It must have been over twenty years ago. I was on the couch, making up a shopping list, holding my baby who almost always had an ear infection, and pretending I wasn't starting to come down with yet another bout of strep throat. That's when the one person I definitely did not want to see me right then came over. In walked Debbie, the "natural food" fanatic. I was in no mood to get a sermon about how everybody in my family was getting sick so often because I was doing everything wrong.

I tried to sit up and look perky, but I shouldn't have wasted the little energy I had left. There was no fooling Debbie. She was adept at spotting all things phony.

I was getting sick again Debbie knew I was getting sick again, and I think she must have also known that I was getting sick of her standard sermons. She had a different tactic this time that I was totally unprepared for. It was just one innocent-sounding question.

"When was the last time you ate an apple?" she asked. And I was, stupidly, relieved.

"Apples? That we've got plenty of! Really! Just check my fridge! My kids eat them all the time!" But she was not about to give me the brownie points I was hoping for.

"That's not what I asked," she said, not even smiling. "I asked when was the last time you ate an apple, Bracha."

"Oh, me?" I tried to stall for time as thirty years of my life rushed before my eyes - to no avail. I couldn't remember when I had last eaten one. But then I had this terrific revelation. "Oh! Does Cinnamon Apple Toast cereal count? No? Well then how about Apple Jacks? No? Not even an apple strudel? "What on earth do you want from me?"

"I'm not asking for a lot," she said, remaining as frustratingly calm as ever. "Just one simple, unadulterated apple you can't eat? Think about it. Do you enjoy getting sick so often? Why not try something you could enjoy a lot more?" And she was out the door.

"Some nerve she has leaving me with a thought like that! Who does she think she is?" I sat there fuming. But years later I found out who she thought she was. A true friend.

It was ridiculous and funI can still remember the taste of that first apple I bit into ... after who knows how long. It wasn't as boring an experience as I thought it would be. It tasted weird at first. Weird to be eating something so basic. Then juicy. Then delicious. I felt like one of my children. It was ridiculous and fun.

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is something I had heard many times, but I never understood its many ramifications until lately. It's not just a thing about apples. It goes for bananas as well, and peaches and oranges too. Strawberries, cantaloupe - even kiwis are involved! It goes for the infinite number of presents our Creator has individually packaged for us. They are all designed to help us stay well.

And what do we do with His gifts? Pass right by them, and head straight for the Peach Melba Ice Cream for us, and the Strawberry "Fruit" Roll-ups for our children.

We all too often prefer the stuff that's been taken out of its great gift-wrapping, "processed" until it's just about unrecognizable, thrown in with a few additives here, some preservatives there, artificial coloring all over the place, and voila - we then consider it edible!

Provided with everything we need to be healthy spiritually and physically, we choose not to receive the nourishment intended for us.

By putting our physical selves in tune with our spiritual selves, the way they were meant to be, we can also spend a lot less time in the kitchen trying to "fix up" what God has already made wonderful.

God's candy comes bite-sized (grapes, berries), individually packaged (nectarines, bananas, plums) and even family-sized (watermelons) - pre-prepared for our optimum health and pleasure. We just need to get back in touch with the purer part of ourselves that's still in there, waiting for the real thing. We need to re-learn what we once knew - how to appreciate life's simple and genuine joys.

It is easy to let empty fluff just kind of fill us up. The only problem is, it never really does fill us up. We are left with a gnawing emptiness after those things that dupe and deprive us of either spiritual or physical nourishment have been consumed.

Sure, man cannot live on fruit alone - but there isn't a better way to start the day than by having a breakfast of fruit. Then, for the rest of the day, if we make some small effort to eat food that's still packed with Divine sparks of G‑d's lovingkindness toward us - so much the better. The more directly a blessing comes from G‑d, the less we are able to ignore its true Source. The more we are able to recognize that it is, in fact, a blessing, perfectly planned for our benefit.

We don't have to banish all the so-called "goodies" from our shelves. But every effort made in this direction can help draw us closer to our Creator, leaving less of the distracting (and debilitating) fluff between us and Him. It can take a while to re-develop our appreciation for natural foods, but as the satisfaction we get from sustenance that is closer to its natural state increases, the "draw" of the more processed foodstuffs painlessly diminishes.

It was over twenty years ago that you walked out my door, Debbie. And soon after that, we moved away. Then so did you. We've lost touch with each other, and I never got to tell you that I really wasn't a hopeless case, doomed to donuts and ear infections, processed cheese food and strep throat for the rest of my life. I am, though, right now, still here on the couch, supposedly writing out another one of my shopping lists – but it is a different kind of shopping list! I guess, after all, I really did want more than a near-life experience.



Throw two ripe bananas and about half a cup of water into a blender. Blend. Then enjoy this thick and luscious fruit shake. You can throw in any other fresh fruit you like - for variety - instead of the water - or you can just stick to this "basic" recipe. If you're still hungry afterwards, have another one!