00 p.m. is considered lunch by Bert.
  3. Bring something to “nosh” on.
  4. You may be starving, but Bert isn’t or isn’t aware that he is.
  5. Bring something to “nosh” on.
  6. Get up on the dining room table and prance around; he seems to understand the connection between food and hunger when there is a visual aid.
  7. MOST IMPORTANT! Bring something to nosh on – unless you want to lose weight; then think like Bert and just don’t think about food – EVER!


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