Yes, I eat prunes. No, I am not on a diet. No, I do not have a digestive problem.
I eat prunes because I like their fruit flavor. And I eat them just because they make me a member of an elite group -- non-dieting guys who aren't worried about fiber.
I didn't know that being a guy and being a prune eater made me something special until I was visited by the head of national prune propaganda team, a guy named Bart.
Bart's full name is Bart W. Minor. He is the marketing director for the California Prune Board. When he was in Baltimore not long ago attending a meeting on the many uses of lekvar, the prune eater's answer to butter, he dropped by to talk to me, prune eater to prune eater.
I liked him even before I shook his hand. First off, he mistakenly thought the spacious, wood-paneled, suite of offices that belongs to the newspaper's publisher was mine.
I was waiting for him in my stuffy little cubby hole, when the publisher's secretary called to tell me Bart was in the publisher's office asking for me.
Assuming I had such a classy digs was a natural mistake for Bart. The publisher's office and my cubby hole were on the same floor. More importantly, Bart assumed that because I was a such a rarity, a prune-eating guy, I would have an office that reflected my special status. Prune-eating women, it turns out, are not as rare. For years the primary prune eaters in America have been women over 50 year old. Bart told me this and other prune-facts, after I had escorted him out of the publisher's office and took up residence in my usual interview spot, a table in the company cafeteria.
Bart said that now he and his fellow prune propagandists were busy all over America trying to make the fruit attractive to young, active women.
He told about one such program that linked prune eating with weight loss and exercise. The program has been worked out by Robert Neeves, a University of Delaware exercise physiologist, Roba Whiteley a nutritionist who has worked at University of Pennsylvania, and Rob Sweetgall who has walked across the United States.
The idea is that to lose weight you have to move your body. As its contribution, the California Prune Board is issuing a booklet that contains 10 tips for walkers, plus charts to record mileage, along with 10 prune recipes. (Copies of the $1 booklet, "Ten plus Ten" are available from California Prune Board/WP, 5990 Stoneridge Drive, Suite 101, Pleasanton, Ca. 94588-2706.) In addition, the prune people are passing out sheets of information giving the rundown on the amount of potassium in prunes and all those other nutritional measurements that healthy eaters care about.
However, since women are more likely to walk for exercise than men, the propagandists concede a walking program is not the way to get guys to eat to prunes.
Bart explained the guy-prune life cycle to me. Most guys, he said, are fed prunes by their mothers. But when guys grow up, and get out of the stewed-prunes for breakfast stage of their lives, they seldom return to the fruit of their youth.
Bart's plan was try to get these guys to think of prunes as a snack. Accordingly, when Bart goes out "with the guys for drinks" he sometimes carries 1-ounce snack packs of dried prunes. After a few rounds, he tosses the prune pack to his buddies, who promptly laugh and start telling bathroom jokes.
Eventually one of the jokesters will rip open the pack and sample the prunes. More than once, Bart said, he has won a guy over to prunes by giving him a free sample.
Like many propagandists, Bart and the prune people overstate their case. They claim, for instance, that prunes can replace shortening in bakery products and give them extended shelf life.
Maybe so. The prune-loaded brownies that I tasted not long ago may have been moist. But they didn't taste much like brownies.
So for now I am content to confine my prune-eating to snacks. I know that other guys may make fun of my prune-eating ways.
But Bart told me prune-eating is big in Asia and Europe. And so the next time somebody snickers at my eating habits, I'll get real haughty. I'll tell them prune-eating is an internationally approved guy kind of behavior.
And I'll tell them that in addition to increasing potassium intake, I also eat prunes to stoke up my panache.